Office Gossip: The Rules to Getting It Right
Posted by Christina Hills on July 30, 2012 at 1:23 PM
It turns out, that office gossip – something we’ve all learned to traditionally be negative – can actually help you get ahead in your career. Who knew? The trick is to engage in the right kind of gossip. You can play it right and reap many rewards…or misplay it and seriously hurt your chances of moving up. Curious yet?
Before we get to the rules though, let’s have a little confession. Do you gossip at the office? I’ll start. Yes, I gossip. At my previous job, I worked with three other women all around my same age. So yeah, you can imagine what that was like! (The good thing was we were never in competition so it was all friendly…no b*tching allowed!) Ok your turn!
Done confessing? Ok, let’s move on.
According to a poll from Connect: Professional Women’s Network, powered by Citi, 47% of women participate in non-office related gossip. So celebrity news, office dramas, relationships. But 37% of women only use gossip to further their careers, discussing promotions and industry news. Who’s in the right here?
Nicole Williams, LinkedIn's Connection Director and author of Girl on Top: Your Guide to Turning Dating Rules into Career Success, has these DOs and DON'Ts for your reputation as the office gossip:
DO have a I’ll-scratch-your-back-if-you’ll-scratch-mine mentality.
From lay-offs to promotions, having your ear to the ground will help make sure you don't miss out on the opportunities that may affect your career. But there is a quid pro quo expected as part of this particular rumor mill and if you’re not willing to participate, you’re simply going to be out of the loop. One way to be armed and ready is to have news to share. Simple enough. Follow your co-workers' status updates as well as other companies within your industry so you can pipe in with comments like, "Did you hear that Bob got a promotion?"
The other trickier, but very potentially powerful element of the "Give to Get" concept is using it to establish loyalty. Trust is key to this type of gossip. If you hear that there is a promotion in the works that may affect your friend or boss, sharing that information may very well ensure that they’ll have your back when they hear something that could be advantageous for you, even if it means passing on the opportunity this time.
DO bond over stuff outside of the cubicle.
Let’s be honest, a lot of the time the purpose of gossip is to get past the day-to-day grind of work. Hence the age-old water cooler conversations. A little detour into the lives of the Real Housewives can be a powerful way to safely bond over the lives of others. Frivolous and unrealistic maybe, but at the end of the long day, it’s better to be talking about Don Draper's love life than your boss's. Pop culture related gossip also helps you bond with your colleagues—especially when you’re the new kid.
DON'T speculate about office romance.
Just don’t do it. Speaking of which, here's a little lesson for those of us on the receiving end of gossip, especially when it comes to the world of office dating: Speculation is infinitely more interesting than reality.
There are three ways to stifle the gossip-mongers when it's your life and career on the block.
- Tell the truth: Don’t go into details here. Just a simple, mature acknowledgment of the relationship will do just fine.
- Direct confrontation: When it comes to the bad kind of gossip, the culprits are generally bullies and they tend to back off when faced with a simple "What did you say?"
- Distraction: Being the focus of gossip isn't so bad when it's about the kick-ass job you did on the client proposal. Update your profile status with lots of fun, positive and team-based congratulatory messages, and you'll be sure to get the right kind of attention.
DON’T treat your co-workers like your best friends.
They are your co-workers first and foremost. Always maintain a level of professionalism, even if you’re recapping the Dancing with the Stars elimination.
DO make it a policy not to talk about others in your office.
Or they’ll talk about you. Spreading catty rumors or saying anything negative about a co-worker is a huge no-no. It will only make you look bad and trust me, it will get back to the person. Don’t even forward on something that was said to you – personal gossip is typically false or fabricated information spread through the grapevine, so take everything with a grain of salt.
How do you handle office gossip? Are you a DO or a DON'T or a combo of the two?I’d have to admit that I’m probably a combo…something to work on!