You know the situation...you walk into work in the morning and there is a small group of employees chatting in the breakroom. As you walk in for your coffee, an obvious hush falls over the room. Finally, one of the previously quiet co-workers asks you if you've heard. Heard? Heard what? As you reveal your ignorance, another co-worker proceeds to fill you in. About five minutes into the trauma being shared, you have an epiphany...why didn't I stop at Dunkin' Donuts for coffee?
Morale in the workplace is so tenuous. It's a fragile figurine from Tennessee Williams' "The Glass Menagerie." Walking into situations like the one described above takes thoughtfulness to respond. Think about how you've reacted in the past. Do you participate in the conversation? Typically, this is the easiest reaction. I mean, who wants to be the party-killer? The problem with this reaction is two-fold. One, you can't seriously think that this same group of people won't kill your reputation the minute there's reason to do it, do you? When blood is in the water, the sharks look for it all over the place. What might be said about some other employee today could be easily replaced by what would be said about you tomorrow. And secondly, it contributes to mediocrity in the workplace. Why push yourself to be the best if you just open yourself up to criticism? Who wants to be the subject of a group of employees' rumor-fest? The "did you hear's?" will occur if someone performs well or is recognized for being special in some way.
I don't want to be completely negative. I am sure there are some workplaces where the gossip and rumor-mill does not exist. I am sure that some companies have total engagement of employees who are on-task the entire time while at work. However, the amount of companies that fall into this category would be the same if I were to count the number of men and women in the current music industry who can actually sing...it's a small number.
Stop participating. You have to work in this environment. Why would you stand for the stress of keeping up appearances? Is this high school? Aren't we done with those days? I mean, I still love my Swatch watches (and I still have both of them), but I don't engage with others as I did then. I don't want to watch my back or to be worried that excellence is something to be mocked.
Be excellent! Be loyal to the workplace and to your co-workers! If the disease of rumor and gossip is present, address it. Don't let it slide. Remind those involved that it's just as easy for any employee, including them, to be the topic tomorrow. You're there to be productive, not destructive. Take a stand!