At Work

Office Gossip: Friendly Chatter or Hurtful Conversations

Gossip in the workplace is a form of social interaction between two or more co-workers in which speculation and opinion about other individuals becomes the topic of discussion. Gossip can usually be dismissed as idle chitchat, but if you’re not careful, workplace gossip can turn into malicious behavior that can tear teams and departments apart.

In a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive, more than 2,000 employees were asked to pick their biggest pet peeve. Sixty percent picked workplace gossip as their No. 1 annoyance.

Some companies are taking drastic measures to ensure workplace gossip doesn’t interfere with productivity and employee morale. Empower Public Relations, a Chicago PR firm, has taken steps to prevent workplace gossip by dubbing their workplace “a gossip-free zone.” If anyone is caught engaging in small talk about another person that they wouldn’t say to their face, they are immediately terminated.

According to the CEO of Empower Public Relations, Sam Chapman recently said in an interview with CNN, “Gossip can ruin people’s lives.” A small not-so-pleasant observation made from one employee about another can blow up into a major firestorm of negative comments from co-workers about the employee, ultimately resulting in the employee establishing a bad reputation by no fault of their own. If the issue that was being talked about by other employees is immediately addressed, the problem that existed could have been resolved without jeopardizing the other person’s career or reputation.

Here are a few simple ways that can stop you from engaging in workplace gossip.

  1. Don’t surround yourself with individuals who gossip.
  2. Don’t be afraid to report the gossip to your superior.
  3. Do keep your personal life private.
  4. Do let any gossip you overhear end with you.
  5. Don’t be afraid to let others know that it makes you uncomfortable to be a part of those types of conversations.

Let’s face it, it’s human nature to want to engage in office conversations and often times, individuals enjoy the juicy details of potential drama in the workplace. But you must remember, a real person is involved and the potential damage you or fellow employees can create can be devastating.

If you find yourself in the middle of a conversation that you think might be hurtful to the person you’re talking about, try using these guidelines and eventually, your co-workers will start to realize that you don’t want to participate in workplace gossip.

Professional Crossroads – How to Choose the Right Career Path for You

Professional CrossroadsHave you reached a point in your career when you know it’s time for a change, but you’re not quite sure what your next move should be? When you come to a professional crossroads, it’s important to look at where you’ve been to determine where you want to go in the future. Your past successes and even failures can provide excellent insight into what direction will ultimately be right for you.

1. To begin, make a list of all the responsibilities you’ve had through current and past jobs, volunteer activities and hobbies. Label the responsibilities you enjoyed and excelled at with stars or smiley faces. Then put a line or an x through the tasks you disliked, as well as those you didn’t excel at.

2. If you’re not sure whether you excelled at something, think back to the type of feedback you received on that particular task. Also, consider the level of accuracy and speed with which you completed the responsibility. If you consistently received positive feedback and were able to fulfill the role in a timely and error-free manner, you excelled.

3. Once you’ve organized your past and current responsibilities by category, take inventory of the tasks that you enjoyed and excelled at. These items are your road map to finding the career path that’s right for you.

4. Now that you have a clear understanding both of what you like to do and what you’re good at, you can look for careers that rely heavily on these skills. Of course, most jobs will probably still require you to spend some time on tasks you don’t find 100% exciting, but the important thing is to acquire a position where the majority of your time will be spent on tasks that you really enjoy and excel at.

When you’re working in a career that plays on your strengths and stimulates your mind, you’ll find that you’re more professionally fulfilled, productive and satisfied.

Working in Your Own World?

In today’s workplace, tenure doesn’t necessarily mean you’re entitled to a promotion. Hard work, dependability and a positive attitude are just a few characteristics that employers look for when promoting employees. Some individuals might not realize that some of their actions and the direction they are heading in their employment might be keeping them from that job advancement they are going after.

