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Psst! The scoop on gossip

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in Firing,Human Resources

You know the old saying, “If you haven’t got something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Those are wise words, especially in the workplace.

First of all, let’s define gossip. It is personal talk about someone who isn’t present. We certainly don’t want to be the subject of gossip, and we know gossip isn’t kind, so why does it occur? Because people need their gossip fix.

It’s a fact: People thrive on gossip. A study conducted by the University of St. Andrews in Scotland shows that human beings are predisposed to gossip and that we favor memories concerning social information more than those concerning regular data. So, you’d be better at remembering who was dating whom rather than the distance from the earth to the sun.

We’re preprogrammed for it: It comes standard in all human beings. But does that make gossiping OK?

Yes and no. Yes, it’s OK when you’re doing it as an analysis of events or as a means of imparting information that could be considered helpful to an organization or individual. NO, it’s not OK when you’re spreading malicious rumors or personal information because of jealousy or vindictiveness.

Many organizations are starting to ban gossiping in the office, making it a cause for firing. Have they taken it too far? Maybe, but consider that the social interaction that gossiping entails also takes time away from productive work. Standing around the water cooler while you pass on the latest rumor is negative, hurtful and time wasted.

What should you do if someone comes to you and starts gossiping?

If the talk is hurtful, nip it in the bud by saying something like, “I wouldn’t like anyone to gossip about me, therefore I don’t engage in it.” If they don’t get the hint and continue, you can try, “Hmm, she only ever says nice things about you.” Either way you send a fairly strong message that you choose not to participate in the activity. If the person persists, you can always walk away, saying, “Again, I don’t like gossip. I think it’s hurtful.”

Pearls of wisdom are fine to pass along, but let’s gossip for the good and keep the hearsay to a minimum.

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