If you don’t have anything nice to say… shut up!

I’m not a purist so I have absolutely no qualms to admit that I may have been supporting gossip for a good chunk of my career. Not my doing it myself but by listening to someone gossip and then naively telling someone I trust about it. I shouldn’t have done that.

Don’t worry — nobody came knocking on my door last night to get a confession from me. But it’s something I’ve been pondering about lately. The way we communicate at the workplace and the real value of gossiping and/or bitching about something or someone. While the former’s a much broader topic I’ll expound on over the next few months here, the latter irritates me to the core. Particularly if I hear someone else do it. Here’s why — these are the same people who complain about not have the opportunities to grow and develop in an organisation or how life’s been unfair to them.

The weird things about office gossip or bitching (in office about your colleagues) is that the word gets around quickly. Someone or the other gets to the know the source of all the gossip that’s been polluting the office environment. And if that happens to be you, forget about promotions, people will have a hard time trusting you, let alone recommend or see you as someone deserving a raise or a promotion.

Here’s a rule that I learned many years ago — if I don’t have anything nice to say, I just won’t say anything at all. If someone wants to gossip or bitch, I listen in and that’s about it. The buck stops at me. Sure, they may tell it to twenty other people but I won’t. And that’s good enough. Overtime, you’ll notice that they’ll stop coming to you because you refuse to ‘participate.’ (And there’s no fun gossiping or bitching about something/someone when the other person doesn’t participate.)

I think this single rule has helped me navigate the office politics much better than anything I’ve done. Sure, having a work ethic and an excellent track record of being reliable and trustworthy do make the case for your growth. But it’s not the only thing your bosses will look into when considering your next promotion.

Of course, exceptions are always there. I know a friend or two who work in organisations that openly promote the value of knowing the right people who can give you access to the right opportunities. The cost of networking may challenge your own values system. And if that’s the case, you may want to look beyond the organisation for your career growth.

One the other hand, if that doesn’t bother you much, great going! But I’d still ask you to consider this rule as you’ll be much admired and looked upon as a person of character.

By Sunil Nair

Nurturing leaders of tomorrow.

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