Why you should gossip at work – but not gripe

By Scot Herrick | Business Networking

Feb 01

Gossiping around the water cooler is as old as, well, the water cooler. While gossiping is looked down upon by most pundits, I’ll contend that gossiping is not only a good thing to do, but necessary to your successful career.

Unfortunately, most people are really griping when they are talking to other people, not gossiping. They are speculating on failure in the company or adding to the fears by talking about possible changes or layoffs — they do not like their lot in life at work.

But gossiping is more about unrestrained conversation at work. We want unrestrained conversation at work. But, we don’t want the other side of gossip — the part where there is speculation about stuff that is not true.

In other words, there are good ways to gossip at work — and good reasons for doing it. Let’s take a look at a few.

Gossip about your work

You want to tell others about what you are working on. It discloses to your coworkers what you are doing, inviting the same disclosure from your coworkers. Sure, you can talk about the challenges in the work — but talk about how you are overcoming the challenges or ask for some help.

More conversation about each others work helps you understand what other people do and gives you ways to possibly help them; none of which you would have known unless you talked about your work.

Gossip about what’s working, not about problems

Your personal brand needs to be about getting results at work. You don’t get that personal brand by griping about all the stuff that is going wrong.

Instead, talk about the successes you and your department are having at work. Ask the person you are speaking with what is successful in their work and their department. By asking it that way, you keep the positive mode going and you learn about different types of successes that could also help you.

Sure, you need to talk about problems in the department or in your work — but you need to do that when you are “uncovering your own mud” and are trying to find things to fix. You need to talk about problems so that you can get to root causes in order to fix them. Just don’t talk about problems with your business network — unless you are looking for some help solving them; they have enough problems of their own.

Gossip about your project – and ask for insights

If you have a bigger project that you are working on, talk to people who can give you insights into the work — and ask for their insights. No one has all the answers, including you or your manager. Getting context around an issue or initiative can often lead to eye-opening possible solutions that make what you are doing better.

Simply sitting around and wondering if there is a way to do something better won’t help you in the long run; you need to ask others for their insight.

Gossip about facts, not speculation

Where gossip gets its bad reputation is when people speculate on stuff that could or could not come true — the future. Which is always in motion.

Stick to the here and now in your conversations. What is working now, what you see as successful now and only offer how all that could fit into something coming up that is similar.

Speculation about what will happen is something we all did in Junior High. Not something we should do at work; what we speculate seldom happens and what actually happens is often far worse.

Gossip helps your credibility in your business network

If you gossip the right way — about the work and what is successful — you will build credibility with your business network because you are focused on fixing problems and building success. People who gripe instead of gossip get labeled as complainers or whiners and deservedly so. They are part of the problem; you want to be part of the solution.

The secret benefit to good gossip?

One of the outcomes of having a good business network is that you find people to help and will learn about opportunities from them. By gossiping the right way, you will get your opportunities to help others, building your bank of good deeds, while learning about what is happening in other areas of your company or your town.

When we’re trying to determine when our current job will end, engaging with our business network through talking about our work and successes, we will learn what is going on in other areas that could impact how long our current job will last. We get business intelligence by gossiping the right way with others.

Not only do we learn information about when our job might end, but also opportunities that could fit for us in our next gig.

You don’t get that with griping; people don’t want to hang around people who complain about their jobs all day; they have enough problems of their own.

Gossip the right way; but don’t gripe.

What are you working on? What successes have you had lately?

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.