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Gossiping at the Office? Rumor
Has it That It's ...
Teena Rose operates a
professional resume writing service, Resume to Referral. She’s authored
several books, including "20-Minute
Cover Letter Fixer"
to Design, Write, and Compile a Quality Brag Book"
the Code to Pharmaceutical Sales."
If you’ve ever tuned into the hit show,
“The Office,” whether it’s the BBC version that’s written and directed by Ricky
Gervais or the NBC knock off with Steve Carell, you know that gossip in the
workplace is as common as coffee breaks and the pointless meeting. The unique
comedy is a tongue-in-cheek, documentary-style series that points out the humor
and banality of the 9-to-5 existent in the working world of white-collar
For the sake of comedy, the show takes jabs
at the office environment with inappropriate remarks and petty behaviors, which
include rumor mongering and backstabbing. Office gossip is something you
certainly wouldn’t want to be a part of if you’re the target of the insufferable
office manager David Brent, played by Gervais. But in the real world, is office
gossip really that insufferable? Like many human behaviors, there are two sides
to the coin.
We are a world of gossipers. There’s little
doubt about that. A recent study in Great Britain found that one in five people
in the United Kingdom use instant messaging at work to spread office gossip. In
most cases, the word is thought of in a negative manner, as in Walter Winchell’s
famous quote that “Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves
practically nothing unsaid.” In their book, Gossip: Ten Pathways to Eliminate It
from Your Life and Transform Your Soul,” authors Laurie Palatnik and and Bob
Burg refer to gossip as a “fired bullet – once you hear the sound, you can’t
take it back.” The authors recognize that gossip has been around since
human came into existence, and continues to be “a popular but destructive
But is gossiping always bad? Many agree that spreading rumors about the
personal affairs of others is out of line, but gossip is also a vehicle that can
help pass along vital corporate and workplace information. Since companies and
supervisors tend to keep delicate matters under wraps, hearing important news
from the office grapevine is sometimes the only forum employees have.
Conversely, using that same grapevine can work in your favor. It can be used to
relay success on a project, or, when the direct approach isn’t the best
approach, get the word out to a fellow employee that you’re not happy with his
or her conduct.
Women traditionally are associated with
gossiping more than men, but the fact is that both sexes are involved in the
behavior. It’s just that men and women tend to gossip about different things.
But when it comes to office-related issues, both men and women have a stake in
the rumor mill when the news directly affects the employers or company.
There are, of course, Do’s and Don’ts when
it comes to taking part in office gossip. The first is to give and take it in
small doses. Nobody wants to spend much time with or invest too much in the lead
Keep the gossip on a professional level and
work-related, like if you’ve heard of pending layoffs or a hiring freeze. Don’t
result to petty attacks on co-workers. Always consider the source of the gossip
and the motivation behind them. If the person you hear them from has zero
credibility or is passing along harmful personal information about someone else,
take the high road and don’t pass along the gossip.
Finally, if you’re
caught gossiping about something and are called on the carpet by a friend,
co-worker or boss, own up to it. If you’re willing to risk spreading gossip then
you should be able to stand up to the heat and explain your intentions.