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Avoiding the office gossip

Published:Sunday | April 11, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Glenford Smith, Career Writer:

People call them by different names and use various adjectives to describe them - behind their backs, of course. Office reporter, Mr or Ms Nosy, Mout-a-massy, Radio station, Garrulous, Annoying, Obnoxious, Insufferable. You could perhaps add a few more yourself.

Who are these people though? They are the special individuals (including a few men) at work who somehow manage to concentrate on their work - sometimes anyway - while being able to tell you almost everything about everyone else.

Want to know which staff members are secretly dating? Mr Nosy will know. Do you want to know the real reason why they fired Ms Brown so unexpectedly? No problem; just go and ask.

As I understand it actually, you don't even have to ask. He or she makes it a duty to come to your office, sit at your lunch table, call you on the phone, or even invite themselves to get a ride with you in your car - all without batting an eye. And, in case you thought the 'news service'' was free, she will secure her fees in the form of 'loans' that she will always pay you back 'month end'. One reader wrote me to say she is wondering if they are using the same calendar, since month end never seems to come.

Let's be honest. OK. All of us engage in a little office gossip now and again. Who can resist the juicy details of a little office romance, or of a rude and overbearing manager finally being taken down a notch? Some would even say this is normal. 'Yap FM' is different however. This station just never stops playing; it just keeps moving from topic to topic, day in, day out.

Another reader of this column expresses her absolute frustration at her co-worker who just can't or won't shut up.

"She just wearies me with the details of her miserable life: How her boyfriend is treating her; how she can't make ends meet and what's the use of working if you can't pay your bills.

I try to be diplomatic in getting rid of her because I don't want to hurt her feelings but she never gets the message". What should she do?

Peace of mind

In situations such as these you have to be firm. It takes courage but your peace of mind and your productivity are priorities. Also, if people associate you with such an office character, they may believe you are like him or her.

Put up a 'do not disturb' sign at your desk or office when you need to concentrate. Be strong enough to say, "I'm having lunch right now and would rather do so in silence."

If the person insists on talking, change your table.

Don't be afraid to say no to repeated requests for loans. Remember this saying that I saw in a little shop several years ago: 'If I trust you and you don't pay, I vex; if I don't trust you, you vex. Better you vex than me.' It's good to help but not at your expense.

Glenford Smith is a motivational speaker and personal achievement strategist.