This Lent, I gave up gossip. This has been tough. I miss the way gossip clarifies your values. It’s like when you watch Nanny 911 and you feel so good and smug about your own parenting skills. You think to yourself, “I would never do THAT!” (But let’s admit, we’ve all done much worse. We just, thankfully, did not have a camera crew following us and recording our parenting failures! Not too worry, those incidents will be remembered by our children who will blame us for years to come.)
In the fall, I met a church executive who told me she left church work for a while to sell Mary Kay cosmetics when her husband was in the military. She said in the Mary Kay biz, you were not allowed to gossip or criticize one another. (I don’t know how they enforce this). But she said it was a good and productive way to work and that she wished she could do this again now that she’s returned to church work.
I know there are positive sides to gossip — studies show it can bind community members together and other studies show that gossip lowers your heart rate. Whatever. From my own experience, gossip undermines creativity and productivity and inhibits trust in coworkers.
At work, I’ve felt stuck when a colleague wants to gossip about another colleague. I have no way to extricate myself.
1. Say nothing, which makes the gossiper think I agree so they keep on gossiping.
2. Say, “I hear you. But I gave up gossip for Lent, so, much as I’d like to join this gossip gravy train right now, I can’t.” No, this makes me feel all holier-than-thou.
3. Don’t talk to anyone. Umm, that’s not happening.
Without gossip, I’m losing an opportunity to bond.
On my Twitter feed the other day, another woman church executive wrote a tweet, something like, “We remember best the people who supported us most.” I want to be that person — the one remembered for being supportive, creative, and productive, not negative or gossipy.
I do want my heart rate lowered and I do want to bond with my colleagues. So after Easter, I may have to dive back in the gossip pool. Or I may not. There’s a lot to talk about besides each other. And there’s a lot to admire in one another. I’m a big fan of admiring my colleagues. And I want to keep admiring people more (not less).
But as one other coworker told me, “I never gossip. But you want to know who does???” (ba dum bum!)