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.
Alice: I don’t much care where.
The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.
Alice: …so long as I get somewhere.
The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

In Alice and Wonderland, Alice embarks on a wonderful adventure marked by chaos and misdirection. After wandering around from place to place meeting different characters who seem to be concerned only with what is going on at any particular moment, Alice finally decides she wants to go home. But, only after Alice took the necessary steps, does she get back home.

If you feel like you work hard but get nowhere or that you keep getting passed up for that promotion, then take a look at Alice’s story. Are you like Alice – taking the necessary steps to reach her goal, or are you like one of the following characters lost in a world without reality.

The White Rabbit “I’m late, I’m late, for a very important date. No time to say Hello. Goodbye. I’m late, I’m late, I’m late.” If you find yourself in this situation more often than not, then chances are your boss has noticed your tardiness. You might not think that being late for work should affect your chances for advancement as long as you do a good job while your there. But the truth is, if your boss can’t depend on you, your chances for a promotion will come late as well, if at all. To help you break the habit of tardiness, try getting up 30 minutes earlier each morning. Once you establish a specific time to leave your house in the morning, being on time will get easier.   

The Queen of Hearts“Off with their heads.” If you find yourself easily irritated with your co-workers or you frequently lose your cool, then you may have a temper problem. If you’re in a constant state of anger and make life uneasy for your co-workers, then you probably won’t see a promotion coming anytime soon. In fact, you might have to start looking for a new job. This will not only keep you from excelling at your job, but it will also create higher stress and loss of workplace relationships. Employers typically promote employees who have pleasant attitudes, exhibit professional, friendly tendencies and have good work ethics. These traits show great leadership potential and the ability to thrive under pressure. To help you stay calm during stressful situations, try counting to 10 the next time you get upset or take a walk around the building allowing yourself a five minute timeout. This will help you relax and see things in a clearer perspective. Until you tame the impulse to lash out, you’ll probably not see advancement opportunities.

Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum – “How do you do and shake hands, shake hands, shake hands. How do you do and shake hands and state your name and business. That’s manners!” If you find yourself doing only what is expected of you and nothing more, then you’re really no better than these two characters. Many employees prove that they can do the job, but it’s the ones who go beyond what is expected who get the promotions. To help you get over the “just OK” slump, try talking to your boss to see what you can do to improve your work. Once you’ve excelled at those duties, try asking for more responsibilities. Also, take some initiative on new projects by putting your ideas on the table or stepping up to the challenge when your boss asks for something to be done. Show your boss that you can be a leader.

If you found that your behavior resembles that of one of these directionless characters, it’s time to stop and head in a new direction – like Alice did. Visualize where you want to be in your career first, and then start to take the necessary steps to get you there. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way out of Wonderland and into a great career. 

Are You a Workplace Fire Starter?

Work Fire StarterDo you enjoy coming to the rescue in a crisis? What happens when everything is peaceful and there isn’t a problem to solve? Do you find yourself starting little fires at work just so you can put them out later? According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, some employees take their love for providing solutions to the extreme. These individuals routinely create drama and chaos only to swoop in and be the “heroes” who come to the rescue by resolving the issue they created.

The article cites a case of an employee who habitually stirred up conflict among his co-workers. Once the situation reached a boiling point, he’d use his insider knowledge to solve the problem. At first, management thought this employee was very skilled at uniting people until they began to notice the pattern of workplace tension that followed him wherever he went.  Once management removed him from the early stages of group projects they discovered the conflicts stopped occurring.

Thriving on action isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless it causes you to create tension where none previously existed. If you find that you love putting out fires more than you enjoy peace and quiet, take care that you don’t become a workplace fire starter.

When you feel your workplace is getting dull, instead of thinking of ways to stir the pot, brainstorm ideas for becoming more efficient and productive at your job. Not only will new challenges keep you excited, but your supervisors will also have a real reason to praise your efforts.

Do you find yourself looking for ways to become the office hero? What tactics have you used to add drama to your workplace? What have been the results?

