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Why you should steer clear of the workplace rumor mill

They pull you aside in the hallway or behind closed doors.

“I hear you work with Glenda.”

“Yes, first week on the job.”

“Well, good luck. We hope what happened to the last two people won’t happen to you.”

“What?” you ask.

“She runs everyone off,” they begin, ending their story 20 minutes later with “watch your back.”

If you’ve started a new job, you’ve probably experienced the gossip gauntlet. Before you even learn the ropes of your new job, one or two individuals pull you aside and give you the scoop on your new co-workers and supervisor.

Do you listen? Of course. You don’t want to miss information that may help you avoid future pitfalls.

The real question: What do you do with what you hear?

If you’re able to file what you learn into a mental space, “I’m not sure what to make of this,” you pass through your initiation unscathed. If, however, you listen and even slightly buy into what you hear, you often pay a high price for cheap information.

Hallway Deep Throats generally possess a hidden agenda. Perhaps they didn’t get along well with your new co-workers or boss and don’t want you to. Maybe they simply like to hear, believe and pass on the worst about others. Whatever the case, substantial distorted misinformation masquerades as a valuable heads-up. Thus, new employees with little or no history with their co-workers and supervisor may adopt a ready-made negative history before they have the chance to form their own views.

You may feel and even be open-minded enough to “hear the dirt” without buying it. Are you? Or will some small flavor of what you hear take root in your mind — particularly if presented by someone who appears and speaks with conviction? Before you know it, you’re wondering if what you’re hearing is true and if you’ll regret landing the right job in the wrong organization.

Try as you might to set what you’ve been told aside, when you next interact with “Glenda,” you find yourself looking for clues that confirm the problems you’ve heard about. With your collusion, you’ve contaminated your future work relationship.

What can you do?

Realize that listening, while it appears to cost you nothing, costs a lot. One-sided hallway gossip leaves a residue. Don’t be an accessory to reputation murder. Those who trash your new co-worker or supervisor have their personal axes to grind. When you enter a new organization, create your reality based on what you hear, see and feel.

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