If you get caught insulting coworkers, here’s how to set the record straight.
Watch what you say about your coworkers, because you never know who might be listening.
Presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway was supposedly overheard making fun of fellow White House staffers at a D.C. party last Thursday. A spy began posting the gossip items on a @KellyanneLeaks Twitter account over the weekend.
“She had a good/cruel riff mocking [chief of staff Reince Priebus] in WH staff meetings,” according to one tweet. “‘No leaks guuuys’ she said, mimicking him in a dopey voice.”
And another reportedly slammed the White House legislative director with, “Honestly, what the f–k does Marc Short do all day?”
Conway laughed off the allegations on “Fox & Friends” Monday morning, saying, “First of all, Marc Short is one of my best friends in the White House … I don’t wonder what he does every day. I marvel at it, and I often join in those efforts.”
— FOX & friends (@foxandfriends) June 12, 2017
But if it she did make any of these remarks, she’s got plenty of company. Gossip makes up 90% of workplace conversations, according to a 2012 Amsterdam University study, and 15% of work emails, according to the Georgia Institute of Technology.
A news editor who wished to remain anonymous told Moneyish about the time she accidentally insulted one of her bosses through the company’s IM system while she was a new reporter.
“I had been assigned a story by an editor, and within two minutes of leaving her office and getting back to my desk, I was hit with a barrage of emails asking me for status updates. I needed to vent to a colleague,” she recalled.
“But after I began bitching away on our company’s internal messaging system, I was horrified to discover that instead of messaging my sympathetic co-worker, I had plugged in the name of my boss. I froze, not knowing what to do [after she saw my rant], and ultimately ignored it, since I was still on deadline.”
Turns out, that slip of the keyboard helped the two work together better, although they never actually addressed the messages. “She never told our [department head] and was much calmer and less demanding from then on,” the remorseful employee said. “I think we both had more respect for each other after that day.”
Studies have shown that humans are conditioned to talk about one another, which maintains social order by building relationships, policing bad behavior and even lowering stress.
“On the one hand, we are bonding with the people we are gossiping to, forming an ‘us versus them’ mentality which can make a stronger unit,” psychology expert Cooper Lawrence, host of “The Cooper Lawrence Show” on 101.6 BLI, told Moneyish. “That can be important at work. You have allies.”
But watercooler gossip can turn on you – or even get you fired – if it slanders someone, or makes your workplace toxic for them. So resolve the situation before it gets out of hand. “If you’re caught, apologize immediately,” said Lawrence. “Say that you were just venting a frustration, and that is not how you really feel about the person. Then cite two examples of what you really like about the person.”
She suggests doing the same with the employees you were dishing with. “Set the record straight with them, apologize for putting them in an uncomfortable position, and also list to them the things you like about the person you were talking about,” she said.
And tell your boss what happened before your co-worker does. “You want to get ahead of it in case the person files a complaint, so that your boss doesn’t get blindsided,” said Lawrence. “Just say, I messed up, and I didn’t mean it. I’ve apologized, but I wanted you to know in case it comes up again.”
© 2017 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved