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While it should have been left behind in high school, gossip is everywhere: community organizations, little league fields, trendy coffee shops and corner taverns. And the workplace is far from exempt.

gossip eleanor rooseveltGossip used to be restricted to the water cooler or coffee station but, with explosion of electronic devices and social media, gossip is everywhere. Oftentimes it will darken or poison the workplace, especially as it takes on a disruptive behavior in the office.

I prefer to stay out of the gossip monger’s (GM) way. Most offices have at least one. Usually it doesn’t take long to identify the GM. He or she trolls the hallways and cubicle farms for a willing ear or new tidbits to accumulate. Somehow, the GM knows much more than most. My favorite gossiper used to slide into a cubicle, look around covertly and then whisper what she wanted to appear as the direst and most salacious of secrets.

My approach is to try to stay on the GM’s good side without indulging in the gossip trade except to spread good news. I continue to be cordial and helpful on the job, but will keep other non-essentials to a minimum.

At one company, my boss was the GM. That made for an interesting work day. He loved hearing information as much as he loved talking it. When I wasn’t a willing participant and had no gossip to offer, he said to me in a very disappointed tone, “You’re like a black hole. I can’t get anything from you.”

gossipI said it was because I had nothing to share. That wasn’t necessarily true because there’s always something to say if you choose. However, I didn’t want to gossip. I did not trust him or his peeps. If the situation arose, he’d have no problem throwing me under the bus. I had seen him do it to others. I could not see a way I would gain – either professionally or personally – by indulging him with gossip.

I discovered the best way to avoid incidents was to steer clear of his gossip proclivity. Sure, it meant I was excluded from his inside jokes and conversations with other staffers, but at the end of the day I did not have to worry about being pulled into a sticky situation or having egg on my face. It seems some of those issues plaguing us as young people that we hope will go away when we ‘grow up,’ never do.

So, are you a gossip monger, gossip contributor or gossip avoider?