FrankTalk With Frank Ofili: Managing Office Gossips, Politics (Part 1)

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———-“Who gossips to you will gossip of you.” ——-(Turkish proverb)

Gossip is rampant in most places, whether in the office, church, community, classroom, group or even on social media. Sometimes, it seems as if people have nothing better to do than gossip about each other. They talk about the company, their co-workers, and their managers. They frequently take a partial truth and turn it into a whole speculative truth.

Many employees gossip about the amount of money they make – and often, they do not tell the truth. So, unhappy co-workers beat a path to the Human Resources unit asking about their own salary.

Expect a certain amount of gossip; people want to know what is going on in their workplace, and they like to discuss work issues. The key is to know when the gossip is out-of-hand. You need to act if the gossip is:

disrupting the work place and the business of work,

hurting employees’ feelings,

damaging interpersonal relationships, or

injuring employee motivation and morale.

If you find yourself having to address gossip frequently, you may want to examine your workplace to understand the consistent themes in the gossip. Consider that you may not be sharing enough information with employees. It is also possible that employees do not trust you and are afraid to ask about important topics. If gossip has been unmanaged in the past, gossip tends to become a negative aspect of your work culture. So, do not let negative gossip go unaddressed.

You can manage gossip exactly as you would manage any other negative behaviour from an employee, group or team member in your work place. Use a coaching approach, when possible, to help the employee improve his or her behaviour. But, when needed, gossip management starts with a serious talk between the employee and the manager or supervisor. If the discussion of the negative impacts of the employee’s gossip has no effect on subsequent behaviour, begin the process of progressive discipline with a verbal warning, then a formal written warning for the employee’s personnel file.

If you assertively deal with gossip, you will create a work culture and environment that does not support gossip. However, gossip cannot be completely eliminated. A good corporate strategist should know how to turn gossip to an advantage. Considered an integral part of grapevine (though not quite), gossip spreads very fast. Therefore, it could be a veritable channel when certain information needs to be planted fast within a workforce for good or for ill. But this should be used strategically, and sparingly too, in exceptional circumstances otherwise it could damage the reputation of the Management. 

Gossip could also be a good tool for disinformation when occasion demands it. Gossip also gives an indication of employees’ or group members’ attitudes and sentiments. With the knowledge of this information, a good strategist should be able to know what to do and expect at any point in time.

Gossip and office politics go hand in hand. Office politics can get really ugly. The worst part is that you cannot stay completely out of it when you are a part of the office. It has a way of getting into any organization – a small or big one. Though you try your best to avoid it, you are bound to get into the trap sooner or later. Here is how to deal with office politics when you are caught in the middle.

1. Do not abuse your position

Do not let your position of power go to your head and definitely do not use it to your own advantage. This will only attract brickbats from your colleagues and you are bound to be the centre of office politics. “While handling your team, avoid using your position to walk over subordinates. Your attitude towards them will fuel office politics,” 

2. Be a team player

As a team player, you must understand that the company and team come before you. “You cannot be selfish and think only about yourself. Being a team player increases your chances of a promotion and makes you look like a better person”. So though you may have an opinion (and a negative one at that) about every one of your colleagues, put it aside when you are at work.

3. Be professional

You cannot burst into a song when a meeting is in progress. Maintain a professional attitude at all times. It will help to cry at the drop of a hat either. “If you are viewed as a professional, people know you are there to work and will involve you less in office politics and dirty gossip. Another tip is to adopt the company culture

4. Steer away from gossips

If you give gossip and expect to get some, you will be part of office politics. “Gossip can get malicious if you are the type that asks for it and provides it. You will lose respect of the people around you. No one talks well of a gossip monger.”

5. Keep yourself busy

Stay idle or bored long enough and you will start gossiping. Keep yourself occupied and away from people who try to involve you in gossip. “If you are occupied and keep to yourself most of the time, no one has a chance to badmouth you. This also keeps you from talking ill about others.”

Staying away from office politics helps you maintain good mental health and make your working relationships last. So though you cannot eliminate politics from your workplace, you certainly can steer away from it!

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