Everyone has a friend/colleague that we like to discuss things with such as work or other colleagues in the workplace. We like to discuss the good, bad, and ugly of our workplace stresses, frustrations, and annoyances with our friend/colleague…does this mean we are gossiping or is it just venting? This is a grey area for most, so hopefully this will give you some guidance of when venting can become gossip.
Venting is commonplace in the workplace; in fact it is inevitable. At times we need that friend/colleague with whom we can share our frustrations with and that is absolutely ok. In fact, many would say venting can be a healthy release of stress and frustration for some. When we vent or a colleague vents their annoyances or stressors constantly, please keep in mind this can spread negativity and be disruptive to your co-workers just as much as gossip. But like all things, we should always think before we speak.
One of the most important things to think about when venting is to choose someone who can be objective about whatever you are saying. The second thing would be to tell someone who is going to keep it confidential. Most of us process our feelings by talking them out with someone or we need help figuring out how to respond. Venting is totally appropriate during these times. A good friend/colleague should be someone you can rely on to be honest with you good or bad.
It is very easy for us to get in the habit of venting about every little perceived grievance in the workplace. Be mindful that this can create a workplace reputation for you as a complainer. You can minimize the impact you are having on your fellow teammates by not venting any frustrations at work itself but go to lunch with your friend/colleague or discuss it after hours. Venting is not something you would want to do in an open space, say near the copy machine, because someone will overhear you and can misconstrue what you have said and then turn that into gossip.
Now here is the grey area when workplace venting can be perceived as workplace gossip. You should start by asking yourself some simple questions: is the information you are sharing yours to share, why would this person need to know this information, and is it true? Keep in mind, even if something is public domain, it doesn’t always make it right to repeat it. The second question is slightly harder for us to qualify. If you are sharing information about someone as a warning to not repeat their mistake or to help see things clearer, then it is not gossip. However, if this information is being shared for no other reason than to share information that is hurtful or not flattering, then not only is it a bad habit to share; it is gossip. Even if you are stating a fact, that doesn’t mean it isn’t gossip.
Whether you are gossiping or venting about work, please balance the negative with the positive and come up solutions. If you or your colleague only focus on the negative things about work, you are never going to be happy with yourself or your job. Start coming up with solutions to things you feel are impacting the company negatively and voice your solutions so you can be a part of the change and not the problem.
If you are tempted to vent or gossip, please think before you speak. Think what the repercussions could be as to what you are saying. We are human, and we will continue to fall in the grey area. Hopefully, these steps and questions you will ask yourself will help you to stay in the venting category as opposed to the gossip category.
Written by Karyn Koch.