How to manage office gossips?

ajitkpanicker/ March 5, 2020/ Personal Development/ 0 comments

Do you know how to manage office gossips? We will see how we can. First, read the conversation below.

“Ashish, do you know what happened last night, at the quarterly party?”

“No man. I wasn’t there. I had to leave home early yesterday.”

“Dude. What a ruckus? That Tarun, he spilled out everything in front of the Regional Head, after a couple of drinks. He is going to get kicked out soon.”

And they started laughing at Tarun’s miserable situation.

Have you been part of any such conversation in your office anytime?

I am sure you would have. Such conversations are so much a part of our day to day job, that we hardly can avoid them. Isn’t it?

But haven’t you felt affected? I doubt you wouldn’t have.

These conversations as we all know are called gossips.

So before I get on whether office gossips are good, bad or hardly affect individuals or teams, let me quote what Wikipedia says what gossip is.

According to Wikipedia, gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others.

And that is what precisely most of us think gossip means.

But according to researchers and human resource experts like Mary Gormandy White, gossip can be identified as a conversation happening between two or more people that stops as soon as a third unknown person enters their zone.

It may not necessarily be negative. It can be positive or neutral.

Today with this blog post, I am going to highlight the what, why, who and how of gossips.

  • What are the types of gossips?
  • Why do people gossip?
  • Who gets affected?
  • What benefits or harm do they cause?
  • How to avoid gossips, if harmful?

Have you ever thought, why people love gossiping?

Let me tell you.

A study revealed that most of us spend almost an hour a day gossiping. Now the question is whether it is useful, harmful or neutral. Even if it is neutral we have to reflect upon us as to whether any of our productive work hours are being wasted or not.

Let us consider, we work for nine hours every day (because that is a standard here in India and most of the Asian countries, unlike many European countries) how many hours at a stretch can we work with full attention and focus.

According to a time-management technique called Pomodoro technique, if you break down all your job tasks, however, complex they may be into blocks of 25 minutes each, with a 5 minutes break, you tend to become more efficient and productive.

Going by this technique your focused attention span is roughly about 25 minutes and if you work at a stretch for 2-3 hours or more you are bound to get bored. What will you do if you stretch yourself longer at work? You may tend to take a long break. Long breaks mean longer gossips.

So we gossip because of the below reasons:

  • The monotony of the job: So the monotony and the boredom that would arise out of stretched hours of work would give you a reason to get out of it. And the easiest way is to chat, get into gossip.
  • Prove your mettle: Many times we get into gossip because we want to prove a point on a topic. And while doing that, we enjoy belittling others.
  • Jealousy of others talent: Many get into gossip because they are not able to take other’s success, talents, and appreciation, positively and so by hurting them, they feel better.
  • To be part of the office group: You cannot isolate yourself in an office. You would get judged as a loner. So to be part of the office you want to become part of all such gossip groups, at least in one of them.
  • To bond with others: You are facing some personal problems and want to come out of the stress. To do so, you engage in a chat that turns into gossip. But many times you get a lot of encouragement and confidence, often ideas on how to overcome the personal problem which you were facing.
  • To know the latest in office: Being part of an office gossip group is important for a few people. It helps them get information about things happening in an organization because everything does not come as a formal communication from the human resource team. The grapevine helps you to know a lot that is happening around, informally through gossips.

What are the types of gossips?

  • Bonding Gossip: It is a type of gossip that helps people bond and come closer to each other. Often topics of common interests are discussed in this kind of gossip.
  • Social Gossip: This gossip type is basically to socialize by spending time together talking of anything that comes up during the chat.
  • Information gossip: This kind of gossip has information about something happening or about to happen in the office. It has traveled from different places and groups within the organization and has reached you.
  • Cultural gossip: It contains ways of working or existing in a particular culture of the office. The pros and cons of the culture the office runs through its veins.
  • Image comment gossip: This is a very common gossip type where people negatively comment and belittle people, mostly on their appearance and image.
  • Anti-social gossip: This involves discussions that have elements that can disturb the social setting of the office. It often divides people into multiple small groups.

Now we know why people gossip and what are the different types of gossips.

Let us now understand, 

How to identify and differentiate between beneficial and harmful gossip?

