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April 26, 2008

Workplace Issues - Gossip

Hello Readers,

Few people can say that they've never participated in office gossip before. At the same time, I'd find it hard to believe that many people would say that they enjoy being gossiped about. So what is gossip? Why do we do it? Is there a place for gossip in the workplace? What can we do to stop it?

First, it's important to understand what the difference between gossip ...

... and good-natured social chit chat is. Gossip can be defined as Idle, often sensational and groundless talk about others, often used to make the subject of the gossip look bad. For example, let's say you said this to someone: "Did you hear about Mike? He's been promoted to head teacher! I can't believe it. He must be the worst teacher here!" Talking about someone's promotion doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing, but the added commentary about his ability to teach is clearly uncalled for.

Now, why might people take part in gossiping at work? Here are a few possibilities:

1. they're bored and have nothing better to do
2. there's not enough communication from the management team
3. the company is very competitive
4. there are a lot of promotions/demotions/layoffs, etc., going on
5. people feel demotivated

So what can you do if you hear someone gossiping? Try saying something like this:

1. Where did you hear that from?
2. Do you talk about me like this when I'm not here?
3. I'd rather not talk about this if (subject of gossip) isn't here.

Of course breaking bad habits is never easy, so if you want to quit gossiping, there are a few things you can do. The first is to think carefully before you speak. Ask yourself why you want to pass on the information that you have. If it's because it will make someone else look bad, make you look better, or simply to make you the centre of attention for a while, then don't say it. If you've heard about something about the business that concerns you (e.g., salary not being paid, layoffs, etc.), then ask the appropriate person (e.g., the head of the school) to give you information that you can trust. At the end of the day, gossiping does more harm than good, so do what you can to avoid talking about office politics, management, and your colleagues.

Have you ever been the subject of gossip at work? What happened? Share your comments below.

Hope that helps!

Carol Rueckert
Writer, ESL Lesson Plan
E-mail: crueckert@eslemployment.com
Blog: www.esl-lesson-plan.com

"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand." - Chinese Proverb

*Looking for more articles that focus on workplace issues specific to ESL? Click HERE!

About the author of this entry:
Carol, a native English-speaker hailing from the small town of St. Joseph in Minnesota, USA, worked in China for more than 7 years. During that time, she worked at universities, private language schools, grade schools, international schools, and did private tutoring as well. Besides teaching, she also worked as a Head teacher, an Education Manager, and a Material Development Manager. In addition to working on this newsletter, she also writes a monthly column for Time Out Beijing, authors ESL textbooks for publishing houses in China, and is an Editor for Garnet Publishing in Reading, England. Carol holds a BA in Communications from the College of St. Benedict/ St. John's University, and a CELTA, and has just finished her MA TESOL course at Oxford Brookes University. Look for her posts on the ESL-Jobs-Forum discussion boards!

Posted by crueckert at April 26, 2008 06:51 AM

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