Friday, August 22, 2008

What To Do When the Gossip is About....You


Go ahead and fess up.

I know you look at those gossip rags near the checkout supermarket lines. I know that you know that Brad and Angelina had twins. I also know that you are aware John Edwards cheated on his wife, Elizabeth. If you don’t know these things, then you’re not human and obviously live under a rock.

As much as all of us proclaim we don’t listen, see, spread, smell or otherwise consume gossip, we really do. Maybe not on purpose. Maybe just by accident. We can’t help it, we say. We can’t walk around with our palms over our ears singing “nah, nah, nah” or slap our hands over our eyes so that we don’t see Britney Spear exiting a car sans underwear.

And the same is true of the workplace. If you have a job, then you have gossip. Maybe we don’t even think of it as gossip, but call it that more politically correct term, “office politics.” We listen to it because sometimes our very survival depends on it. We’re aware of the blow-up the boss had with his boss. We know that positions may be cut in another department. We have heard that a co-worker has been demoted for yelling at a colleague. All of that, we say, is important stuff we need to know.

But then one day, you’re sitting at work, and you realize that the talk is about you. You realize there are discussions about the mistake you made last month that cost the company money. Or, you find out that people are talking about your son being arrested for DUI. Maybe there are snickers or sly glances your way and lots of hushed tones to indicate you’re the subject of some kind of gossip.

You ignore it as long as you can. You’re hoping it goes away. You figure the gossips will tire of you and move onto something else. Still, no matter how much you try to put it out of your mind, you realize that the gossip mill continues to grind away, and you’re still caught in it.

While our mothers may have taught the old “sticks and stones” routine to us when we were in school, it doesn’t always work when we’re older. For one thing, gossip can hurt our careers. For another, it can make us physically sick and unable to do our jobs. And here’s the real modern-day kick: It can continue to be spread online.

So, what to do when you realize you’re the object of gossip at work? There are several routes to take, depending on what you feel is best for you at the time:

1. Confront the source. This takes a lot of guts, and you need to do it in a calm way. Walk up to the person and say: “I heard that you’ve been discussing issues in my personal/professional life.” Then, summarize what you’ve heard: “I understand that you’ve been talking about my son/job performance, and I would appreciate it if you would come to me if you have any questions or comments rather than talking to others about it.”

2. Ask for help. If you think someone may be talking about you, but you’re not sure (or maybe are sure), then you can act as if you’re enlisting their aid, which can help shame them into stopping their wagging tongue. “There seems to be gossip going around about me. I don’t know if you’ve heard it, but it’s really not OK with me. If you hear anyone gossiping about me, I’d appreciate it if you tell them to stop.”

3. Keep your nose clean. The worst thing you can do if you’re being gossiped about is to attack with the same kind of talk. Make sure no one sucks you into talking about the person who may be gabbing about you, or tries to ratchet up the destructive comments. Just change the subject, or say: “You know, I don’t like talking about other people. I know what that feels like, and it’s really hurtful.”

4. Go to the boss. This can be risky. If your boss doesn’t support you in stopping the gossip and confronting the ones at fault, then the gossip is only bound to get worse. The only choice may be leaving the job. Still, if your company has a formal policy in place that states no gossiping, you could have a better foundation to build your case.

What would you do if you were being gossiped about at work? Is there any way to avoid it?


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Friday, June 27, 2008

Don't Kid Yourself: Your Private E-mail May Be Anything But When You're at Work

We've heard the warnings time and again: What you write in an e-mail is subject to your employer not only reviewing it -- but firing you if it is believed you violated company policy.

But let's get real: While at work, many of us still send our friends e-mails about where to meet for dinner, we still send that dirty joke to our significant other and we still e-mail our children to tell them that their grades are slipping and they better get on the ball. We tell a co-worker how pissed we are that our boss is a jerk.

But how would you feel if you used your private e-mail account at work -- and the employer still nosed around in it?

That's at the heart of the case one man has filed against his former employer, claiming that the company got ahold of his private e-mails, which were to his lawyers discussing pending legal action against his employer.

Laws about e-mail are still a bit fuzzy as they are being debated in board rooms and court rooms around the country.

Does an employee have the right to privacy more than a company has the right to monitor e-mail that affects them legally?

As the lawyers wrangle it out, it might be a good idea to remember that until the dust settles you should follow the best advice I was ever given by a top technology lawyer: Never put anything in an e-mail that you wouldn't want displayed before 12 lawyers in a court of law.

Just a final note here: I'm now on Alltop, which has all the top stories updated every 10 minutes. Have a great weekend.


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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Seven Ways to Deal with the Co-Worker Who is Driving You Nuts

OK, time to fess up. I don't care how nice you are, there's someone at work who is driving you nuts. It's either the guy who clips his fingernails while on the phone and leaves the droppings all over the floor, or the woman who complains nonstop about her worthless, freeloading kids. It could be the person who constantly interrupts, butting into your conversations or the guy who has to always trumpet his every success, no matter how small. ("I just reloaded my stapler!")

It’s not enough that you put in long hours on the job, sit in boring meetings and put up with irate customers. No, on top of the bad coffee and the elevator that always gets stuck between floors, you’ve got to put up with the aggravation in the next cubicle, also known as a co-worker.

You’re ready to crack. You like your job, but you can't stand another day with one or more of your co-workers. You don't want to complain to the boss -- how to explain that someone's nasal voice makes you want to shove your favorite snow globe up his nose?

Don’t despair. There is a way to handle a bothersome co-worker without screaming, quitting or running to the boss:

* Write down the things that really, really bug you. Separate personal issues (she laughs like a hyena) from the professional ones (she interrupts when you’re talking). It’s not your place to comment on personal pet peeves, but rather on the professional issues that prevent you from doing your job as efficiently and productively as possible. And remember: Only address issues that directly impact you.

* Speak to the person directly. Schedule some time with her, in a private area where you won’t be interrupted and she won’t feel compelled to lash out because she’s embarrassed in front of others. Be specific about your complaints. "You’re always interrupting,” isn’t helpful. Say, “I believe you interrupt me when I’m trying to make a point in team meetings.” Try to provide an example.

* Ask for change. Once you’ve outlined the problem, then be specific about what you want to happen. “When I’m speaking, I’d like to finish my sentence so that I can make sure all members of the team understand and then I’ll answer questions or listen to other opinions.”

* Be honest. If the co-worker’s actions are really ticking you off, then say so. Describe how frustrated you feel when she pops above the cubicle partition to offer her unsolicited advice. Remain calm while describing how you feel – it will have much more impact than pitching a fit.

* Cut to the bottom line. Make it clear that you’re not bringing up these issues because you’re a whiny sourpuss. State why the issue is important in a calm, serious way.

* Fess up. You need to be honest that you’ve let the issue go on too long without speaking up, or you should have communicated more strongly your beliefs. Make sure she understands that it stops now.

* Look for solutions. Let the other person save face by helping you come up with ways to stop the problem.

So, what's the thing that drives you crazy about your co-workers?

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