Sunday, January 4, 2009

A Bad Workplace Habit to Nip in the Bud this Year

Like fire on a dry California hillside during the Santa Ana winds, office rumors can spread really quickly.

I just got off the phone with a friend who was a little disgusted by a co-worker who had called her at home - on a Sunday, no less - to share information about what was rumored to take place at the office this next week. I am thinking that my friend's office will be like many others this year, where employment fears and economic anxiety support an active rumor mill.

You have probably already guessed the one bad workplace habit we really should try and nip in the bud this year - Rumor Mongering. You never know, it could be your career that gets burned.

Let's face it, who doesn't enjoy a good water cooler conversation from time to time? It breaks up the day and takes us away from our desks, even for a few minutes. However, when the water cooler conversation moves away from what happened on "The Office", your favorite "Dancing with the Stars" contestant or what “Jack Bauer” will be up to on Fox’s 24, it is time to for you to step away.

I am not suggesting that there is not value in the company rumor mill. On the contrary, it is one way to stay tuned to what is happening in your company, especially in an unstable economy.

However, when the rumors get personal and fellow employees begin to discuss other employees or bosses negatively, it is really time to step away. There are toxic people in organizations who would love nothing more than to drag you into their own web as a partner in crime. You know these people. They are always happy to say what they heard or saw and they are not afraid to drop names about who else knows and what someone else said. They are always happy to be the one who lets you in on the “secret” everyone else knows but you. Make no mistake about it, your name will be the first on his/her lips as they share the story with the next willing listener. They may even embellish what you said or didn’t say.

Here are my five "Be's" for the new year as it relates to workplace rumor mongering:

1. Be careful...about your sources and what you repeat.
2. Be elusive...and avoid being alone with people who always want to snare others into their, "Did you hear about..." trap.
3. Be selective...about what you believe.
4. Be honest...and let people know that you would really prefer to just not talk about other people.
5. Be changing the conversation.


Jackie Cameron said...

I long ago learned that if you can master #5 you are on a winner. But this is a really good list and very timely advice. This is not the time to be caught out doing or saying something that will really upset your co-workers and - even worse - your employer. Some people get a kick out of meddling and mixing. Identify those people and stay away from them!

Robyn McMaster said...

I like the idea of praising fellow workers for what they do well. Gossip sure makes a workplace even more toxic!

Marcia Robinson said...


Good advice to stay away from these people. Many will be "jockeying" for positions and doing anything they can to stay afloat.


Marcia Robinson said...


Excellent tip - to flip the script so to speak. This way you manage the conversation and can stand behind what you say.

Come again.

Evelyn said...

I have found if you are honest with people and say you don't want to be involved, you could become the next rumor. Good tips.

XL Brokerage said...

Praising co- workers truly is the best approach to keep the peace at work! Thanks for the great blog!