Eleanor Roosevelt, the Wonder Woman of American history, once said, “”Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.”
You might be nodding your head right now, but who hasn’t shared a secret or two? Or you might read this and think, “That’s not me, that’s the villainous Linda in accounting. She’s pure evil. I would never gossip about my fellow Avengers!”
Work gossip happens more than you’d think. A recent survey showed 21% regularly gossip at work and 15% admitted to occasional gossip. Not only does gossip hurt morale, it also affects productivity, ruins your professional credibility, and creates strained relationships with co-workers.
Ask Yourself These Questions:
- Has anyone ever accused you of spending too much work time talking?
- Do you secretly enjoy when a co-worker is going through tough times?
- Do you start sentences with “Did you hear,” “I heard,” or “you didn’t hear this from me?”
- Do you share when a co-worker makes a mistake on a project?
- Does everyone in the office know to ask you if they want the scoop?
Did you answer yes to any or all of these questions? If so, you are definitely gossiping in the office. This doesn’t mean you are Captain Gossip yet – but let’s put an end to it before it gets to that point.
Why Do We Feel the Urge to Gossip?
People gossip about others for many reasons. Maybe they are going through their own personal struggles they don’t want people to notice, or
they’re jealous and want to knock someone off their pedestal. Another possibility is they’re not happy with their current job so they gossip out of boredom to pass the time.
How Can We Stop?
If your superpower is the gift of the gab and you consider yourself a Chatty Cathy, don’t worry: we know you aren’t a smooth talking narcissist like the Riddler. In fact, most people don’t have a malicious intent when gossiping. Instead, most do so out of instinct without realizing the consequences of sharing the daily dirt. One way to combat that impulse is a self-check.
Does this topic concern me?
Just like you wouldn’t volunteer to go against the Hulk in an arm wrestling match, or a race against the Flash – you shouldn’t stick your nose in where it doesn’t belong. We know that phrase is older than The Phantom, but it’s good to keep that motto in the back of your mind.
Many people start discussing a topic they have no real context for. This is how the rumor mill starts, since things get lost in translation and twisted. If you weren’t at a meeting, don’t discuss it. If you weren’t at the office holiday or happy hour, don’t discuss who left with whom or who had a little too much fun.
Would I share this story if the person was right next to me?
Think about it: when it comes to sharing secrets we usually lower our voices super low or save the topic for a private conversation. If you’re whispering because you don’t want the whole world to hear, it’s likely you shouldn’t talk about this. Besides, superheroes with enhanced senses can still hear you!
If this was me, would I want people to know?
Being empathetic to a person’s situation can make a world of difference. Yes, cheating scandals are juicy news. But if you were going through it, wouldn’t you be praying and hoping no one knew? If someone trusted you enough to share the details of their darkest and most troubling times, don’t betray that trust for a few minutes as the center of attention.
Remember, nothing positive will come from gossiping. You might get a few laughs but you are messing with people’s reputations with nothing to gain. So the next time someone comes to you saying “OMG do I have a story for you,” change the subject to something more positive by asking what is going on in their lives.
If they don’t get the hint take it up a notch and formally say I’m not comfortable talking about that person. It may not stop them from spreading gossip but at least you will be on your way from distancing yourself from the drama and giving up your Captain Gossip costume.