10 Reasons Why You Can’t Stop Gossiping at Work
From the “water-cooler gossip” of the past to the inter-office emails of the present, whispers and rumours amongst colleagues at work is nothing new. But what triggers our need to add fuel to the fire? And why is it so hard to stop? Read on as we explore 10 reasons you can’t stop gossiping at work.
BoredomIf you find that your gossip habit kicks into high gear whenever your workload lightens up, it could be that your trigger is related to boredom. Not every job will keep you busy at every moment of the day and it’s up to you to take accountability for your free time. Plan ahead and have productive time-fillers ready at hand for unexpected work lulls.
Our tip? If there’s a book you’ve been meaning to read, but can never quite find the time after-work to get into, why not download the audiobook and have a listen via headphones from your desk? It will give you something to look forward to during your downtime and have you ready with an alternative activity to engage in besides gossip.
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No sense of professional boundariesSome of the most well-liked colleagues in an office are the ones who seem least likely to fit into the office atmosphere. It’s also typically the fun, loud and boisterous people who are most likely to spark the gossip train. While your upbeat and chatty demeanour might come across as charming, you’ll also be the first person to be pointed out, should it ever get out of control.
Understand that the workplace environment, while socially engaging to some degree, is not a place for full-disclosure and gossip, no matter how harmless it may seem to you. The boundaries between yourself and your colleagues may not be visible, but they do exist and if you push them, you may not like the consequences.
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Unresolved issues with co-workersOne of the most common personality traits employers will look for in new hires is a positive attitude. This isn’t solely for the day-to-day smiles, but moreso to improve the odds of healthy and effective conflict resolution between co-workers. When an employee displays behaviours indicative of a vindictive nature or appears to be lashing out via unresolved issues with co-workers, it can only work against them in the eyes of their employer.
When faced with inter-office conflicts, resist the urge to vent to other colleagues about the situation. Instead, make an effort to resolve issues in a professional manner with the person directly involved. If that fails, speak to your manager privately and explain the situation. No one wins when a small issue becomes office fodder.
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HabitIf you do anything long enough, whether consciously or subconsciously, it can become a habit – and habits are hard to break. The act of gossiping, much like biting your nails or twirling your hair, can become such a natural habit in your daily life that you may not even realize you are doing it.
Like any other bad habit, breaking it requires that you first develop an awareness of it. Whenever you find a conversation at work begins to steer toward gossip, train yourself to either change the conversation or politely disengage altogether. You cannot singlehandedly put a stop to all gossip, but you can refuse to partake in it.
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Control issuesOften, we gossip as a way to take control of a conversation. Planting ideas or spilling secrets allows us to feel in control of the dialogue and feeds to our desire for leadership. While it’s natural to want to take the lead, using gossip as a means to do so in our communication with others in the workplace, can be hazardous to our professional persona.
While people tend to feed into the lure of “juicy gossip” in the moment; ultimately, this kind of communication will raise red flags with those around you and may affect your coworkers’ ability to trust or feel confident in your abilities as a professional colleague.
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Inexperience with office etiquetteIf this is your first foray into the workplace or if your previous jobs were more casual in nature, you may not be aware of what’s expected of you. It’s not a crime to be out of the loop in a new environment, but it is a mistake to assume that you’ll be able to use this as an excuse going forward. Make the effort to adapt to etiquette and expectations of your new environment and you’ll not only avoid unnecessary issues, but also find a higher level of confidence in how you operate in the workplace.
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Co-worker influenceLike any social relationship, the co-workers you spend the most time with will have the greatest influence on how you conduct yourself in the workplace. Aim to surround yourself with those individuals that bring more substance to your conversations than just idle gossip. Ask yourself: is this dialogue going to enrich my quality of life at work – or potentially poison it?
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ImmaturitySimply put, a lack of maturity is often the culprit behind gossiping. You may not realize that your words or engagement in the gossip of others can have a negative impact on yourself and those around you. While immaturity in your youth may be more easily forgiven, there’s less of a tolerance for these kinds of behaviours in adulthood, even less so in a professional setting. Get ready for some tough love: it’s time to grow up.
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Subconsciously bringing personal issues to workOne of the (many) challenging aspects of adulthood is the struggle to separate your personal life from your work life. It's important to adopt a clear boundary between your off-duty life and the one that begins once you clock in for the day. Your tendency to gossip can sometimes stem from your own private issues, rising up in your subconscious and causing you to act out of character at work. While you may not even be gossiping about your own life, it’s a safe bet that your personal problems may be triggering the behaviour.
To ensure you keep your personal matters out of the workplace, keep a healthy social life in check: schedule “vent sessions” with close friends, keep up with off-duty hobbies that ground you mentally and challenge you physically and never assume your problems are beyond a visit to a therapist.
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Lack of focusHave you ever heard the saying about “idle hands”? Well, it’s the same deal for idle minds. If you aren’t actively training your brain with a healthy lifestyle and stimulating activities when you’re not at work, you’ll find it’s that much harder to tune in and focus once you get to the office. Don’t be surprised if an inability to zero in on the task at hand has you engaging in mindless gossip, as your unfocused mind looks for something easy to engage in. Gossip is the junk food of all communication and you owe it to yourself to get back on track and regain a your focus in the workplace.
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