Gossip. The good, the bad and the ugly.
By Aisha Newton
Monster Contributing Writer
Everyone loves a piece of juicy gossip. Men, women and maybe even animals. I’m no Jane Goodall, l but I’m willing to bet that even monkeys in the jungle talk about one another.
There is something addictive about gossip. Polite society deems it sleazy and low class; but there is no denying that it’s fun. Everyone gossips, whether it’s about a big celebrity, your next door neighbor or the guy in the cubicle three rows over. No, not the guy who never refills the paper in the photocopier. The other one, you know the bald guy with the comb over.
Gossip can be positive and help bring colleagues closer together. Taking a few minutes to discuss a favorite television, show, movie or book is a great way to relieve some stress. An added bonus is that you learn more about the interests of your colleagues.
Then there is negative gossip, the kind that can be harmful and downright malicious. This sort of gossip serves no purpose other than humiliate, bad mouth or tarnish the reputation of another person. These are the types of conversations that give gossip a bad name.
So what can you do? I wouldn’t dare suggest eliminating gossip outright, especially at work. Sometimes it can be the fastest way to share information. In my past work experience news came out through gossip far sooner than official company announcements. We would always have a good chuckle, when we would get called into a big meeting so that we could be told about something we had known about for weeks.
I would suggest trying not to gossip too much. The last thing you need is to be known as the office gossip king or queen (yes, men gossip too, a lot!).
People who gossip all the time aren’t doing themselves any favors. While it is nice to feel needed or be the go-to-person. Strive to be that person in your professional tasks. People who are known to be frequent gossipers often get slapped with the labels of untrustworthy and insecurity.
Why would you trust someone with a sensitive work project, when they just blabbed someone else’s secrets to you with reckless abandon? I once worked with someone who gossiped so much we nicknamed her “megaphone”. She gained this moniker because of her ability to share information. The word around the office was, if you want to share information with a large group of people. All you needed to do was get the “megaphone”.
Another tip is when participating in office gossip try to be nice. Avoid topics that involve personal matters. I.e. people’s health, marriage or their sex life. These are truly personal matters and in all honesty nobody’s business but theirs.
When overhearing gossip use some critical thinking. Just because someone tells you something, doesn’t make it true. Ask some basic questions about the story you are being told. If the answers don’t jive then it’s fair to assume that you aren’t getting the whole story.
Try not to get sucked into the drama. Sometimes you can change the subject and get people to talk about something else. If everyone is talking about how Bob got that promotion, just laugh it off. Make a joke about the situation and watch the conversation pull a 180°.
“I never repeat gossip, so listen carefully the first time”-Anonymous
One of the best ways to avoid gossip is simple. Just don’t participate. Just let people know that you’d rather talk about something else. My word of advice is to be cool about it; nobody wants to listen to some preachy sanctimonious diatribe about the evils of gossip. We are all adults and if you don’t want to do something, you don’t have to. On the other hand making people feel like you are judging them or that their behavior is beneath you, won’t win you any friends at work, either.
In the past I’ve worked for many different companies. Each one seems to handle gossip differently. Some workplaces have zero tolerance for it, while others allow it in moderation. Whether you have something in writing or an open policy on the subject, gossip will never go away. This means of communication and dissemination of information is as old as time. Technology has made it easier for us to share things but the message is still the same.
When in doubt follow the golden rule. Treat people the way you want to be treated. If you don’t want people gossiping about you, then don’t gossip about them. End of story.