Has Office Gossip Disappeared Completely?
We all loved the office gossip. The banter. The Camaraderie I mean the ‘gossip’ that lovely nice to talk about. Moved things forward and supported people.
Not the back-stabbing and political stuff peddled by people to increase toxicity in the workplace. I believe that there is a positive side to office gossip and that it has sadly disappearing fast. The good stuff, like when you hear that Mark got promoted to now managing the XYZ project, which means that when you see him you say, ‘Nice work fella’. Or hearing that the business landed a new account, which gives you a little skip in your stride because the companies doing well which means you are safe.
Working From Home= Tricky Banter
The pandemic is slaying office gossip. Those moments when you turned around on your chair, and said, ‘Julie, what do you reckon about launching a line of premium sliced green tomatoes?’. Julie gives you that look she has a thousand times. The look that says, ‘A. Get on with the big spreadsheet you’re supposed to be doing because you’re 2 days late, B. I wouldn’t launch it if my life depended on it, and C. I love that you keep asking me – great banter’. All in a single look.
Working from home the communication is more purposeful:
- ‘Can we have a meeting to talk about an idea?’.
- Reply back – ‘What’s the idea?’.
- ‘I just want to bounce something off you’.
- Reply back – ‘Let me look at my diary’.
- ‘I just want to run something passed you quickly’.
- Reply back – ‘Tuesday at 3-4 pm’.
- <Argghghhh – I just wanted 90 seconds to bounce something’. Gives up>
‘Forced’ team brainstorming can work. However, the boss really only calls these when she has an idea and wants to look though while the team is brainstorming, yet she is really just wanting the team to start working on an idea. A good neutral facilitator will help, along with these 10 cracking brainstorming tools.
So, where does that leave us? Walking office gossip into the stationery cupboard to sit with the 200 packs of ‘mis-ordered’ post-it notes Michael ordered ‘by mistake’ when he thought he could get tickets for the FA Cup.
There is no silver bullet. There rarely is. However, there are things you can do to give the kiss of life to office gossip:
Yes, you have a busy day ahead, you always did have and always will. Those annoying pop-up instant messages that interrupt your flow. Don’t ignore them all. Add an amusing GIF, quote, or a picture.
2. Embrace Home Sounds
Once considered unprofessional, yet without the normal office gossip we can look to embrace those sounds: Someone walks behind you in a meeting? Introduce them. Drinking a cup of coffee – share your amusing beloved family mug with the chip. The dog barks – an opportunity for a welcome distraction; what’s his name? How long have you had him? What makes him bark?
3. Balance the Video and the Audio
Video calls can be exhausting. Here’s why. That doesn’t mean we should stop them completely. A balance of video and audio is perfect. Sometimes you need to feel less vulnerable and audio is perfect, whereas a video call can be an opportunity to ‘nose around people’s workspaces’ to make sure that they are ok.
4. Outlook Default
Your diary defaults to an hour but your meetings don’t have to be. Book meetings for 30-minutes, rather than an hour. You know the saying, ‘If you book an hour it’ll take an hour’. By getting everyone used to half-hour meetings, you can afford to have more of them and sometimes these can just have one single agenda point, which is more to allow the team to connect than to get that one thing done.
5. Colleague Calls – Accept it
Filtering calls is so much easier working from home. You just hit ‘decline’ because you were busy. You are always busy. We need to create ways of working that replace the spinning around on your chair whilst engaging in idle office gossip moments. This means that accepting calls is the start. You do it and hopefully, they’ll follow suit.
6. Use a Whiteboard
The ‘Spinning around on your chair’ moment would have been scuppered by a ‘Can I just take you to the whiteboard to show you this?’. Reply: ‘I’m busy’. But virtually it is an advantage. You call and then, ‘Can I just show you this?’. Before they know it you are sharing your screen and scribbling like a child on a blackboard. Jamboard and Lucid are great for this.
7. ‘What Have You Heard?’
Ask. Seeking with a colleague – ask. What have you heard at work? Promotions? Changes? What’s coming down the line?
Positive office gossip has its place. A workplace without it will suffer. keep it alive by giving it the kiss of life.