General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

S/O Career Sins - Gossip

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I was thinking about my own workplace regarding this thread. I've worked in the same small office for a number of years; the industry naturally has high turnover so only about three of us (including the boss) have been there for a "long" time. Generally the people we have now are very nice.

However, I do tend to keep discussion of my personal life to a minimum. My boss and the other long-timer (Grace) are the sort who, if given an inch of personal information, will take a mile of assuming they can give me advice about my life and discuss it with others. And they tend to be rather alarmist and worry about ridiculous things.

For example, one day I had a doctor's appointment in the middle of the work day. Of course I had to let my boss know I'd be gone, and I also let Grace know because my absence meant she'd have to do something extra at work. All I said was, "I'll be away for a doctor's appointment between noon and two." When I got back in the afternoon, a totally different co-worker, Anna, came rushing up to me and asked in a concerned tone if I was okay. Apparently Grace had told her about my doctor's appointment in the most ominous way possible, with speculation about what it was for, to the point where Anna thought something was seriously wrong with me.  ::) Um, it was my routine yearly physical, if you must know, that I scheduled two months ago.

So the gossip here isn't catty and malicious, but it's definitely uncalled-for and unprofessional, not to mention annoying. And hence why I try to give them very, very little fodder for it.

The couple in the original post forgot the lesson learned at many a mother's knee;  He who excuses himself, accuses himself.

Plausible deniability is your friend. 

I had a co-irked who started a casual conversation with me, but was fishing for information.  "George flirts a lot, but somehow gives the impression that he's not available. I don't know whether he's seeing someone, or he's g@y."  I said if he's making it clear he's not available, the reason didn't really matter, did it?

I was the victim of some nasty gossip a fair few years ago  but not in an office setting  and i can tell you that now i would have no hesitation going up to the gossip mongerer and saying in a loud voice  "how dare you"  and confronting them

gossip is disgusting and needs to be stopped dead

I think a lot depends on the situation, and on the personal and professional links between the people concerned.

A very bland, non-reaction can be quite effective on shutting down gossip at at early stage - the kind of "what an odd suggestion" or "I don't know, but I don't see that it is relevant either way" whether it is about you or about someone else. Getting no reaction makes it much less interesting to gossip, and the 'I don't see it is relevant' can (in situations like the one nonesuch4 described) be fairly effective as there is an implied rebuke there, but you don't have to specifically accuse the gossip of gossiping ("I'm sorry, why are you telling me this? What does it have to do with [work related issue]" also works pretty well!)

I think it the gossip is something potentially career damaging then I think it is appropriate to raise it more formally.

If the gossip is about *you* then I think it depends whether it is relevant to your work or not. If not, then if anyone raises it I think you're fine to simply redirect the conversation to work related issues. Depending on circumstances, saying something which explicitly identifies it as gossip can be helpful - no-one ever likes to admit that they are gossiping. An unconcerned-sounding  "Oh, I never listen to gossip"  is a great get-out - you don't have to respond at all to the allegation or gossip itself, so you don't have to deny, confirm or explain whatever it is you (or your coworker) is alleged to have done, and since the word 'gossip'  has negative associations, so it turns it around to the gossipers feeling a little embarrassed that they got caught gossiping, and the attention moves away from whatevr it is they were gossiping *about*


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