It has now been two full years since COVID first came along, and many business are implementing "return to the workplace" programs and policies. Transitioning back to the workplace can be difficult. Not only can it be a challenge to keep the work-life balance going, but the old office dilemmas may become a source of frustration again. Whether you interact with coworkers in person, from the comfort of your home office, or both, these friendly pointers from Miss Office Manners may be helpful to you. In this installment, I offer solutions to two common challenges. Happy reading!
I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Dear Miss Office Manners: I have recently returned to the office three days a week. Not long after going back in, I remembered what drove me crazy about being in my office: all the gossip! While it might be fun to hear that Sara from accounting and Jim from HR are dating, I have seen how office gossip can turn hurtful and malicious. Plus, if they are gossiping about Sara and Jim, what makes me think they aren’t gossiping about me? What can I do to stop the office gossip problem - or at least stay out of it?
-- Rumor Has It
Dear Rumor Has It:
I hear you! Negative workplace gossip can lower morale, job satisfaction, and productivity. It can even lead to disciplinary action. Who has time for that? Here are several actions you can take to avoid getting caught up in negative office gossip:
- Change the subject. If you find yourself in a conversation that is heading in the wrong direction, tactfully change the subject. Start talking about sports, plans for the weekend, or even something as benign as the weather. If you can’t steer the topic in a more positive direction, politely excuse yourself and tell everyone you need to get back to work.
- Say something positive about the object of the gossip. Counteract what is being said by saying something nice about the person they are targeting. For instance, “Sue did a great job leading the marketing meeting last Tuesday!” or “Those bagels Sue brought in last week were delicious! That was so nice of her.” Really anything will do as long as it is positive.
- Address the perpetrators. This suggestion is not for everyone and will take some courage. If the office gossipers have a habit of gossiping, pull them aside in a neutral one-on-one situation and politely tell them how their actions are negatively impacting the office. This may stop the gossip in its tracks. On the other hand, if it’s a one-time thing, you may want to let it go. Everyone makes mistakes. For first-time offenders, they may be mad enough at themselves for having loose lips and would be unlikely to become a repeat offender.
- Keep your private life private. Don’t trust personal information with coworkers unless you don’t mind everyone knowing about it. Remember, if they are gossiping about others, they may gossip about you, too. Don’t give them ammunition. While it’s important to build camaraderie by getting to know one another, some information is better kept private
- Don’t be afraid to go to your supervisor. Workplace gossip wastes company time and hurts morale. A company interested in a healthy work environment will value the opportunity to correct this type of situation. Discuss the issue with your supervisor, but be careful to do so as a means of seeking resolution rather than a way of stirring the pot or further spreading the gossip.
Here's hoping you're able to break your office gossip chain! Good luck to you.
Handling a Credit Thief
Dear Miss Office Manners: I just wrapped up a project that I worked on with a small team of coworkers. Everyone on the team contributed in some way. Once the project was complete, one person on the team presented it to management and he was recognized by our superiors for all of “his” hard work and dedication. No mention of anyone else, and he did not say anything about our team and our contributions. And if I am being honest, I contributed more than he did, and so did a couple others. Anyway, you can probably tell I am feeling salty over this. What can I do to rectify this situation?
-- Stop that Man!
Dear Stop that Man:
You are reminding me of pretty much every group project I did in college. I know how upsetting credit theft can be, believe me. Here are some tips to help you deal with your current situation as well as to prevent it from occurring in the future:
- Cool down and assess the situation. I understand that you are upset. and rightfully so. But take some time away to cool off. Once you have done so, assess the gravity of the situation. How big of a deal is it? Is this something minor or is this something that could affect your position or advancement in your career? If it is a big deal, then you should take action. If not, perhaps you can chalk it up to “win some, lose some.”
- Address the situation directly with the credit thief. Meet with them privately and explain how the situation made you feel. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they were put on the spot and did not know how to react when they were praised for the work by management. Mistakes happen. Then, together figure out how to rectify the situation. Maybe it involves something such as him sending out an email to the team and management acknowledging the group for all of their hard work and dedication on the project. If you cannot rectify the situation together, then you should reach out to management.
- Don’t be afraid to toot your own horn. In the future, make sure your boss knows your accomplishments. It might be a good idea during one-on-one meetings to enumerate your recent achievements.
- Model good credit sharing. Don't be a credit thief yourself. Make sure to acknowledge the efforts of anyone who helps you accomplish a task.
The most important thing is to take an objective look at the situation so you can respond appropriately.
I hope you have found this week’s tips both helpful and enjoyable. Here’s wishing everyone a productive and healthy work environment, wherever that may be! Be safe and well, everyone!