Gossip. We do it. We name nightclubs and tv shows and magazines after it.
We hate it, fear it, are hurt by it when it’s about us….but we love and delight in it when it’s about that certain celebrity, or that super-annoying relative, or that one insufferable idiot we have to work with every day.
Gossip is, according to that source of all wisdom- Wikipedia, “idle talk or rumor about the personal or private affairs of others.”
Gossip is pretty much just plain mean. And yet, some people say, it can be harmless.
So WHY Do We Do It?
When it’s “good” gossip, it can be a matter of telling stories and sharing information. If you are telling someone else about a co-worker’s lottery win, and are doing so in a non-malicious, non-jealous, “happy-for-them” kinda way, then perhaps it’s okay. If you are hearing about a coworker’s son who finally made it through high-school, it might be considered a good-news story.
Some people consider “good” gossip to be the forming of alliances or bonds with our friends. Other people call this networking.
Celebrity gossip (yawwwwwwn!) is extremely popular and can have a couple of useful functions:
- it can give us something in common to talk about
- it can provide inspiration/motivation to either emulate the celebrity, or directly do the opposite
It can also make us feel better about ourselves in a virtuous kind of way. (“I would NEVER do what she did, even if I had all her millions!”)
**Angelina Jolie‘s latest revelation about her double mastectomy to prevent the likelihood of breast cancer in her later years has been the subject of what I would consider to be good celebrity gossip, as it has drawn attention to a serious subject, and perhaps has inspired/encouraged women facing similar decisions. (I don’t even know if I would classify all the buzz and media attention around this topic as gossip, but more as “information sharing”.)
And what about the “not-so-good” kind?
Much of it is just mean.
If there is great delight taken in making another person look or sound awful/stupid/incompetent, then it”s likely the kind of gossip that will end up looking bad on you.
Much of gossip is actually unconscious, and can be a way for you to feel better, self-esteem-wise. Gossip in this case might make you feel more important/intelligent/part of the “in” crowd/popular or knowledgeable.
When gossip is vicious, however, it can be due to boredom, judgment, and jealousy, and these are all poor excuses.
So how can you tell if what you are about to say might be “gossip” in the negative kind of way?
Well, you can start by asking these key questions:
1. What is my motivation? (In other words, why am I going to talk about this?)
2. In talking about this, am I going to be helpful, or hurtful?
3. How would I feel if someone said this about me?
4. What are the possible consequences? (What if someone else hears me?)
5. Would I talk about this with the person in question?
As to professionalism…
…it pretty much isn’t if it’s the negative kind. In fact, participating in office or workplace gossip can be damaging to your career if the wrong person overhears it.
I was supervising a group of Nursing Unit Clerk students at a major hospital once, when I got paged about a situation. One student had gone for lunch in the busy cafeteria with a group of nurses and staff (including her preceptor) from her unit. During lunch, the group began to gossip about another worker. The student, wanting to fit in to her new situation, added something to the gossip, and was overheard by a manager who happened to be sitting in the next booth. I got paged, and the student ended up being written up and reprimanded for unprofessional behaviour. Not only that, she was extremely embarrassed, (mortified, even), scared about her reputation in the hospital now that this was on file, and had quite possibly jeopardized any job prospects. Yikes!
When in doubt…don’t.
That’s my humble opinion.
Of course it happens…it seems to be part of the human situation and we’ve all found ourselves in situations where it happens and perhaps where we’ve joined in… but you DO have the option to walk away, to change the subject, to not participate in malicious gossip in the workplace.
Not joining in will reflect well on YOU!
You can do this deflection in a subtle way so doesn’t seem obvious or it’s done with humour…you don’t have seem sanctimonious or “holier-than-thou” about it (doing that will likely have the effect of the gossip being about you next!) and soon, people will stop trying to engage you in it.
At least, that’s the hope.
Unless we are talking about some crazy celebrity and her latest broken heart on the cover of the tabloids. That’s probably fair game.
What do YOU think?
Let me know. Share your thoughts. Send me some buzz!
At the start of this episode, I also talk about my adventures of going “gluten free” as I’m suspecting an intolerance and have had the blood tests for Celiac disease, but haven’t gotten results yet. If you have any stories, recipes or advice for me about this topic, I’d love to hear from you, as this is all new for me and I am expecting it will be quite a learning curve.
Always ready to talk…