FrankTalk With Frank Ofili: Managing Office Gossips, Politics (Part 2)

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In my last write on this subject I opined that “aproko” (gossip) and politicking are an inevitable occurrence of our everyday life. They are even more prevalent in organizations and workplaces as a natural consequence of everyday interaction.   I opined that we should in fact expect them, and that it is cause for worry if they do not occur, for in the words of Tuface Idibia and MI, “if no one talks about you, then you are a nobody”.

I listed some negative consequences of gossip to include damaging interpersonal relationships, and injuring employee motivation and morale. I went further to suggest some steps to be taken in managing gossips if one does not want to get involved in them. The truth, and reality, however is that not getting involved in office gossip or politics can in fact be of great disservice to you and your career Office gossip and politics are not altogether bad. Since both are intertwined with human nature, it is fruitless trying to avoid them. There are some good lessons to learn from them if properly managed. Depending on your attitude to them, they can in fact be good for your career. The trick is to know when and where to draw the line.

Office gossips can help us get ahead at work–if used carefully. In some cases it is not realistic not to participate in workplace gossip or politics because if you do not participate, people tend to avoid you and not include you in conversations. Also, knowing what goes on around you will not only help you align yourself to your organization, but also position you for recognition and advancement. The bottom-line, then, is to know how to use office gossips and politics in a non-dysfunctional way. Here is how to effectively handle office gossips and politics positively.

1. REMEMBER THAT NOT ALL GOSSIP IS BAD

Mean-spirited, irrelevant gossip, like who is having an affair with who, is best ignored. However, paying attention to such things as your management’s likes and dislikes (e.g. sports they play, social or humanitarian activities they are involved in, or the age or birthday of their kids) can considerably endear you to them.  You can also find out what habits they appreciate or what quirks drive them crazy and adjust your behavior accordingly.

2. TALK LESS, LISTEN MORE 

It is always better to be the person receiving gossip rather than the one spreading it. You do not want to be labeled as someone who initiates or spreads gossip about the company or people within it, as this will hurt the company and your reputation. You can also watch for subtle clues like who is taking extended lunch hours or working extra hours. These could be signs that someone is about to give a notice of resignation having secured another appointment.

Also, the less you talk in any conversation, the less likely you are to make a mistake or contradict yourself, or commit a verbal indiscretion. Conversely, the more you listen the more likely you are to learn more from information divulged on unwittingly

3. ALWAYS VERIFY BEFORE YOU ACT

Just because you hear rumors or spot a sign that someone is leaving the company, does not mean you have to take it hook, line and sinker. Always verify your information before you act.  If you are friendly with the person, you might casually chat them up and see if they volunteer the information themselves. Or you might initiate a seemingly innocuous enquiry from the human resources unit about what opportunity there are for a switch to another department. You do not have to mention that you heard that so-and-so was leaving. You can just mention that you are interested in an opportunity in a specific area – conveniently, in the area in which that person just happened to be – so that you are in consideration when the next moves are announced. 

4. BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SHARE

Sometimes, in order to initiate the gossip, you have to be willing to ante up with something. During such times, make sure that you are giving information that multiple sources have so it cannot be traced back to only you. Gossip is risky business, so do not share anything that violates your company’s confidentiality, or someone’s trust. And avoid spreading rumors about people’s personal lives.

5. NEVER PUT GOSSIP IN WRITING

Since it is a characteristic of informal channel of communication, gossip spread via the formal channel such as emails, memos, letters etc. can come back to bite you,  because you cannot deny it. Plus, you never know who might be reading or forwarding the correspondence.

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