It's one of those slippery little things that can just sneak right up on us and and before you know it, you're knee deep in someone else's business.
The workplace is full of people talking about other people and our workplace (our school) is certainly no exception. It may be an even greater problem in a school setting since many schools are primarily staffed by women. And let's be honest, we l.o.v.e. to talk, don't we ladies? :)
While gossip can seem relatively harmless at first, I believe that it can be a very destructive thing...and not just for the person that the gossip is about. Here are just a few reasons why:
- A good amount of gossip is not true, but it is passed off as truth. By being involved in gossip, you are allowing your moods, relationships, and conversion to be based around something that may or may not be completely true. You are also basing your credibility on possibly faulty information when you choose to pass that tidbit of news along.
- Gossip could allow you to misjudge someone and miss out on the opportunity to positively impact their life. Whether true or not, getting information second (or third or fourth) -hand can many times create misconceptions about parents, students, or other coworkers. While there are some exceptions to this, it is often better to allow yourself the chance to form your own opinion from first-hand interactions rather than the gossip train.
- It causes drama. I don't know about you, but I really don't need more drama in my life than what is already naturally there.
- Your reputation and career are at stake. Think about the 'office gossip' at your school. Do you trust him or her? Do you respect their character and consider them to be a well-rounded professional? Chances are, the answer is to these questions is no. If you occasionally allow yourself to be involved in the spreading of gossip, is it possible that you may be viewed that way as well? And think about this: if you know who those chronic gossipers are, you can be sure your boss does too. Don't connect yourself to those kind of people.
- It's just not nice. I mean, really, you don't want others to discuss you that way when you're not around. It's the whole Golden Rule thing. 'Nuff said.
What should you do to avoid getting into a gossip situation?
It's almost impossible to completely avoid gossip, but we certainly have a responsibility to try. Here are a few things I tried that seemed to work for me:
- I tried to hang around with those men and women who conducted themselves professionally. This meant that they didn't tend to get worked up about workplace drama and weren't involved in spreading rumors. Bonus: I was able to learn a lot of great teaching techniques from these 'super-teachers' in the process.
- I avoided places where gossip often occurred. In one school, this was the teacher's lounge during lunch. After a while, I found it to be much more enjoyable to eat a gossip-fre lunch in my room with a few other teachers. In another school, the teachers would congregate in the main hall after delivering their kids to the bus and the tongues would start wagging. I tried to be intentional about going straight back to my room to start getting things done. Bonus: I was able to leave much earlier since I didn't spend twenty minutes catching up on the local 'news' before starting my end-of-day work.
- Find the kind word to say. Every situation calls for a slightly different approach. Sometimes a more direct route is called for ("I think this conversion is inappropriate."), but sometimes a tactful, well-placed comment is the solution. When I found myself in a conversation that was starting to go downhill, I would look for the kind or positive thing to say about the situation. ("Mrs. So and So was reprimanded in the hallway by the assistant superintendant? She must feel awful. I wonder if there is anything we could do to make her feel better right now?") That topic of conversation fizzles when there isn't anything dramatic to talk about. Most folks who enjoy gossiping seek out others who will fuel their excitement over the juicy news, not those who squash it. I found that I could avoid a lot of the gossip by simply not being the person that most folks sought out. Bonus: I had a LOT of extra time to actually work at work. More productivity at work = less grading papers at home!