How To Avoid In­vest­ing In Of­fice Gos­sip

The Washington Post Sunday - - JOBS - This spe­cial ad­ver­tis­ing sec­tion was pre­pared by in­de­pen­dent writer Robin Farmer. The pro­duc­tion of this sec­tion did not in­volve the news or ed­i­to­rial staff of The Wash­ing­ton Post.

A wise per­son once said great minds dis­cuss ideas. Av­er­age minds dis­cuss events. Small minds dis­cuss peo­ple.

If peo­ple are of­ten the ob­ject of neg­a­tive dis­cus­sion in your work­place, it has be­come in­fested with pro­duc­tiv­ity-sap­ping gos­sip.

Re­search from Ca­reerBuilder found 42 per­cent of em­ploy­ers ranked gos­sip as the sec­ond high­est time-waster be­hind cell phone use and tex­ting.

In­vest­ing in of­fice gos­sip pro­vides the di­min­ish­ing re­turns of work­place dis­sen­sion and a cli­mate of dis­trust. It de­grades the gos­siper, who is taken less se­ri­ously or viewed as di­vi­sive, and the ob­ject of the gos­sip, whose pro­fes­sional or per­sonal rep­u­ta­tion is be­ing as­saulted.

Gos­sip can break the spirit of em­ploy­ees, alien­at­ing them from their col­leagues, erod­ing their morale and un­der­min­ing them in the eyes of their su­per­vi­sors. The en­ergy spent ex­tin­guish­ing ru­mors can be bet­ter spent meet­ing work­place goals.

Par­tic­i­pat­ing in gos­sip may seem like fun un­til you con­sider the ob­vi­ous: where gos­sip flour­ishes, no one is im­mune to be­ing a tar­get. Not even you. You can take sim­ple steps to stem the flow of neg­a­tive gos­sip in your work­place.

Keep it pos­i­tive.

When some­one tries to spread toxic gos­sip about a col­league, play the con­trar­ian by cit­ing an ex­am­ple of that in­di­vid­ual’s as­sets and achieve­ments. Neg­a­tive gos­sip needs a re­cep­tive host and can­not spread amid af­fir­ma­tion. Spread­ing pos­i­tive gos­sip short-cir­cuits neg­a­tive en­ergy and helps cre­ate a sup­port­ive en­vi­ron­ment.

Change the sub­ject.

Re­mem­ber the mantra about great minds. Fo­cus on ideas and in­no­va­tion and the chal­lenges at hand. If you see a gos­sip cir­cle up ahead, move along— noth­ing to see there. If you find your­self in the com­pany of gos­sipers, a well-placed com­pli­ment—who can re­sist one?—can de­rail the neg­a­tive train. With­out preach­ing or judg­ment, make it clear you’re too busy to revel in ru­mors.

Lead by ex­am­ple.

If you’re a man­ager, avoid par­tak­ing of the neg­a­tive gos­sip mill. Ac­cen­tu­at­ing the pos­i­tive, avoid­ing fa­voritism and pro­vid­ing hon­est and con­struc­tive crit­i­cism are ef­fec­tive ways to nur­ture an en­vi­ron­ment of trust and pro­fes­sion­al­ism. Open di­a­logue and mu­tual re­spect be­tween man­ager and work­ers can be as con­ta­gious as gos­sip.

Value col­le­gial­ity.

Treat your co­work­ers the way you’d want to be treated. Don’t be swayed by neg­a­tive gos­sip. Draw your own con­clu­sions about a col­league’s worth and char­ac­ter. You may learn to value their con­tri­bu­tions, or even come to rely on them. Rather than back­bit­ing, the best teams watch each other’s back.

Loose lips sink ca­reers.

At least one study has shown in­di­vid­u­als who spread neg­a­tive gos­sip most are liked less and per­ceived as less pow­er­ful than those who gos­siped less. Neg­a­tive gos­sip tar­nishes the ves­sel that car­ries it, un­der­min­ing the gos­siper as much as the ob­ject of their dirt dish­ing.

Stop spread­ing the news.

It has been said gos­sip dies at a wise in­di­vid­ual’s ears. Be that wise man or wise woman. Make a com­mit­ment to stop neg­a­tive gos­sip at the one source you can con­trol: your­self.

Neg­a­tive gos­sip is the en­emy of a co­he­sive work­place. Where of­fice gos­sip is con­cerned, it’s best to fol­low the old bro­mide: if it’s not your busi­ness, don’t spread it.

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