I made an ugly realization of myself the other day.  I was accused of gossiping at my last job,  I was furious and righteous wanting to face my accuser, who I assumed was Gloria, the secretary nearest me. I was not a gossip.

So I thought at the time.  I just recently realized that it was my boss who overheard my conversations.  (I finally put 2 and 3 together.)  I never thought he paid attention to anything that went on beyond his office door.  So that was my justification in assuming Gloria was the snitch.  Somehow it took me over a year for it to dawn on me.  The huge loss of face this cost me is really hurtful.  On the plus side, I retired shortly after and was permitted to depart with grace, and no one else knowing.  For that I will be writing a kind thank you letter to my HR rep at my last job.  She treated me with respect, never argued, just let me vent, knowing all the while the truth.

I admit I was talking about people who weren’t there.  But in my defense, I never revealed secrets, never said anything intentionally cruel or unkind.  Not that I can remember any specific conversations.  I can tell you anything I said unkindly was made in jest, often exaggerated for humors sake. Though in retrospect it might not be taken that way by someone else.  Hence I am a gossip.  It really hurts me to admit that.  To realize I am not who I thought I was, or who I wanted to be was a huge shock.  I’m still crying over the realization.

I’ve been examining the idea of gossip since I made this awful realization about myself.  A friend (Chinese heritage) told me that the Chinese symbol for “gossip” is the symbol of “woman” repeated three times (or the symbol for woman and the symbol for three).  This leads me to believe that gossiping is a way women got to know each other.  While talking with one woman about another, you learn a lot about both women.  You learn who is trustworthy, who may dislike you, subjects to avoid with certain people, it may give you inside information.  It’s how women bond.  I was not alone in my gossip, it was the entire staff.  And I mean entire.  Not that that excuses me.  I truly liked and respected each of the women I ever spoke to or about.  In speaking about someone it was just as often, what’s wrong with so and so, she’s not herself.  I never asked such things to be nosey, but out of caring, and to see if there was anything I could do to improve the situation.  It creates a bond.  Or at least it made me feel like I was part of the group, that I was included, even if I might prefer to eat alone.

I’m not saying what I did was not gossiping, I just contend that I never saw the harm.  I knew others talked about me behind my back, and often wondered how I was perceived by others.  I also learned who I could trust, who would be willing to help me out with a problem, often with another person.

Here you are a lowly Neanderthal female.  Males were an unknown species (still are to most women), all you had were other women to talk to.  You don’t make any connections if you don’t talk about the real life stuff.  The way so and so treats you, you get sympathy and a hug.  You talk about the new dress codes, and how you wouldn’t dare dress so daring.  You understand your place, your co-workers, and your world makes a little sense.

Maybe I’m just using all this as an excuse to continue this behavior.  I tell you truly it will be hard for me to do, because I want to know people.  I need to understand them, talking about them was a way to do it.  Maybe it’s part of the writer in me.

19 thoughts on “Gossip

  1. Good topic… What is the difference between just speaking about someone in general reference to things going on in their life and speaking mean things?

    I was at the end of the latter part of that statement. In the office area I worked at, I was in a supervisory capacity and I had reason to speak to one particular staff member because of a procedure she chose not to follow because she disagreed with it. From that moment on she and it spread to others how I was too serious in my job…I also didn’t believe in the ones under my supervision chatting for the first 15 min. before they got down to work, or even during the day when the work was piling up. In my defense (I say defensively) that I tried to do it without being mean…just a comment here and there about there being a log of work to be done etc. However from that point on I knew I was being talked about and laughed about….. you know that you know…. It went further but I won’t go into it.

    So I would say when gossip really ‘hurts’ someone and they are made to feel like an outcast….One example is that everyone in my dept. was invited to an engagement party of the person who seriously disliked me…no one talked about it but I found out….that I was the only person not invited. It would have been nice to see someone ‘not go’ because they didn’t feel it was a nice thing to do…but no one did.

