Avoiding Office Gossip Traps

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Whether you’re fresh out of college or just sending the last child off to college you are the newbie. As the newbie you are in one of two categories. Either people like you and want to become your friend, or they see you as the competition for that new position opening up in the upper echelon. Either way, you are walking into a hornets nest waiting to attack you.

How can you avoid the traps and pitfalls that await you on a daily basis? With a few well rehearsed statements and a very professional and busy looking work station.

Free Speech

Remember that there is no right to free speech without consequences. So when Sally invites you to lunch the first few times and seems to be quizzing you, be wary. Perhaps you have had years of experience with the Sally’s of this world. In that case you should be well fortified to fend off the insinuating inquisition. Thus when Sally asks you, “Have you heard about Mr. Smith and his wife and his affairs?” you have to make some wise statements to avoid participating in the gossip trap.

You wisely respond, “No, I hadn’t heard, lets go ask Mr. Smith if there is any truth to this and make sure he is aware that people are talking about him like this”. Chances are Sally will either suddenly have to go or she will come up with another excuse to avoid talking with Mr. Smith in regards to his personal life. You have refrained from adding to the gossip trap and you can safely change the subject to the weather or recent movies.

Friend or Foe

You are on a learning curve with your new job and today you feel all thumbs. To make matters worse Sally and her friends seem to be intent on getting you into their little gossip trap. You naturally look very busy which of course you are since you are learning your new job. You might have several file folders full of various things you need to accomplish.

Perhaps Sally and her friends seem to continually stop by your desk engaging you in conversation which of course turns into gossip. Mention that you have a meeting with Mr. Smith soon and you really must get ready for it and continue working. Open one of your files and state that you need to go ask Sam a question regarding this file (when of course Sally or her friends offer to assist you make sure to be prepared to say that Sam wanted to go over it with you personally).

Fodder For Gossip

You are in the break room with another colleague when you over hear a conversation going on in the file room next door. Walls are quite apparently thin in this building and you hear your own name linked with a co worker. Worse, you hear that you are having an affair with said co worker. You glance over at your colleague in the break room and realize that he too has heard the whole conversation.

First you make a statement that “it must be a slow day for the gossip circuit and they are reaching at straws to find something to make up. I will have to talk to them about that immediately”.

You then graciously exit the break room and go into the file room where they are still chattering away. Naturally there is a hush as you enter the room. You smile and say, “I just overheard your conversation and I would appreciate it if you stopped this immediately. If you have any questions please come to me rather than spread vicious rumors behind my back”.

Naturally they will make some sort of small talk and explanation but you will shine through as the winner. Oh yes, and hopefully the colleague in the break room is still there and will hear your professional manner shine through. Perhaps he is in charge of hiring for the next executive level. You never know.

Is Your Personal Life Personal

I once worked in a huge corporation that was well renowned for its integrity. Unfortunately my boss did not share that integrity.

Over the course of the past several weeks she had been hauling in my co workers one by one and having a heart to heart chat with each and everyone of us so I knew my turn was inevitable. Lay offs were on the horizon and she was fishing for dirt on all of us. I had watched one co worker (whom I knew to be in the midst of a divorce) leave her office in tears and give notice that she was leaving the company.

Sure enough, in a few days it was my turn to be called into the boss’s office. I dutifully showed up at my appointed time prepared for the worst. As suspected, it was a fishing expedition. It started something like this, “We don’t know anything about your personal life, why not?” I simply replied that I keep my personal and professional life separate. “Well, you can tell me anything!” she stressed to me. I smiled and told her mine was a pretty boring life really.

This woman pressed for full details of my boring life. How many kids I had, did I plan on more? How is my marriage, my friends, my family? I finally told her that I had nothing to share that my personal life is just that, personal.

After work that day I made a trip over to another of our company’s facilities and stopped in for a visit with a Human Resources representative. I explained what had happened and told them I wanted a transfer to another department. Though it took a few weeks (and I was miserable working with this woman during those few weeks), I got my transfer. My former boss was soon let go. It seems the entire office had been over to human resources and complained of her lack of compassion and integrity.

By setting your boundaries and standards from the start of your employment your personal values and integrity will shine through clearly and you will soon be the one people come to for assistance and you will be the person that everyone looks up to for your personal values and integrity.


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