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ChitChat, Rumors, Gossip…OH MY!

Posted on Oct 10 2013 under Blog Posts

He Said. She Said.  Someone’s Listening! Gossip is one of the many forms of wickedness in your workplace.  Your co-worker, stands bywatercoolergossip the water cooler, coffee space, break-room or even outside to wait for you to take your regular smoke break and tell you all about IT. Gossip involves a co-worker who hears everything through the “grapevine” and a listener who helps the “grapevine” to flourish. He or she will appear with information that is likely insignificant and negative. So why are you listening! You could be listening for a few reasons but I’ll narrow it down to two. 1. You are polite so you continue to listen. 2. The negative attention placed on another co-worker means you are not the topic of negative discussion at your job. Hold ON! Mr./Ms. “Listener” aka the Sponge, you are equally responsible and accountable for participating in this gossip grapevine. . Why? Because the listener HELPS “water cooler chitchat” increase and that too contributes to negativity and low morale, false information and poor work environments that affects everyone eventually.

When you understand the roles of spreading and listening to gossip, you will lessen your chances of fueling any “negative whispering” not only as the person who initiates it, but equally as the person who further invites himself or herself to listen to the gossip. According to Gene Taylor, gossip is “when we tell and/or listen to something uncomplimentary about someone with the attitude of entertainment. We are not telling or listening because we are sympathetic and want to help. We want to be entertained at someone else’s expense. We want a good laugh over someone’s weaknesses”. For example, let’s say your co-worker Melissa was fired from work. You and other co-workers weren’t clear on why she was fired. Later on you hear from someone that Melissa is stealing office supplies and therefore she had to be terminated. You now take this information and share it with other co-workers. 1. This makes you feel like your position at work is safe because you have never stolen. 2. You have just violated Melissa’s privacy and the company’s policy. 3. You helped to launch negativity about Melissa and she cannot defend nor deny the rumors because she is no longer present. This is why the gossiper and the “sponge” at your job are equally responsible.

No one benefits from workplace gossip. It creates an untrustworthy and undesirable work environment. People are hurt and most times will react negatively to negative situations. Avoid the grapevine conversations and reply with positive feedback and do not stand around like a sponge soaking up negative energy.

Tips on Avoiding Gossip (Adapted from Top 10 Ways to Handle Gossip)

1.    Don’t participate. Let gossip stop with you, if someone passes a juicy story don’t pass it on to another co-worker.

2.    Turn it around. Say something positive in response. Gossip is no fun if the person who is being attacked is paid a compliment.

3.    Learn and follow company policy. Gossip is a waste of company time and yours. Don’t be afraid to go to your supervisor.

4.    Politely let the person know you do not want to engage in gossip; and if you need, walk away from the conversation.

To learn more about gossip and how to avoid it visit Top 10 Ways to Handle Gossip in the Workplace and The Dangers of Workplace Gossip.

 by Tierra Henry, University of Baltimore Graduate Student

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