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Gossip Does It Have a Place at Work?

By Dawn Rosenberg McKay, Guide

Do the words "I heard it through the grapevine" conjure up memories of an old song, or maybe a television commercial featuring dancing raisins? For many of us it's also just another day at the office. Gossip is an unavoidable presence in all workplaces. But, is it also an unwelcome one?

Of course, damaging gossip is unwelcome anywhere. As is gossip that spreads false information. Office gossip, though, can have it's place and can be beneficial. That's right -- I said beneficial. In many workplaces information isn't very forthcoming. The office grapevine is the only conduit for carrying important news. When that is the case, everyone can benefit from paying careful attention to the bits of data that trickle down it.

Making the Grapevine Work for You
# Take everything you hear with a grain of salt

Before you act on something you hear, confirm that it's true. A lot of what comes down the pike is downright false. And then there's the "telephone effect." Remember the children's game, telephone? You whisper something to the person next to you and then he or she whispers what he or she thinks you said to the next person, and so on. Then the last person in the chain says it aloud. The first person in the chain then repeats the original sentence which of course is quite different.

# Contribute at your own risk

Keep in mind the previous point that your words may get mangled. Be very carefully about telling even a trusted coworker anything that you wouldn't want everyone to know. You may be great at keeping a secret but not everyone is so virtuous.

# Use the grapevine to your advantage

If you had a great success at work or worked hard on a project, this is information you want to share. You never know who it'll reach. If someone has done something to irk you, you might consider mentioning this to someone who's likely to share it. Of course it's important to be straightforward and you shouldn't have to be under handed when it comes to letting someone know how you feel. However, being direct isn't always the best approach.
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