Using Office Gossip To Your Advantage

bigbookpic-1All of us do it; we gossip. There are some stunning statistics available as to how much the passing along of information contains traces of gossip. Did you know that one out of seven emails sent in office contain gossip? And that negative gossip outweighs positive gossip by a factor of three. No one really thinks of the statistics behind gossip, because for so many people adding those extra “juicy” details into a conversation comes naturally. We love to gossip, certainly when it is about other people, but what do you do when the gossip is aimed at you?

What To Do If You Are The Subject of the Gossip:
The first thing you have to do when you hear gossip about you is to know exactly what is being said. Find out where the gossip originated from and confront that individual. How do you do this? Let’s give an example: You have heard in the corridor that people are talking about the fact that they feel the boss is favoring you and giving you opportunities that others don’t get. After asking around, you have been able to identify one colleague (the one you have always been in competition with) who is behind originating this gossip.

So, how do you confront this individual? While it may be your first instinct, do not run over and start shouting at your colleague, throwing around accusations. Instead, take a couple of breaths, think about your actions and plan on how you should approach this situation. Choose the best moment (preferably when no other colleagues are around and when you know your colleague will have nothing to fear) and prepare how you will start the conversation. Instead of an aggressive “I have heard that you are spreading rumors about me and I want you to stop” try the following opening: “I know that it is your right to say whatever you want to whomever you want and I don’t want to deny you this right, but I would like you to know that it really hurts to hear that you are implying that the boss is favoring me for reasons that are not performance related. If it is your intention just to bad-mouth me, then go ahead and continue. However, if you really think that this is an issue then I would like to discuss this with you and the boss to sort this out, as this is certainly not the way I want to be seen”.

Tough, yes of course, but at least you show that they can’t simply get away with talking about you. Even if the person denies being the originator, addressing the issue will ensure that you have nipped the problem in the bud.

If you don’t know or are not sure who the source is, bring it up with your line manager or HR director (whomever you feel more comfortable with) and ask for advice.

Two Big No-No’s
There are two big no-no’s when you are sharing rumors. First, never share company sensitive information. Certainly if it is a listed company it can get you into serious (legal) trouble. And although studies show that sharing negative feelings about a third person can increase the closeness between the two people sharing it, no matter how tempted you are or how upset you are with your boss, never speak negatively about him/her to others. Almost always the negative comments will come back to him/her and put you in a position you don’t want to be in.

How To Use Gossip To Get People To Like You
Not many people would associate gossip as a tool to make other people like you. However in his book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Professor Richard Wiseman shares an experiment that shows when you gossip about another person; “…listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics’ being “transferred” to you. So, say positive and pleasant things about friends and colleagues and you are seen as a nice person. In contrast, constantly bitch about their failings and people will unconsciously apply the negative traits and incompetence to you”.

So say good things about your boss and colleagues, keep away from negative gossip, share accurate market information and other trends you have picked up from friends and from the web and see your likeability and your career skyrocket.

– Paul Keijzer

You may also like:
Managing Office Gossip
Name Dropping

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4 thoughts on “Using Office Gossip To Your Advantage

  1. Interesting article. I wonder if Paul has ever used this technique for confronting a gossiping colleague… seems like a technique that would backfire at least as often as it could work. I would not act on a rumor of gossip. If I didn’t hear it for myself, I couldn’t be sure it happened as the reports say — so much of hearsay is inaccurate.

  2. I agree with David Willson office gossip is dumb. However what I got from the article with regard to gossip is you attract more flies with honey than you do vinegar. Yeah, yeah I know that was cheesy but it seems to fit the bill.

  3. Pingback: The Gossip Truth | Intel Boutique

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