Is it gossiping when you vent to your spouse or a friend about a frustrating co-worker?
How about when you discuss that co-worker with another co-worker?
Or when you tear your hair out about the situation with an advisor?
Pretty fine lines, aren’t they? And it’s easy to think it’s all harmless when … maybe it isn’t.
Let’s look at ways to decide what’s going on.
Are you venting?
Venting is sometimes necessary to let off steam and avoid exploding at the person who’s frustrating you.
It crosses the line into gossip if it isn’t in response to your frustration, but instead is more like prodding a sore tooth or picking at a scab.
And venting becomes gossip if it’s with a co-worker who’s not an advisor or mentor. Take it out of the office.
Are you seeking advice?
Everyone sometimes needs suggestions from a mentor, coach, or other advisor.
If you’re asking for help finding a solution to your frustration, you’re not gossiping – as long as you’re asking someone who really is in a position to help.
And be sure you actually are looking for a solution. If you answer every suggestion with, “Yes, but …”, you’ve wandered into dangerous territory.
Or are you … complaining?
If you’re just complaining, then I have news for you: you’re gossiping, and it’s not doing anyone any good.
It’s not doing you any good, because you’re wasting time, and time is one of those things that we don’t get more of (see my article here for more on that subject).
It’s not doing the person you’re
complaining to gossiping with any good, because you’re now developing a reputation as a gossip – and it’s very hard to trust anyone who gossips, because one never knows if they’re talking about you with someone else.
And it’s certainly not doing the person you’re gossiping about any good.
Is there something they should be doing differently? Approach them directly. Is it a personal issue? Approach them directly. Is it something that’s none of your business? Stay in your own lane!
As the manager
If you’re the manager and you’re gossiping, you need to stop immediately.
If you’re the manager and you notice employees on your team gossiping, intervene – and you can learn more about how to do that on my YouTube video “Managing a Gossiping Employee.”
Gossip doesn’t do anyone any good. Quite the opposite: it can actively harm both the person being gossiped about, and the people doing the gossiping. It creates a culture of suspicion and distrust – never mind the hurt feelings that come when someone discovers what’s being said about them behind their back.
It’s up to you – whether you’re a manager or an individual team member – to keep it from happening.