When does 'sharing' become 'gossip'?

Had an interesting (in the sense of - challenging - not actually new or exciting) day at work today.  The last two weeks have been really full on for me as we've headed into our summer reading program at the library.  I think I created a problem for our team with my 'hey, I'm a new graduate, here are my innovative ideas' and we had a massive workload in the last month.  I haven't had a proper lunch at work for the last few weeks (but, being perfectly honest, that's no biggy for me after the past 12 years of childrearing) and have worked late/gone in for extra hours on a day I don't work.

Thankfully, the pressure is off for the moment so we can get back to a more balanced work life.

So, it was disappointing to find out today that someone on our team has been complaining about how little we worked compared to other teams in the library.  They had been complaining to their friend on another team about how bored they were feeling because there wasn't much to do in our team.  It almost took my breath away.

And of course, this kind of talk just goes flying around the wider organisation and now we're hurt and so it goes on.

How to deal with all this?  Do I keep getting caught up in complaining sessions with other members of my team?  It is so connecting, so bonding to have a common enemy isn't it?  Especially as I'm new and I want to have good relationships with those I work with.

But I felt today the line between 'sharing our disappointment' fast blurring into 'and then she said this, and I said this, then she did this, can you believe she actually did that?' etc, etc.  And it becomes destructive.  Not just for the person, but for those who are feeling hurt.  It just adds fuel to the fire making it harder for those of us who are feeling hurt to work at making the relationship more functional.

Came home feeling glad that I'm part-time but also challenged to think hard about how to be more constructive and positive in those interactions.


Sandra said…
welcome to workplace politics.
Sandra said…
boy, sounding bitter last night.....
Over many years my way of dealing with it is to listen but not comment as often they just want a sounding board and if it gets too bad find an excuse to go and do something else so you don't have to listen. Eventually everyone realises that you don't take sides, weird eh? However I often end up in a mediating role which has it's own special pressures - then everyone hates you because you don't agree with them.
If I have an issue with someone I only take it up with them if I think I really need to, sometimes is better just to forgive and forget as it all blows over.
Part time is a blessing- I cope much better than when I was full time as it used to really get me down.
Karen said…
I hear you.This is one of the hardest things I find about working in a team. I work in a health setting and apparently these environments have a reputation for this kind of behaviour. And it can be really hard not to get caught up, especially if you share an office with people (there are six of us in the office I use) and can't get away from the chat/gossip etc.

I liked Sandra's advice. I have previously experienced disagreement with a couple of individuals in my workplace, but fortunately I don't have to work closely with them anymore. I chose to confide in just one trusted non-gossipy colleague about what went on so that it didn't eat at me and then just did my best to move on and be positive about the opportunities that did come my way. Other than that, I try to just get on with my work ("I just need to get this report done now" is a line I say often) and not to get bogged down in the gossip because I don't want to end up mediating either.

And I agree that being part time is a big help in this situation. When you're part time you really don't have enough time to spend on that kind of stuff anyway.
Sarah said…
Gosh, it was the same at the library I once worked at which was a uni library. I started as a 21-year-old grad and found myself being the audience to much older colleagues who wanted to constantly complain about management. It's hard as a Christian to steer clear of gossip and slander, especially when you're the new kid on the block and can't really rebuke 50 and 60 year olds. I like Sandra's advice about listening, but not commenting because often when they realise you're not interested or agreeing with them, they'll move on to someone else. The unfortunate thing about libraries is that they are predominantly female workplaces which adds fuel to the gossip.
Sandra said…
let me report that I have worked f/t this week as someone was away. I would like to crawl into a hole. Between the busy-ness and the politics I am completely wasted. It was so busy though that there was little time for gossip.

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