Hanging around the coffee machine or, as the expression goes, the water cooler, is a common on-the-job activity these days.
A recent survey by The Creative Group showed that 60% of advertising and marketing executives interviewed said it is common for employees to engage in office gossip. However, 62% also stated that it is often non-offensive.
So, is a little gossipy chit chat all in good fun, or is it something that should be avoided like the plague?
Alicia Brum, a career expert from The Creative Group, spoke to the topic of office gossip, addressing why, regardless of its light-hearted nature, it is an issue and outlining strategies on ways to deal with it.
Why gossip is so prevalent in the workplace
Gossip always has and always will exist in the workplace, mainly because we view it as a way to increase our connections with our co-workers. It also tends to spring up when you’re having problems with the management. Instead of dealing with issues directly, concerns often breed into office gossip.
Strategies for handling office gossip
A workplace with an open door policy is the ideal situation. When management makes an effort to check in with you on a one-on-one level, you’re more able and willing to discuss questions and concerns directly. It also creates a much more relaxed and trusting atmosphere.
The main advice Alicia offers is simple: “Lead by example.” Don’t start or spread any gossip you may hear and respect the reputation of your career. Nobody wants unnecessary workplace drama.
The importance of open communication among employees
There is no denying that discussions among co-workers are extremely important as some of the best work ideas are created in off-the-clock settings. “It is important and helpful to speak with colleagues about certain apprehensions you have in the workplace,” Alicia says, “as often they might share your concerns or be able to shed some light on problems you are having.”
Positive conversation is completely dependent on the content and tone of the talk, however. There is a difference between sharing apprehensions and pure gossip. Gossip can always grow into something far from the truth and put people in awkward situations.
For those who are entering the workforce for the first time – whether it be as a new graduate or a current student embarking on an internship – it is often tempting as the “newbie” to engage in office gossip in an effort to fit in. This is a tricky trap, however: “Any sort of bond people make through gossip in the workplace decreases camaraderie overall rather than elevating it,” Alicia warns.
You don’t want to be in a position where rumours start because of you or at your expense.