Last week in the US, a company that none of us are familiar with, made a policy about a problem that all of us are familiar with.
Ray Dalio, the boss of the hedge firm Bridgewater Associates on the Wall Street, told his staff that they risk losing their jobs if they gossip in the office. Well done Ray boy… you finally addressed a problem that plagues almost every damn workplace in the world — from Toronto to Timbuktu and from Dallas to Delhi.
We’ve all been party to gossip at some stage… and whether that thought brings a smile or a frown to your face, depends on whether you’ve been a perpetrator or a victim of it.This week’s column is dedicated to both. If you’ve been at the receiving end of malicious gossip about you, your work, your integrity or worse, your personal life, you would instantly know how much it hurts to be backstabbed by those who greet you everyday with a cheerful ‘hi’ in the corridor.
And if you’ve been the one giggling over who went home with whom after last week’s office-party, lose that smirk — you’re simply a sitting duck to be the next subject for someone else’s giggles. Because remember, the one who gossips with you will gossip of you!
So here are my two bits of advice to deal with the stress of gossip at the workplace.
Be clear about what actually is gossip:
We all know that a large part of what keeps offices from being hellishly boring places is healthy, office banter which is loads of fun. But we tend to cross the line too easily when harmless banter becomes gossip that can tarnish someone’s reputation.
Know where that line is. And if unclear, remember Dalio’s policy — “Never say anything about a person you wouldn’t say to him or her directly. If you do, you’re a slimy weasel”.
If you come to know that a colleague or ‘friend’ has said something utterly bitchy about you behind your back, don’t spend sleepless nights fretting over the natter. Simply confront the gossip monger. Asking them directly saves you the trouble of speculating about the reasons behind their action.
And their reaction, when you catch them off guard, will also tell you whether you can ever trust them in future. It is the toughest thing in the world to look into the eyes of someone you have harmed and defend your action.
Give them that tough time:
Saying that you didn’t make up a story about someone…you simply repeated it, does not absolve you of the crime. Because spreading gossip is as bad as inventing it.
So before you repeat a story about a colleague, just ask yourself three questions — Is it true, is it harmless and is it necessary. If the answer to these is NO, don’t repeat it.
Channelise the gossipers’ talent:
While criticising those who indulge in gossip, we forget an important point — that gossipers actually have two special talents. They have the ability to carry out social interaction in an interesting manner (no one listens to gossip from someone who is narrating it in a boring way).
Plus, they have a better ability than others, to observe peoples’ weakness. So if you happen to be the boss in a situation when someone in your team indulges in gossip, you can actually channelise these two traits into positive points.
Make the gossiper in-charge of noting down the weak points of everyone and conveying it in a fun manner - to them and not others!
Finally, don’t pay any more attention to gossip than what it deserves… whether it’s about others or yourself. Water cooler moments are just those — moments — with no lasting effect, unless you make a big deal out of them.
Don’t base your decisions about your working style or who you wish to be friends with, just out of fear that someone would gossip. Just because someone else doesn’t know how to get a life, don’t spoil yours. Ignore yaar.
Sonal Kalra doesn’t gossip at all. But her colleague in the next cubicle does, and is always on phone with the tall guy on the third floor. Haww….maybe they are having an affair.
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