Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Be a "Gossip Girl"

Here’s a tip for dealing with problematic coworkers in the workplace. Turn yourself into a “Gossip Girl” or “Gossip Guy.”

This is something that worked quite well in my workplace, when I started having problems with a coworker and a couple of members of management. This strategy is based on human nature and the reality that most people like to talk. And, many people like to gossip.

I got a lot of valuable information about what was going on with my harassers from people who were simply interested in gossiping about what was said directly to them, what they eavesdropped or what they were told by other staff.

So, I’d have someone come up to me and tell me all about what they heard my supervisor had planned for me or what she was saying to tarnish my reputation. My supervisor was literally bad-mouthing me in the hallways with my coworkers and she was making things up left and right. She was fabricating stories about my attitude, the quality of my work, and she was blaming me for problems she caused. She would talk sh*t about what she was going to do to me or say to me, when she saw me. She was basically giving a performance that was meant to destroy my reputation, embarrass me, and to isolate me from other staff.

She didn’t come back to me with most of the stuff she talked about in the hallways. Yet, I was able to document her slanderous actions and the fact the she was creating a hostile and offensive work environment. I also got a heads-up about some things she planned to surprise me with. I knew this information because I was open to listening to gossip and allowing people to talk their hearts out.

Many times, when you’re a target, you tend to shut yourself off from other staff. There are many reasons for it, such as embarrassment/public humiliation, a hostile and offensive environment, heightened scrutiny and observation, people are acting differently around you (ignoring or avoiding), trying to avoid being set up or giving ammunition (goofing off or excessive talking), etc.

But, as much as possible, you should force yourself to remain in positive contact with as many people as possible. You should use the friends and enemies of your harassers to your advantage. If people know dirt that can help you, such as prior bad acts committed by your manager against other Black workers, you need to know this information.

So, strike up conversations with folks and see where the conversations lead. Never look like you are fishing for dirt. Just steer the conversation in the general direction you want and listen carefully. Many people are more than willing to share what they know. I’ve had good friends and lunch buddies of my supervisor tell me all of her business, including problems she was having on client contracts, lies she told on staff in other departments, etc.

So, I highly recommend being a Gossip Girl. By the way, you want to listen to the gossip. You don’t want to be the one doing the talking and the sharing. You don’t want to end up being blamed for anything negative that may be said about the person. And, you want to be discreet.

Don’t share your horror stories and don’t make stuff up to keep the story going. Just let the person talk. Trust me, even if they know you don’t like someone or are having problems with someone, you’d be amazed at how much cooperation you may get from other staff. People have agendas. They may not like the person, may want their job, may want them fired, etc. They may have an active interest in gossiping the truth about someone.

Now, here’s the catch. You have to try to confirm what you’ve heard. Without confirmation, it’s just gossip. But, once you hear certain information, it may lead you to other people who may know what the reality is. Always keep track of what you’ve found out and try to find out if it is accurate. The last thing you want to do is to get caught pedaling false information.

I’ve had a lot of luck fact-checking gossip to verify it. However, not everything can be verified because there may not be any old-head staff around who can remember something that is not recent history.

Fact-checking also let me know if some of the stuff I heard was off-base. In those cases, I was able to document the real information or corrections to the story that was told and use it to my advantage. Sometimes a story wasn’t as bad with the new information and sometimes it was worse! It was really helpful to know my supervisor’s kryptonite!

So, get to gossiping. You never know what you might find out that can help your case.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I found your blog as well as this post to be interesting. I wanted to share my experience with you and gather any thoughts you could lend. I'm a black female in my late 20's and I work for a small company - me being the only minority in a an environment of all my white co-workers. I started the company about 2 years ago and not less than a week into the job, I was made the "butt" of jokes by one of the partners of the company - a white female. One of our clients was in and they had just finished a meeting as they stood around my desk chit-chatting. The client mentioned that he smelled something that was similar to natural gas and the white female partner blurted out "maybe its (me)"! and laughed. Only thing was she was the only one laughing. The CEO was there but when I addressed it to him later on, he acted as if he didn't hear her. It has been 2 years since the incident and I still can't get over this. (some of friends thought I should have filed a discrimination lawsuit). There are three other females in the office - all white and over the years they have become very much a clique. I'm sure they gossip about me behind my back because there have been several incidents where I would walk into the room or upon them in a conversation and they would get quiet immediately. I'm not one to allow that type of thing to bother me because I do feel there are more important things in life. But the killer for me is that I don't think they realize the culture that they've created for someone in my position there as a minority. My question is do you think I should bring this up or would it just make for an even more uncomfortable situation?

7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I do not know the date that Anonymous black female in late 20's posted her question.
I want her to know that I had an older friend to tell me, "Never let them see you sweat." Sometimes people are jealous of us for whatever reason and they make remarks to see us worry, get angry, quit. I want this black female to raise her head up, do your best and don't let the white female get to her. When we are angry, we tend to make more mistakes on the job. But when we are happy, feeling great, looking great, we ARE radient, attractive and attract more people to us AND we do a GREAT job when we feel good.
Most times when we always think that somebody is talking about us and they get quiet when we walk in a room, it's normally because we have a low self esteem or something is bothering us about ourselves.
To the black female in late 20's, I have TWO IMPORTANT WORDS for you rise & shine.
And by all means, do not think about filing a discrimination complaint againt a white person without proof to back up your complaint. If you are the only black in a business with all whites, believe me, whites stick together. They will not take your side. Whites will not get involved. AND you will start something that you can not finish. You will most probably have had to record the white female with a tape recorder to prove that she said something about you. AND believe me, they will get together and pretend that the white female was talking about something totally different when she mentioned the words gas. Believe me. I know. I am currently filing a complaint against my boss. All the people that I named in my complaint has been interviewed. They have lied and denied everything. But I have some proof and taped recorded conversations.

9:39 PM  

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