Office Politics: Gossip Troubles

We’ve all been there. A co-worker whispers something clandestine to you about someone else, and you have suddenly landed in the office gossip pool.

I’ve been in teams before where talk about each other ran rampant. And to be fair, sometimes, it’s simply discussing another teammate, not out of malice, but simply keeping up. One of my co-workers at one point was undergoing a divorce, and a friend and I were discussing it, in order to come up with ideas of how to cheer her up. Is that gossip?

I think one of the most difficult aspects of the conversation is that gossip has a slippery definition. Google defines it as “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” However, the Cambridge Dictionary just calls it “talk about other people’s lives.” So, is gossip automatically spiteful in nature, or not?

I was once in a workplace environment where several of my teammates were cheating their numbers in order to look better in front of management. At first, I thought it was my imagination, but as other people began to mention it too, I realized I wasn’t off at all. I felt validated knowing other people saw what I did, but I wonder sometimes if it helped me at all in the long run. Since it wasn’t clear if management was going to step in, it made many of us just feel even more frustrated and disheartened. Would we have been more content if we never knew the truth?

I’d like to say that , if you wouldn’t want the other person hearing your words, then it’s probably gossip. After all, when you hear people talk maliciously about another co-worker, it makes you worry that they say the same things behind your back. However, even that feels like simplification.

What are your thoughts? Are there times when talking about someone else can be a good thing?

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