They used to call it water-cooler chat — you know, under-the-breath commentary on the comings and goings of everyone else in the office, exchanged upon bumping into somebody when getting a drink.
That was back in the day when you actually had to get out of your chair, saunter over to the water cooler and get involved in a discussion.
Now, office gossip is as easy as sending an e-mail —and nobody is the wiser since you’re still sitting, looking conscientious while supposedly working at your desk.
The problem with office gossip, besides the fact that it’s inevitably critical, is that it’s like the plague — it can run rampant and metamorphose into something dangerous and infectious to everybody involved. The best way to avoid people in your office gossiping about you is to keep your nose clean, do your work, and rise above the opportunities to talk about them.
Look around you in your workplace: Whom do you respect? Is it the person who always has something negative to say about others, whose “jokes” are usually put-downs of other people’s appearance or work habits? Or is it the person who, though friendly, minds his/her own business and gets on with the work at hand?
But how do we avoid office gossip? Simple. Don’t give them anything to gossip about!
Don’t come in late, smelling of alcohol, with bed head and wearing yesterday’s clothes, or commit any other obvious workplace sins.
Yet no matter how you try to stay above the chatter, it’s often hard not to get drawn into a buzz — especially when there’s evidence of a good gab such as an office affair.
OK, so you’re not a saint. But you can keep your listening to a minimum, control your curiosity from getting beyond the initial news, and keep any judgments to yourself. After all, most of the stories that get circulated in a workplace are either the result of one person’s jealousy — in which case you shouldn’t be the one to support it — or the comings and goings of people whose home lives are unhappy or complicated.
The main purpose of avoiding office gossip is not to be holier-than-thou among your colleagues, but to protect yourself in two important ways: One, the person who gossips mosts is often least liked; many people will listen, but not many will trust.
Two, the last thing you want is to have all kinds of speculation about your own life.
In fact, if you do have a domestic problem going on, such as a breakup, a troubled child or other problems, it’s best to tell your supervisor directly and perhaps one close co-worker. That way there’s really nothing for others to gossip about.
Your workplace should be somewhere you enjoy going, where you have camaraderie among your colleagues.
Avoid getting involved in any gossip and the atmosphere will stay pleasant.