Gossip is Good
Submit Articles Back to Articles
Gossip is good? There's a startling thought!
In offices, schools, communities, and families everywhere, we insist that
gossip is bad: don't listen to it, don't pass it on, and don't admit to being
curious about who's saying what.
I'm taking a stand here to say that gossip is good. I'm not even going to
qualify that with a disclaimer. Nor am I going to dress it up in party clothes
by pretending that rumors are different from gossip (they're not). Instead, here
are four reasons why gossip is good.
1. Learn who trusts you -- and whom you can trust
People who come to you with rumors and gossip will often request
confidentiality -- and of course you'll honor that. And you'll quickly learn
who's a habitual gossip and who isn't. If people who don't have a reputation for
gossip and rumor-mongering are talking to you, that's great. It means you're
reliable, they trust you to care for their reputations, and your opinion matters
In learning the gossip styles of your co-workers, you'll also learn whether
they are trustworthy in turn. The things they tell you, the words they choose,
and their reasons for talking will give you insight into their values and
2. Find out what's worrying people
The rumors that surface in a company are key indicators of what's bothering
the employees. If you're hooked into the rumor mill and gossip grapevine, you'll
learn what people are worrying about. Then you can respond, with your actions
and words, to control rumors and help people feel more secure, appreciated, and
3. Discover people's perceptions
What are the company's chances for success, what project or department is hot
and, yes, who got drunk at happy hour?
The "wisdom of crowds" says that groups of people are more accurate than you
might think at predicting outcomes. When the group is just five or even ten
folks in your grapevine, that may or may not be true. However, if even some of
those five or ten people are on the same team and their casual comments indicate
a real winner of a project, it could be time to buy stock in the company.
On the other hand, if they're unanimous that the project is behind schedule
and in trouble, you know to clear your team's calendar to prepare for whatever
assistance you may be called on to provide.
4. Know who the "opinion-setters" are
I've put "opinion-setters" in quotes because these are the people who spread
the bad stories. Sadly, every office has its backstabbers, and these are the
star players of the group.
You can count yourself fortunate indeed if these people like you, because you
surely don't want to be on the wrong end of their opinions. At the same time,
you even more emphatically do not want to be associated with them; their
reputation will rub off on you, probably sooner than later.
These people are often surprisingly influential. They dress their negativity
up in business attire by claiming (and often believing) that they are being
responsible corporate citizens. If senior management is out of touch, they may
believe what they hear from the opinion-setter. And there's nothing the
opinion-setter likes better than feeling important, so they love the idea that
they've got the ear of someone in the corner office.
Therefore, as much as you may feel squeamish about this, you need to know
what they're saying. Eventually, it will be something about you, your
department, or one of your staff. And when it is, you not only want to know
about it, you need to know so you can be ready to respond.
It's all about what you can learn
Just because it's gossip doesn't mean it's not valuable information. When you
know what people are muttering to each other around the department's printer,
whispering about in their cubicles, and discussing over a happy-hour beer, then
you know where your attention should be focused. Whether you use the knowledge
to know when and how to jump on an opportunity, to clue a co-worker in to be
more careful about getting to work on time, or to pick the right words in a
meeting to help people feel valued and secure, it's all good stuff.
It's NOT about what others learn from you
You've no doubt noticed that these four reasons all involve listening, not
talking. Enough said.
What are they saying in your office? How does your knowledge help you
understand what's happening around you?
"Gossip is the art of saying nothing in a way that leaves practically nothing
unsaid." Walter Winchell, American newspaper and radio commentator who invented
the gossip column at the New York Evening Graphic; 1897-1972
(c)Grace L. Judson
About the Author
I'm Grace Judson, and I help professionals who loathe corporate politics and
want to lead with integrity and compassion. Stop by
Svaha Concepts' website and check out my free resources!
Follow us @Scopulus_News
Article Published/Sorted/Amended on Scopulus 2007-09-19 15:20:40 in Business Articles