Self-Assessment Quiz ─ TRUE or FALSE:

  1. I have allies at work and in return, I am an ally, too.
  2. I keep my ear to the ground so that I’m aware of office goings on.
  3. I know the difference between good gossip and bad gossip.

Do you gossip, girl? Let’s be honest, we all gossip. Especially at work. I’ve always been a “tell it like it is” girl, to your face. People rarely have to guess where they stand with me because I tend to share that with you directly. But not everyone is me. And not all gossip is related to professional improvement. So, should you, or shouldn’t you gossip, is the real question. Office gossip is going to happen; whether you’re talking about somebody’s too-tight suit or somebody’s sudden demotion, its unavoidable. BUT, as you navigate your career through office gossip, you’re going to have to ask yourself when and if you should get involved.

If you’ve got some juicy or salacious information that:

  1. Doesn’t enhance your career positively,
  2. Is going to hurt someone,
  3. Is catty and mean,

Then keep it to yourself. Go ahead and receive that information and let someone else carry along the tidbit. Not sure if you’re a receiver or a carrier? If there’s a ton of traffic around your desk, and there’s no water cooler (which we all know there isn’t) then you’re probably a carrier and that’s dangerous. You don’t want that.

If you’ve got some burning information that:

  1. Crosses the line ethically or professionally,
  2. Will help you get a promotion,
  3. Is derogatory towards another person or even yourself,

Then find a way to get that information to the right person (HR, your boss, the co-worker who’s being talked about) and skip carrying that info to those wag-a-muffins who don’t need it. I’ve taken the time to pull the coattails of a couple of colleagues over the years to give them a heads up about what was buzzing through internal, (and even worse) external corridors about them professionally. Everyone should have the opportunity to course correct. I figure, if you KNOW what people are saying about you it’s up to you to redirect things if it’s at all possible. That’s IF such redirection is important to you. One of my colleagues didn’t feel it necessary to change. So the word on the street about his behavior…is still, well, the word on the street.

In another instance a higher up was having a relationship with a person many rungs beneath his pay grade. EVERYONE knew it. But only one person was brave enough to share the inappropriateness of the relationship with someone in the company who had the power to squash it. I am sad to say, I was not that brave person. There is a legitimate fear to being a whistle blower.  Your job could be impacted. Not to mention the lives of those directly involved in the swirling gossip. But when an entire company is buzzing — that’s a PR nightmare just waiting to happen. Don’t believe me? Just think of all of the #MeToo moments that could have been avoided had someone spoken up sooner, rather than smirk and “tsk, tsk” about it with others over lunch.

If you do release information, especially in a gossipy way, you must be very cognizant of how office gossip can be linked back to you. This is another way for you to know if you should or should not dip your big toe into some gossip. Because, if gossip can be linked back to you, that means you’re probably a carrier, and nobody trusts a carrier. Let me repeat: you don’t want that. You are a carrier if you find yourself saying, “just between you and me, she told me….” or “I told her I wouldn’t share this with anyone, but I think YOU should know…” It tells me instantly that I should NEVAH tell you anything I don’t want you to “share” with anyone else. In fact, just the opposite might be true. If I want to be sure the truth gets circulated, I’ll start by sharing it with a carrier while feigning the need for “confidentiality.”  It’s a pitiful shame. But carriers simply can’t help themselves. As my mama used to say, “umph, umph ummm.”

And if you find yourself at the center of some office gossip, you’ve got to know how to handle yourself. Above all else, you’ve got to own your story. Let’s say you get fired, and by the time you walk from your boss’s office back to your desk, you know the wildfire of wagging tongues has sparked. It is up to you to put out those fires with your own words. YOU tell them what happened; don’t let Suzy three cubes down from you get to spin tales. You tell the truth, or as much of it as you feel comfortable sharing, even if it is bad. There is no shame in failure; you learn some of toughest lessons from failure.

And when you do become the center of gossip (I say “When” because if you’re good at your job, people are gonna hate), then be aware of who’s got your back and who doesn’t; you’ll know because the ones who do have your back will be the ones brave enough to tell you that folks are talking about you. Make sure you’re reciprocating and watching out for others as well. (And if you are, I’m also pretty sure you answered TRUE to all of the Self-Assessment questions above. Good job!)

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