To do that, let me give you some examples:

“Hey Ashish, how is this guy Tarun to you?”

“He is such a dog, dude. My experience with him has been really bad.”

“And why will he not behave and throw his tantrums at us. That idiot is one of the closest confidantes of the boss. But, have you seen him dress up?”

“Oh yes, he looks as if he lives in one of those slums in the outskirts. He is always so shabbily dressed.”

What kind of gossip is this?

I am sure you would have realized it is a negative gossip. It is an image comment gossip or a jealously filled gossip or a feel superior gossip.

Another example,

“Hey Ashish, are you coming for a tea-break?”

“I have some urgent work to finish. The deadline is an hour.”

“Come on man. You are always on time. The world will not end if you don’t adhere to the deadline once in a while.”

“Ok.. fine. I’ll come along.”

At the cafeteria,

“Did you come to know of the layoffs going on in the company?”

“Yes, man. Someone told me yesterday.”

“So you already know this. It is such a disaster man. These people at the top don’t realize our value. They are only concerned about their profits.”

“That’s true, man.”

And the conversation goes on for a good twenty minutes.

What do you think of this gossip?

It was an information gossip but wasn’t this negative?

Yes, it was, although it was providing important information.

Another example,

“Hey Ashish, let’s catch up in the lunch break.”

“Sure man.”

And the lunch break is of one hour.

“Hey, did you see the match yesterday? It was such a rocking match. New Zealand had almost won it but what a disastrous end for them.”

“Yes, man. They are slowly turning into chokers doing this quite often. They have taken almost six matches into a super-over and have lost all of them.”

“What are your plans for the weekend?”

“Me… I am thinking of taking my family to the Madam Tussaud’s museum at Connaught place. It has been quite some time since we have been on an outing.”

“Great. We may go for that movie coming up, at the weekend, Tanhaji. Reviews say it is a great watch.”

The chat goes on for a good forty minutes. Was it gossip?

Was it a negative one?

No, it wasn’t a negative gossip. It was bonding gossip. So you can identify, differentiate and hence deal with gossip if you know how to.

The below-listed ways can help you identify and differentiate between harmful and positive or neutral gossip.

  • Does the gossip make fun of someone’s misfortune?
  • Is it creating negativity or encouraging conflict?
  • Does it hurt someone emotionally?
  • Is it an unverified fact, about a work situation seemingly a rumor?
  • Is it on something that you already know and have talked about umpteen times?

Types of Office Gossips

Who gets affected by the workplace gossips?

Do only individuals get affected by the office gossip?

No.

People who are subjects of gossip, those participating in gossip, the team they are part of, the department their team belongs to, and the organization as a whole, each one of them gets affected. Read 10 ways to create productive best resources.

Those who were commented upon would come to know of the negative comments they have been remarked by. They may get hurt or feel offended, which may then affect their work and productivity.

Don’t we often hear of such instances at our workplaces?

Those who were part of the gossip group may have wasted their productive work hours. The gossip might have made them miss their deadlines for submitting their work. It could be something that they were supposed to submit on which depended the final delivery of the project. That must have adversely affected.

The team that was supposed to deliver the project missed the deadline because few crucial team members were busy gossiping when it was more important to work on the project.

The project not delivered on time could put the department in a bad light, adversely affecting the organization’s short term or medium-term goal.

How to avoid office gossips that are harmful?

  1. Avoid the gossipers. Learn to walk away
  2. Keep your private and professional life separate
  3. Confront the gossiper
  4. Identify if the gossip is harmful or not and accordingly either not be part of it or indulge.
  5. Don’t participate in the gossip by refusing to comment on the third person or topic being talked about.
  6. Show that you are busy and focused on doing your job tasks. Gossipers want attention.
  7. Don’t take every office gossip seriously. It could just be a rumor.
  8. Don’t share or spread unverified information to a person you don’t trust.
  9. Don’t vent out in front of people you don’t trust.
  10. Learn to change the topic of discussion as soon as you realize a gossip is on its way.
  11. Turn it around by saying something positive instead of supporting or being neutral to the gossip.
  12. In the end, if everything fails, make sure you approach your seniors and share your apprehensions of the ill effects of the gossips doing round.

Harvard Business Review: Antidote to Office Gossip

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