By Shi Tianyun
Your office may not come straight from the catty set of Gossip Girl but chances are, there’s plenty of chitchat about the “latest happening” around the water cooler or in the hallways. Gossip’s bad reputation isn’t undeserved but it’s time to cut it some slack – at least professionally, gossip can be beneficial to you.
First things first, you have to make a clear distinction between bad and good gossip. The former is malicious - think snide remarks about a colleague’s long lunch breaks or dubious relationship with a superior that could come back to haunt you. On the other hand, the latter is relatively harmless and includes comments about who excelled in the last group project or is up for a promotion.
So read on for how good gossip can help you get a step up in the office:
Gossip helps people bond
Just like how your pals and you always end up discussing about who’s dating who or what happened to so-and-so when all of you get together, when you gather with your co-workers in the pantry and share gossip, this draws you closer and creates friendships and alliances. This trust will come into play when you end up working on the same project - the camaraderie may help speed up progress and make for a happy relationship.
Gossip is an information vault
For newcomers, tuning in to the office grapevine will be the quickest and easiest way of learning about who’s who in the company and certain social norms and conventions – things the orientation won’t necessarily teach you. Gossip is a good way to learn from other’s experiences too. How else will you know that your boss isn’t a morning person and approaching him for a discussion at 9am isn’t the wisest thing to do - without having experienced it first hand?
Gossip works as a social check
In offices where internal competition is encouraged, a way to find out whether Tim from the other team is ahead in sales is by word of mouth. Although your colleagues may not necessarily reveal that they are close to completing their project but by tapping into the office grapevine you can still be kept up-to-date and be in time to pull up your socks.
This function of gossip is also helpful to managers as a way to keep their staff in check. For instance, if things are going to be whispered about someone if he or she comes in late, your staff will definitely try to make an effort to be on time to prevent any gossip said about them!
Gossip can be an indirect compliment
Sucking up to your boss doesn’t have to be obvious and done straight in his or her face. The office grapevine works well for subtle brownnosing. Just drop word about how fabulous you think your boss is and chances are, word might reach her and his ear. And because they didn’t hear it from directly from you, they might take more notice of it because it reflects what you really think. In this same way, your boss might mention how well your work performance has been to another manager who might spread it to their staff who happens to be your lunch buddy. In this manner, the compliment is still received by the individual it was intended for.
Like everything else, gossip can be a useful tool in the office. But once it goes overboard and goes out of control, that’s when good gossip becomes bad.
If you find yourself in a position where the gossip is getting out of hand and you feel uncomfortable even when you may not be the subject of the talk, here are some ways you can wiggle yourself out of the situation.
When you speak up and sing a different tune from the flow of the conversation, it breaks the momentum and may bring the topic being discussed to an end.
Change the subject
If disagreeing and being on opposite camps with those present isn’t what you’d like to do, bringing up something totally unrelated to the current subject works too.
The oldest trick in the book when it comes to dealing with uncomfortable situations - remove yourself from it totally. A “I got to get back to work now” always works!
Do you have other tips to fend off malicious gossip? Share with us in the comment box!
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