By Kelly Carr
I’m all about a good story. My favorite books are fictional with relatable plots or based-on-a-true-story tales or enticing memoirs. When a fascinating story
really happened, that makes it all the more intriguing.
The problem occurs when an interesting story about someone tiptoes across the line over to gossip. And the workplace is a tempting spot for this to happen.
When we’re at work, we’re going to face frustrating situations, no matter what job we do. It feels good to vent about these experiences—then we can get our feelings out and move on; or we can find help to fix the problem.
But at other times all we want to do is sit and fume about a boss or a coworker, and we want everyone else to hear about it.
I confess: I’ve done this before. I know it may sound shocking, because I work with other Christians. You’d think we would be above such behavior. But on occasion I’ve been both the receiver and the speaker of words that should have been stopped before they were uttered. I am not proud of these moments, but I confess that they are tempting to participate in. They involve sharing or hearing stories, and that’s a weak spot.
Perhaps you understand. Maybe your coworkers create a divisive workplace, and you want to take sides. Maybe your supervisor belittles you over minor infractions, and you feel if you don’t blurt these to a friend that your head will explode.
Those of you who relate can join me in admitting we’re human—we’re tempted, and sometimes we fail; at other times we victoriously choose the right thing to do.
But when we have difficult bosses and disrespectful coworkers, what should we do? The authors in this issue have some tips for us. Let’s see if we can implement their strategies. I have a couple of things that I’ve tried to help me when I’m tempted by gossip. You might find them useful too:
1. Choose one person. It’s OK to talk out a disturbing situation. But rather than telling tons of people why you think one coworker is deplorable, seek out one wise person to give you counsel. Tell that person you wish to keep the conversation confidential. Stick to the facts rather than slander. You may need to find a friend outside of work to talk about the matter rather than sharing with someone who works with the offending party.
2. Be a positive listener. When someone comes to you with a disgruntled attitude, do your best to help that person focus on the problem and not get mean-spirited. Don’t add more negativity but try to bring up positives. If the person is gossiping to a group, try to steer the conversation to a different topic or step away if it continues.
I hope these help you, as I hope to keep living them out. And the next time I am in the mood for a beguiling story, I’ll go find a book!