    Having said all that when things got out of hand in all of this…this person apologized to me for their behavior….as did some of the others. …Sorry for the ramble…Some memories linger…. Diane

    1. Yeah, this one’s going to be with me a long time. Part of me is angry at my boss, but I guess he got mad at me, I was making a lot of mistakes at the time. I didn’t like myself much at the time.

      He never spoke to me after that incident. Never said good bye. It took me a year, bu t now I understand why. He was a very stern man, you did what he said, no questions asked, no excuses accepted.

      One incident and all the years I worked for him mattered for nothing. He never took me aside and talked to me. He had HR do it for him. For that I label him a coward.

      1. For sure and part of the experience that I had that I didn’t go into had that aspect in it as well…Why won’t people talk directly to you…whether boss or not…Diane

      2. Fear. I don’t like confrontation either, so I understand. But I wish it was different. Everyone would be happier, at least I think so.

        Thanks for your unending support.

      3. Just another added thought which of course you may not be interested in or not…but in my case I wrote the person (not the previous one I mentioned) who had received an incorrect perception of me and I was advised by HR and my manager at the time to ‘let it go’ ‘don’t try to talk to him ‘ etc etc and I listened at the time. After left I wrote him and told him what had actually occurred and the details…and how I felt..and he actually replied to me and apologized for his part in the misunderstanding. Having done this I was able to then get it out of my mind. Just my thought…but for you it might not be what you would want to do..Diane

    1. I would feel better if my ex-boss thought differently. I feel like I lost face. If you don’t say anything negative, if you don’t use what one person said to manipulate anyone else, there is no harm done. At least that’s what I though. Never said a negative thing, and for that I nearly got canned. I never thought about what others might do with any info. Bottom line, talking about anyone who isn’t present isn’t tolerated. I won’t make the same mistake at my next job. But it’s going to be mighty lonely.

  2. Thats quite a personal expose my friend, and you are to be applauded for disclosing it, maybe its a case of self analysis that needed to be seen to help in the learning and healing process.
    I wish you well and much love and happiness in life
    Ian aka Emu

  3. no one likes to think what they do is unacceptable. gossip can really be damaging though and i am sure not everyone that participates see that it is damaging. i hope you forgive yourself once you are able to take a look at the behavior and not your own personal motivation.

    i don’t want to seem judgemental i just know from personal experience how harmful gossip can be. it may be a way to bond but so is sitting down with someone and asking them what their story is. most people are more than happy to share.

    don’t be too hard on yourself, just find a new way to bond.

    1. I’ll be working on it. The guilt and shame is going to be hard to get over though. I try to be mindfully Buddhist and stay in the moment and put the past behind me. As with everything, its a process.

  4. Good points raised, I don;t doubt we all do it, but the reasons differ. Some people can just be mean but I agree with you, it is about understanding people, and in the workplace more so as we only see a certain side of people. I have worked with the same people for 15 years yet we never socialise, everyone lives far away has families etc, but some peoples behaviour affects their work to the detriment of the company, but they do get “gossiped ” about but it is not out of malice, it is trying to understand them. I’ll share it now, we gossip about a guy who is 45 lives alone, but only for the last 6 years, he lived with his mother before that, but the reason we talk is because to me it is clear the way he acts at work is because of his outside life. In that I mean he has only ever had to suit himself, either had his mother doing things for him or now only has to answer to himself, this manifests itself in work by only doing his job to make his life easier and not what is best for the company and our customers. He just doesn’t know how to put others before him, I see it as having never house shared like I have where you have to consider how your actions affect your housemates etc. Yes, it’s gossip, but it’s purpose is to try and understand them to help us all understand each other more and get the job done.

    1. That’s how I feel. I will still refrain from ever saying anything about anyone if they are not in the room. As I said, I think women are genetically predisposed to discuss other people.

  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We all make mistakes – the most important is to learn a lesson from them. And you did. Loved your post. Hope, writing it made you feel a bit better. 🙂

    1. It did. I also wrote an apologetic note to my supervisor at the time. Made me feel better and I still think about sending it, but figure the letter was for me, and wouldn’t make a difference to him.

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