When you were a small child, you probably learned not to be a tattletale. When you entered middle school, you likely wished everyone would practice the golden rule. And in high school, you had plenty of opportunities to see the harmful effects of gossip and innuendo.
Now you are all grown up, but the need for common courtesy hasn't changed. You still shouldn't tell tales out of school. And, while you may think the content of rumors has changed; it really hasn't.
Whether you are 14 or 40, gossip still centers on the same things: who is dating (merging their companies), who is lying (padding a résumé) and who is cheating (riding on someone else's coattails).
While it may be tempting to share juicy bits of information or listen in on colleagues' private conversations, it's never a good idea to trade in this sort of communication.
Perhaps you were at a brainstorming session. Some insights may have been stellar while others were average. Someone may have made a suggestion you felt was completely ridiculous and illustrated the ineptitude of the person who expressed it.
You might want to bust open the conference room doors and rush to tell your co-workers about this absurd idea. Don't. If it's important for those outside the meeting to know, they will find out. It doesn't need to be from you.
If you start mocking people for contributing to meetings, you will create an environment where people are reluctant to share information, and that type of environment helps no one.
Also, who knows? Perhaps a year or more from now, the notion you found ridiculous will turn into a company moneymaker. Do you want to be the one people talk about later - the person who wasn't smart enough to recognize a great idea?
We've all had funny or amusing experiences with industry colleagues. But, if we relay them to entertain people who weren't there, this could be a source of embarrassment for those who were involved.
For example, you may have a great story about a holiday party at which someone enjoyed a few too many cocktails, sang loudly off-key and danced the Macarena solo on the dance floor.
You may have found the behavior amusing, but it would be unprofessional to bring it up at the water cooler the next workday.
Also, a co-worker may have said something to you that, in your heart, you know you should keep to yourself.
It may have been a serious family issue or a problem with a supervisor, and the person just needed to vent. Your colleague didn't actually ask you not to tell anyone, but your common sense told you it would be inappropriate to do so. Do the right thing. Just listen and move on.
The same advice applies to interoffice gossip. Perhaps some work relationships seem a little too cozy, or there is speculation about someone's job security. Again, you might want to be the entertainer and tell others, but what good would that do?
Before you tell all, think about why you want to share racy stories. Do you want people to like you? Are you trying to impress someone? Would the consequences be worth it? Do you want to end up being the guy or gal who can't be trusted with confidential, private information?
And remember, gossip is unprofessional. If you spread trivial rumors, you will look trivial as well.
Also, it's inevitable that one day the subject of such talk will be you. Hopefully, if you treat others with respect, karma will kick in, and you will be spared ridicule.
In addition, the person you gossip about this year could be your boss or competitor next year.
And finally, the best reason to not tell tales out of school: It's just plain unkind.
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