The Effects of Gossip in the Workplace

The effects of gossip in the workplace are almost always negative, but few people can resist it. Gossip provides an excellent bonding opportunity, and it can give you advance warnings of potential problems with your company, but you have to be careful. Set your boundaries early before you turn yourself into the office's resident Perez Hilton:

Weigh just how important the gossip is. Can this hurt someone's career? If it is a serious violation of rules, then it is better to go to HR or talk to your supervisor than to talk about it with your coworkers, unless you are getting advice because you think they've been in the same situation.

Keep it light. Everyone has gossiped within the office. It would be unrealistic to set a zero-tolerance gossip policy. But choose what you discuss wisely. If you wish to get promoted, you need to be seen as trustworthy. If you can't keep your coworkers' secrets, then can you keep company secrets?

Assume whatever you say will be spread. Very few people can keep a secret, and, once those words are out of your mouth, you can't take them back. Even worse, those words might change as it is passed from person to person, and you won't recognize what you said once it gets back to you, just like in the game of "Telephone."

Avoid gossiping on the clock. Gossiping off the clock, either at lunch or on a break, with a co-worker who happens to be a friend is one thing, but doing it on the clock is another. First, you might get caught by the person you are discussing. Second, you are gossiping while you could be working, which will not please your boss.

Don't put it in writing. If you are upset at a co-worker, no matter how legitimate the reason, do not vent over e-mail or instant messenger. Smart companies monitor all correspondence, and you don't want your boss coming to you with a printed e-mail containing ugly words about her.

When you leave your job, what you do with the gossip you have obtained is up to you. Use your knowledge carefully, as you don't want to burn bridges or hurt former office buddies.

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