Let’s face it, you see the people you work with more often than you see some of your closest friends, family, and sometimes significant others. You get to know each other fairly well and often, you gossip about all of the other people you work with. I’m not going to tell you *not* to do that because I think developing close workplace relationships, and sometimes gossiping, is important to your mental health. But, I want to caution you about breaching trust, especially the trust of your boss.
Personally, I have a good relationship with my boss. He trusts me to tell him what he needs to know to be able to speak on behalf of the library. But, we don’t work in the same building and sometimes we go weeks without seeing each other. I can assure you though, that if he told me something big about his plans or campus news, I might tell someone I’m close to just to get it out and vent, but I would absolutely not tell a soul that I work with or works for me. The trust between an employee and a supervisor is one that should not be broken.
When I was a new librarian, I often gossiped in my circle of four. I mean, how could I not? My first professional librarian job opened my eyes to how completely insane a library really can be. I was overwhelmed with the weird, the old-fashioned, the quirky, and the just plane nuts. I needed to get it out. Fortunately, I had a great inner circle of four of us (and we are all still friends today, twelve years later). But, I remember advice there that my mentor gave me once: when the big boss tells you something, they will test you, don’t tell stories out of turn. My big boss at the time there was fairly ruthless in the way he lead, but he was also keenly observant and so I wouldn’t doubt him doing this sort of double-handed stuff to find out who he could really trust.
At one point, things went so wrong with things at one job because people were outright lying about me and others, that I ended up leaving. Gossip can quickly snowball into something much more hurtful and dangerous and negatively affect people’s whole lives.
Fast forward to now, when I am the boss. I’ve blogged on here before about how lonely being the boss can be, and it’s really true. I literally trust just about no one in this library yet, because I am the only new person and I need to keep feeling my way around. Recently, I found out that a person who reports directly to me had been gossiping to a few people and it was causing a lot of consternation among the other staff. Everyone thought this person was right, knew all of my plans, and knew all the answers, but the information (when it finally came back to me) was clearly blown out of proportion. I think this person thought they’d be the favorite staff person if they had all of the inside information. Sigh. What to do? Well, I had to scrap some of my plans totally and discredit the person. You can’t move forward as the leader wanting the admiration and needing the ear of one and it costing you the rest of the staff. At some point, I will have to deal with this person’s gossiping issues but I have too many other things moving along right now to stop and spend all of my energy corralling a bad apple. But the trust there is gone and it’s hard for me because I am still new and need to be able to confide in and have confidence in those that work for me.
So, be careful that your need for admiration from your peers does not come at the cost of the respect of your boss or other coworkers. By all means, socialize with your work friends, but just be careful. Too much scheming often backfires on you. Sometimes, it takes your boss a while to catch on to *who* is spreading the bullshit, but eventually they catch on.
And, I implore you, if you *hear* gossip that feels troubling about your job, then by all means go in to see your boss and ask for some clarification. Don’t add fuel the fire. Get your answers from the horses mouth.