Office Problems: Should You ‘Gossip’ to Fit In?

September 14, 2015

Gossip to Fit In

Moving departments internally can be a bumpy ride full of faces you don’t know, and names you’re desperately trying to remember.

Your mission? Form new relationships – fast!

Normally, new office relationships are formed by sharing little bits of information about yourself, and by learning little bits of information about your new colleagues. But it’s not unusual for a conversation to quickly turn to gossip – and the problem is, it sometimes feels right!

Discussion: What Would You Do in the Following Situation?

Imagine it’s your second day in a new department. You’ve already introduced yourself, and everybody else has told you their name at least once. Then somebody approaches you:

“Hey, you used to work with Laura… I hear she got in trouble for stealing office supplies. Is that true!?”

(Stop reading for a minute and tell us what your reaction would be – click here to jump to the comments box)

Why Gossiping Feels Right

The trouble with forming new relationships, is that most of us have an in-built desire to impress our potential friends with our skills, knowledge and abilities.

So when somebody asks you a question that you know you can answer, your brain gives you a subtle nudge, and says “hey, somebody is testing your knowledge – it’s your time to shine!”.

As a result, your first reaction when probed for gossip, might be to get a quick social win by giving your new colleague what they’re hoping for – it shows that you know things they don’t, and it forms a fast and positive bond. But the bond is only temporary, and can lead to negative consequences.

Why You Should Avoid Gossip at Work

There are several reasons to think twice before answering a question like the above.

Sure, if you give in to your instinct, you’ll probably be very popular for a while – after all, nobody else knows as much juicy news as you do about your old department! But once you run out of gossip to share, either your relationships will fade out, or you will start looking for more things to gossip about – and that’s not good.

Plus, the relationships you develop that are based on talking ill of others behind their backs, are shaky at best – your new colleagues are unlikely to trust you with any of their own personal information, and you will probably think twice about sharing yours.

So… What Should You Do?

In my opinion, the only answer you should give when a new colleague asks you for a juicy story about an old workmate, is “I don’t know”.

Sure, it might not be the truthful answer, and your new colleague will probably know that! But it sets a very positive precedent – it says that you are trustworthy and respectful, that you don’t entertain gossip at work, and it will help you to build the positive relationships that are actually worth keeping.

Do you agree?


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