Office gossip is alive and well, flowing freely as natural as casual conversation or as I see it – A viral pathogen infecting morale, productivity and effectiveness. The pitfall hit everyone from the practitioners and vulnerable targets. The office chatter, is both harmless and horrible. It starts out as an innocent close co-worker relationship, sharing secrets over too many glasses of wine, or a supervisor – employee chatting it up in the lobby. Or a part-time employee coming in and divulging what they have heard about client or co-worker “X” on the streets. But the mortifying fact is that those shared secretes are passed along the office walls, affecting all parties. I’ve been told a thousand times, that I am ‘Heartless” all because I have a firm rule. No matter how friendly someone is in the office; no matter how open they are about their own life: trust no one; share nothing and never let your personal world and work world collide.
Being cautious with gossip is common sense. Stepping out of that loop is a difficult call because gossip is the standard currency of human connection. Most employers understand the disruption of workplace gossip. But there is little they can do beyond encouraging open communications. There are hints of no-gossip policies and no-gossip zones, with sporadic small examples. But bans quickly run into problems: free speech, workplace rights and the nightmare prospect of figuring out what was said to whom, and whether it was malicious. There is also the issue of when management is the source of the gossiping, even when in the workplace, it can also be harmful; to morale, to productivity and to careers.
It is my opinion that to consider everything you say will come back to haunt you, therefore if your willing to say it behind the back- be willing to say it to their face! “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer,” often applies to office politics, get to know the gossipers and manipulators. Be courteous but guarded, as they may repeat what you say with a negative “spin.” Try to understand their goals, so that you can avoid or counter the impact of their negative politicking. And be aware that some people behave badly because they are insecure. You can help to make a workplace more positive by not “fueling the fire” and joining in negative politics. Walk away, remove yourself from those who follow you around and just keep talk, bring it up to management, if they are management however – you might need to consider how much you really like what your doing.
When a conflict arises, remember that there doesn’t have to be a winner or loser. If you’re voicing concerns or criticism (“Bitchen”) of your own, be confident and assertive but not aggressive. And make sure that you voice why your criticism is valid in perspective to the company, and not simply a selfish one. Last, keep in mind that while most workplace rumors are relatively harmless – someone getting a promotion; pay increases, possible workforce reductions, new products or product discontinuations and any number of other issues of interest to company employees. Some rumors, however, are not harmless and can have serious consequences. Many of these centers around one of two kinds of defamation of character:
Slander — which is any spoken statement that harms someone’s character or reputation and Libel — which is any written statement that causes similar harm. If you’re in a situation where you feel that your reputation is being harmed, and no one within the office or business is helping you, then perhaps it’s time to consider legal counsel.