Saturday, November 9, 2013

Workplace Wisdom XIII... The damaging effects of gossip

THERE is one phenomenon which has become a ‘universal pastime’ in offices. As more and more employees regard their work place as a second home (only because they spend so much time there) they tend be become less formal in their interaction with their colleagues and more personal in their perceptions. While the personal rapport is something to strive for and appreciate, there is a negative spin-off.  This is an increasing tendency to talk about one’s colleagues and something maligns them in the process: indulge in idle chatter and spread rumors.  Justifying this, an employee said that this was one way of combating the drudgery which seeps into the daily pursuit of one’s profession. One of the more disgusting off-shoots of gossip is that it can sometimes become a virulent form of character assassination. Often, the victims are the women in the office. Some women themselves are no less guilty than some of their male colleagues in damning their sister workers.
 The most vulnerable targets seem to be the single and the separated. While married women are treated with some respect, the bachelor girls and the divorcees and paired off with anyone with whom they are seen talking to informally for more than 10 minutes.  One would presume that in a professional setting, people are sufficiently mature and enlightened enough to view man-woman relations as a part of normal social interaction. But with an unholy glee, it is given wrong and damaging connotations.  Even a secretary who spends long stretches of time in the boss’s room taking dictation in sot spared. Inevitably, this affects the attitudes of men and women who work together; who become guarded and suspicious in their dealings with each other.  A strained atmosphere is simply not conducive to harmony in the work place which is a prerequisite for team spirit.
 Another victim of gossip is the employee who is an obvious favorite of the boss.  In all fairness he may be very efficient which is the reason why he’s in favor, but his colleagues, bitten with jealousy, choose to cast aspersions on his intentions and deeds.  Before long, this poor employee may be endowed with an image totally contrary to what he actually is and this may even spell his doom if, ironically, it reaches the boss who may believe what is being said. Gossip is a powerful weapon to stir up hostility and animosity.  That speeding vehicle of gossip, the office grapevine, has been defined as general talk of doubtful accuracy.  Many promotions and transfer have been triggered off by the nurturers of the grapevine.  Heads have rolled and coronations taken place – all as a result of the frustrations of mischief-mongers. Like the game ‘Whispers’ which children play, the amusing aspect of gossip on the grapevine is like that;, it starts as one thing and by the time it does its rounds has a totally different get-up –sometimes contrary to the original.  As there is no identifiable source from which it can be verified, people add the mirch-masala for the sheer fun of it.  The tragedy of it is that it can adversely affect the people talked about for no fault of theirs. To crown it all, those who refuse to be associated with the gossiping clan become the targets of malice, they sometimes join in too.   
Gossip is the pastime of the idle, and can be dangerous when laced with bad intent.  If the nature of one’s work forces long periods of idleness, the best antidote is to read a book or write poetry or day dream – in short -- MIND ONE’S OWN BUSINESS!