By Dr. Maria G. Hernandez
Latina Cubicle Confidential™
I grew up hearing a common dicho or proverb in Spanish: No me gusta, pero me entretiene — I may not like it but it is entertaining. This is what I heard just before someone started in on the latest gossip at the dinner table or at a party.
Of course it isn’t entertaining if you happen to be the one person everyone is talking about. The other problem though is if YOU are known as the source of every rumor — are you La Chismosa?
Gossip is part of every work environment to one degree or another. In part, human nature compels us to look at how we compare with others and what better way to compare with others than to know a secret about their personal or professional life. But if you become the office “live 411” there are some consequences you may not expect.
First, your boss isn’t likely to place a lot of trust in your ability to keep confidences that may reflect poorly on his or her job. Your boss might just think you don’t exercise good judgment — this means they won’t turn to you to help solve problems or tackle tough situations.
Those are often what can make or break a promotion opportunity or at the very least, a prized role on a project. It becomes a big risk to advance you within their department as this will jeopardize your boss’s credibility. Your boss’s boss will be saying, “She spends all her time gabbing about others and you put her in charge of this? Why?”
Second, you can only be “La Chismosa” for so long before it will catch up with you in some embarrassing way. There is the likelihood that you will be purposely told something that is not true just to discredit you. There is also the possibility that people just won’t talk to you — about anything.
At that point, you’ll be the last to know about changes in your workplace that actually are important to your career. Your co-workers will keep their conversations with you to nothing more than, “Hello. Nice weather we’re having, huh?”
So is there any good gossip to share in the workplace? Yes. If it’s about how customers respond to new products or trends that are impacting your industry and the information you are repeating is coming from reputable sources.
When your boss hears you say, “I saw a news story about the latest social media tool and I heard from our marketing director that it’s pretty good,” this says to your boss you are keeping up with current events and that you talk to others about it.
It’s also smart to address rumors about your company or your department — “I understand our company might be moving its headquarters. Do you think this will impact our department?” This keeps it all professional and sends a message you are interested in your career success.
Okay, so you think that’s just not juicy enough to quell your appetite?
Look carefully at what your motivation is to be La Chismosa. Think about how much time this may be taking away from your job or what it might even be doing to your emotional health. The need to know about your co-workers' personal lives is often one way people try to be controlling of others or worse, manipulative.
Maybe all that energy can be better focused on developing YOU. If you cannot give up being “gossip central” then at the very least take it away from your workplace. Your colleagues will appreciate it and your career opportunities just might improve — now that would be something to talk about.
Join me at LatinaVIDA™ in April.
Dr. Maria G. Hernandez has 20 years experience consulting in both the United States and Mexico to senior executives in Fortune 50 companies and facilitated change initiatives for elected officials and their staff. She has worked in academia, business, nonprofits, technology startups, and public agencies. For more information, visit Latina Cubicle Confidential™.