Gossip is one of the oldest ways to share news and views, but its reputation for creating rumours and misinformation comes with good reason. In an age where a person's character can be damaged at the drop of a tweet, I wanted to share my top five reasons not to gossip:
- Gossip can't be trusted. It's like that game Broken Telephone; facts get twisted or left out altogether. If you don't hear the details directly from the person it's concerning, consider it a rumour, take it with a grain of salt and don't spread it around.
- Never put anything in writing you wouldn't shout from the rooftop. This goes for email, text, social media like Facebook and Twitter, blogs, and even the good old written word (remember pen and paper?). You could send your message to the wrong person, or you might write something that could come back to haunt you down the road. Once it's out there, you can't take it back.
- When a co-worker or higher-up does something that gets under your skin, toughen up. Chances are it wasn't personal. Don't spread it around the office. It wastes time, contributes to a negative energy in the office, and won't improve the situation. If you really need to vent, take five minutes for some privacy and call a friend or family member to let off steam. (Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, so if you are legitimately being mistreated at work or feel you need assistance to resolve an issue, consult your boss or HR department.)
- If you need to preface your news with "You didn't hear it from me," you probably shouldn't be saying it at all. There might be more to the situation than you are aware of, and leaking private info could do more damage than you anticipate, especially if it includes sensitive information regarding your company, your clients or your boss.
- Spreading gossip works two ways. We've all heard someone claim "I don't gossip, I can't stand it," and then watch them happily take in whatever piece of news someone is sharing. Just because you're not the one spreading word, that doesn't make you guiltless. It's perfectly acceptable to politely say "I'm not really comfortable discussing this," and change the subject.
Gossip can be a fun distraction, but most of the time it's not worth it and can have some negative consequences like damaged reputations, a dip in morale and increased anxiety. And really, it's just plain unprofessional. So next time you're feeling that urge to spread word about something that probably isn't your business, bite your tongue and remember, what goes around, comes around.
Debra Goldblatt is the founder and president of rock-it promotions, a boutique public relations agency in Toronto, Canada. rock-it promotions creates national campaigns that build recognition and generate positive media coverage for lifestyle, fashion, health, beauty and film clients among many more.