What Not To Wear To Work on Halloween

What will you be this Halloween? It may seem an odd question for anyone over the age of 12, but a growing number of workers from across the country are celebrating October 31 by dressing up. In fact, recently released a survey that showed that 25% of adults plan to dress up, and 20% plan to trick-or-treat for themselves!

Not surprisingly, many go all out, transforming their workplaces to veritable haunted houses or candy factories. Many companies allow parents to bring children to trick-or-treat in their offices. Malls across the country host Halloween events, and mall employees are encouraged to dress the part.

But not all Halloween costumes are created equal, and if you plan to dress up for Halloween at work, it’s important to carefully consider your attire. To keep the peace and ensure a successful, productive holiday, here are a few categories of costumes you should probably avoid:

Thinly Disguised Casual Wear. It’s not really a costume to just throw on sweats, jeans, shorts, or other super-casual non-dress-code clothing in lieu of your professional norm. Even if you try to cop out saying you’re dressed up as a bum, urban cowboy or yourself on vacation, your employer likely won’t appreciate the joke. This attitude of  minimal effort can be seen as insubordinate rather than participatory. If you’re going to dress up, give it an honest shot.

The Sexy Version. If you want to wear a sexy costume, reserve it for your post-work parties. Even though dressing up for Halloween at work is an escape form the norm, you should still respect your dress code guidelines and not reveal too much.

Blood and Guts. Many people associate Halloween with the scary side of life, but keep the gore to a minimum when it comes to what you’ll wear to work. Remember, people have to interact with you, so don’t wear something that will cause discomfort when you enter the room. To keep your costume from being outrageously gory, wait to add the extra blood factor until you’ve clocked out.

The Political Statement. There are a lot of political satire-based costumes out there, but work isn’t typically the place to showcase your political ideology. Just as you should respect people you work with in what you choose to speak about at work, pick a costume with respect for other people in mind.

If you plan to dress up at work for Halloween, keep these things in mind as you choose your outfit. Remember, it may be a holiday, but what you do and how you present yourself will likely be remembered throughout the year. So, feel free to enjoy the lighthearted, fun freedom of dressing up, but keep your best professional foot forward.

Do you have any examples of Halloween costumes gone wrong at work? Does your workplace have Halloween traditions you’d like to share? Let us know what you think in the comments below, or vote in our online poll. 

Office Romance: In the Clear or in Present Danger?

Have you ever found yourself looking forward to seeing a certain someone at work each day? Or, is that friend at work becoming more than just an office confidant? If you find yourself becoming involved romantically with someone you work with, or if you are experiencing feelings beyond the confines of friendship, then you might want to take these few tips into consideration before embarking on an office romance.

Check the company policy. First and foremost, make sure that you are following the company’s guidelines on offices romances. Some companies absolutely forbid co-workers from becoming romantically involved, while others leave the choice up to the discretion of their employees. Either way, it is a good idea to verify company policy before beginning a romantic relationship with a co-worker. Continuing a relationship with a co-worker when it’s against company policy can result in reprimanding or even termination.

Keep it under wraps. It’s very tempting to want to tell everyone when you begin a new relationship. But hold back. Consider the feelings of your co-workers and how they might react to the news. Some might think that you are focusing on your new relationship more than your work. Others might turn it into office gossip and begin to resent your new found relationship. Share your joy with your friends and family at home, not at work. This can help you keep your work life and your personal life separate.

Be professional. If you’re in a relationship with someone you work with and everyone knows about it, you still need to keep things professional. Exchanging glances, sending affectionate e-mails or kissing in the corner is not the way to show that you’re there to work. Public displays of affection can present problems among co-workers and your boss if they think that you’re allowing your love life to interfere with your professional life. Make sure when you’re at work that you’re focused on the tasks at hand and serious about your commitment to the organization.

It’s understandable that work relationships begin to develop into something more. After all, many people spend the majority of their time at work every week. But, by following these tips on office romance, you can have a professional career as well as a love life.