Work is a social environment. It’s very important to maintain good relationships with your coworkers, to be friendly, and to engage them in conversation. But work can also be a hotbed of drama. Conversations can easily turn to gossip, and that is a dangerous place to go.
How do you know the difference between harmless conversation and gossip? Simple: Consider the impact of what is being said.
Technically, any sharing of trivial or unsubstantiated information can be considered gossip. But you have to consider the sentiment. For example, if it were rumored that a coworker is being promoted, and you discuss it with another coworker, is that gossip?
Well, if the discussion is hurtful, damaging, or negative, then yes, it’s gossip. If the story is told with negativity and without good will, then it’s gossip. Light conversation is value neutral, while gossip is negative, inflammatory, and/or embarrassing to the person being spoken of.
Gossip can increase conflict and decrease morale. It results in strained relationships. It breaks down the trust level within groups. Gossip is the death of teamwork, as the group breaks up into small cliques, and employees start refusing to work with others.
Gossip results in the supervisor spending an enormous amount of time trying to figure out who said what to whom. Or, worse, the supervisor struggles to explain to the manager that the on-going conflicts and communication problems within the workgroup are the reason work doesn’t get done. Productivity is lost, as are good employees who do not want to work in toxic environments.
Here’s how to get out of the gossip pipeline:
Now, if you are the target of gossip you have two choices. You can confront the source or make a public statement. Thankfully, gossip has a very short life span. Sometimes, the best thing to do is let it run its (hopefully) short course. Creating a stink sometimes causes more drama than just letting it go.
Put simply: Don’t be a gossip and don’t listen to gossip. Work smart. Keep your focus on the positive and don’t engage.