Dealing with Office Gossip
I work in an outpatient dialysis unit where there is constant backbiting and
gossip going on with the staff and the patients. Some days I hate to go to work, although I like my job pretty well.
Why do people insist on gossiping and spreading things that they know aren't true?
Dear Fed up:
Why do people gossip? It is probably the major form of communication in any
business, church, social or family setting. Gossip can be pretty destructive and counterproductive especially
when it is about you. For the person who is carrying the information, he or she may feel as though it is a civic
duty to share their knowledge with anyone who will listen. It also seems to be necessary to embellish it a little,
in the event that the topic of gossip isn't juicy enough. You probably heard about the office gossip who said
that is all that I can tell you
. I have already told you more than I heard myself."
We have been told that knowledge is power. So, the person who seems to have a lot of knowledge may be perceived,
or perceive him or herself as "in the know" and therefore powerful. In fact, often that is not the case.
Now what to do about the office gossip. Gossip requires a talker and a listener. If no one listens then he or she
can't gossip. It's up to each individual to make the choice to participate, or not, in this past time. In breaking
free of the practice of gossiping, we could apply the Rotary Club's four-way test regarding the information received
and passed on to others.
- Is it true?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
If the answer is "no" to any of these questions, don't participate!
Coworkers Carrying Their Equal Share
Why is it that some people refuse to carry their load at work? You know the type,
they can waste more time doing nothing, or they are always going on break or making a phone call. Why do some people
get away with goofing off? I am tired of carrying the load and doing the work so that I can get off work at a decent
time. What can we do?
Bushed in Bushville
Dear Bushed in Bushville:
It seems that every workplace has at least one employee who fits that same
First I would ask you, is your perception of this person accurate? Do others share it? There are some people who
do move slowly but they still get their work done. They just don't do it at a breakneck pace.
If this person truly is not getting the job done, how is it affecting you? If you must do his or her work, why
must you do it? In other words, if this person's failure to get the job done causes others to be inconvenienced or
impacted, it should be addressed.
The reason that people get away with the kind of behavior that you have described is because they can and have.
As long as there is a payoff for negative behavior, it will continue. When the rewards are no longer present or
the pain is too great, then and only then, will this unacceptable behavior change. So how does that happen?
First talk to the person in question and let him know how his choices and actions are affecting you
"Joe, I like
working with you because you are very pleasant and funny. However, I feel as though I have to do part of your
work as well. I feel frustrated because I would like to be able to get through on time so that I can go home to
my family. I know that you would like to do that also. We both know that it is important that we have everything
ready for the morning shift so that they can start work on time."
Next you tell him what you are asking for him to do. "How about us working together to get everything done."
If Joe continues to goof off, you then need to take it to your supervisor. It is important that you go armed
with the facts, not just an accusation that he is not doing his job, but exactly how it is affecting you and
It is interesting how oblivious we can be to how our choices can impact others in our lives. It is possible
that Joe does not have a clue about how you feel. I believe that most people want to be approved of, and
accepted and they will change their behavior if it affects others. The key is in the approach. Admonishing
and criticizing may only cause the behavior to get worse. However, asking for assistance by and through a
behavioral change is more likely to get the results you want.
Mary Rau-Foster is the president and founder of Foster Seminars and Communications LLC. Mary is an
attorney, a nurse, an author and a motivational speaker with an advanced degree in common sense
earned at the "school of hard knocks."
She conducts seminars and workshops on medical/legal issues, personnel issues and motivational topics.
Mary is a magician who uses humor and magic to entertain and inform.