Finweek English Edition - - MANAGEMENT -

Gossip is an im­por­tant part of life, not just of­fice cul­ture. “We learn who we are through what peo­ple say to us and about us,” says Kath­leen Rear­don, a pro­fes­sor of man­age­ment at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Mar­shall School of Busi­ness and au­thor of Come­backs at Work: Us­ing Con­ver­sa­tion to Master Con­fronta­tion. Be­cause we’re so­cial be­ings, we want to con­nect to peo­ple, and talk­ing about oth­ers is one way to do that.

This is par­tic­u­larly dif­fi­cult to avoid in an of­fice set­ting. “Gossip hap­pens all the time, so you’re go­ing to hear it,” says Linda Hill, a pro­fes­sor of busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion at Har­vard Busi­ness School and co-au­thor of Be­ing the Boss: The 3 Im­per­a­tives for Be­com­ing a Great Leader. and chances are that you some­times per­pet­u­ate it, too. “Re­search shows that ev­ery­one par­tic­i­pates in all kinds of gossip: pos­i­tive, neu­tral and neg­a­tive,” says Joe LaBianca, a pro­fes­sor of man­age­ment at the Univer­sity of Kent uc k y ’ s LI NKS Cen­ter f or Re­search on So­cial Net­works in Busi­ness. Is that wise? Or should you try harder to re­frain from gos­sip­ing? Here are sev­eral prin­ci­ples to help you de­cide when to stay above the fray and when to get in­volved.

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