I receive great mail, including many good questions that I have answered and share with you here.
Amy B asked… “At work there’s a woman who keeps gossiping about me behind my back. Its clear she’s even making up things that aren’t true. I’m afraid this affects how people feel about me, especially my boss. I dread work now, and don’t know how to turn the situation around. I’ve loved how you talk about the workplace in your book and keep wondering what you might do. Could share a little wisdom with me? Oh, and this person is a supervisor which makes it worse!”
A CEO of a Fortune 500 company with 10,000 employees once told me that gossip was his number one employee problem – so know you are not alone in this!
First, realize that your fear is that you can be harmed by this, and that you stand to lose something: reputation, goodwill, work opportunities, maybe even your job. We’ve all experienced this happening, haven’t we? Allow yourself to feel how threatening this is to you. Feel the great extent to which this is a problem in how we all interact, gossiping about one another. Second, realize that gossip is a form of bullying, nothing less. You are being bullied. Third, reflect on how often you have bullied others in this way. Gossip, and all forms of bullying require that a) the target agree to feel ‘cowed’ and b) that the matter not be fully exposed. In your case, it feels to me the solution lies in facing this a little more directly.
Spend time centering yourself in your powerFULness, not your powerLESSness. Then consider exposing the matter but in a natural and calm way. By that I mean this: begin to expect and watch for moments that naturally bring the matter up. Then speak simply and directly when they arise. Let it expose itself. It will. For instance, next time someone passes on gossip directed at you, you might simply say “Yes, hmm, so and so certainly seems focused on spreading word about me, I wonder why…its quite odd, since obviously don’t know me well.” That is a powerful and simple statement that doesn’t gossip back, or defend, but shows a simple truth.
You might also consider researching the problem of gossip in the workplace and create a plan for your workplace, or a few suggestions, that could be presented to your boss or supervisor in this way, “I’ve recently become the target of office gossip and I used it as a chance to learn more about gossip in the workplace. It turns out its a huge problem for most bosses. I thought you might enjoy this article about it (or some such). It also occurred to me that if we had a policy about gossip like the one used in the article (etc) it might make your job easier and work for everyone more enjoyable. I’d be happy to draft one for us, if you think it’d be a good place for us to start.”
Calm, simple, direct, proactive action is powerful. Don’t hurry. Take time to feel, to think carefully, to grow calm, to see what the opportunity might be, to think creatively and to express yourself simply and well. I sense there’s an opportunity for you to make a difference in your workplace in this…and I feel you’re up to it!
I have many more thoughts, questions and solutions about this topic and I’m going to do a SOUL CUPCAKE show on the subject soon. Thanks for taking time to ask an interesting question, Amy, and many blessing as you work toward a solution.