Whether we like it or not, gossip is a part of the career environment.
While it's always a good idea to steer clear of the malicious, bullying, backstabbing, falsehood kind of chatter, there is a time and a place when partaking in office banter can be hugely advantageous to your job.
In the world of career advice, there are a few firm “no-no’s” that make sense in theory, but, as I’ve found in my many years of experience, simply aren’t consistent with human nature. While it may be best that you don’t act on your attraction to the guy in HR, and avoid the water cooler conversation about the impending merger, the reality is: that HR guy is cute, and if there’s going to be a merger and you’re about to be down-sized, it’s better to be on the in than the out.
Here are some tips to help navigate the tricky territory:
1. Become a Good-Spirited Gossip
Remember the golden rule of being part of the work rumor mill — if you’re not willing to participate, you’re going to be out of the loop. One way to be are armed and ready is to have some factual and positive news to share. Follow your co-workers' status updates as well as other companies within your industry so you can pipe in with comments like, "Did you hear that Mitch got a promotion?" Always make sure you have positive and, more importantly, factual news to share.
2. Bond Over Stuff Outside of Your Office Life
A little tangent into "American Idol" can be a powerful way to safely bond over the lives of others. And in some cases, it can even translate into an informative workplace discussion: "Mad Men" regularly makes the rounds of marketing industry publications and LinkedIn Group discussions. Frivolous and unrealistic maybe, but at the end of the long day, it’s better to be talking about Don Draper’s love life than your boss's. Pop culture related gossip also helps you bond with your colleagues — especially when you’re the new kid.
3. Don’t Add Fuel to the Fire
When it comes to the world of office dating, rumor is infinitely more interesting than reality. There are few tactics to stifle the chatter, especially when it’s your life and career that's at stake.
- The Truth Will Set You Free: Be honest and upfront with your co-workers, but spare them the intimate details. Acknowledge the relationship and leave it at that.
- Direct Confrontation: If you keep hearing whispers, stop the gossip-mongers in their tracks asking them to explain themselves.
- Distract and Keep it Moving: Being the object of gossip isn’t so bad when you shift it to the kick-ass job you did on yesterday's presentation. Use this as an opportunity to update your LinkedIn profile status with lots of fun and positive feedback, extending a “Congrats” and a “Thank You” to co-workers who pitched in.
4. Always Remember, Trust Is Fragile
Never bad-mouth your company, co-workers, or superiors. Anything that’s not true is slander and against the law, especially when it’s in writing i.e. email.
If your boss senses you can’t be trusted, it’ll be next to impossible to change their mind. Indiscretion threatens your ability to form a genuine bond and could throw you off course on your otherwise upward career trajectory. Even if your performance is impressive, your boss won’t confide in you.
Make sure instead to sing his or her praises to clients and co-workers. If you do get windfall of something like staffing changes at a competitor from a reliable source before this information becomes public, make sure to clue in your boss. You could very well use the news to create new business and boost your own career.