We all do it – snicker at the intern who flirts with her boss, whisper about the IT guy’s inability to wear matching socks and bet on how many times your project manager’s protégé says “per our conversation” before noon.
Gossiping is a natural way to vent, add some color to your otherwise white-walled corporate existence and build relationships with coworkers who love and loathe the same things you do. But, some women have experienced the darker side of playing telephone in the office, being on the receiving end of taunts that echo the same cruelty as high-school hallways. And, while some companies have no tolerance for the latter by enforcing strict no-gossip policies for protection, many others argue the opposite, encouraging these bonds because they say it’s not only healthy for employees, but also good for business.
What do you think? A little over 57% of you said that “office gossip just creates drama and can be really hurtful,” when asked by The Grindstone in a poll posted on the site last week. And, for one woman we talked to, it still feels an anchor-like drop in the pit of her stomach when telling her story, she 100% agrees.
“I befriended a girl I worked with as an assistant at a major hospital here in NYC. And, like most close coworker buds, we had our fair share of inside jokes and laughs. But, one day, I was even more stressed than usual and accidentally snapped at her when she asked a question. Oops! I felt bad, but I knew she’d understand, right?”
Wrong. To this woman’s utter amazement, her office BFF’s ego was bruised badly enough to run straight to their supervisor and reveal all of the things she said in confidence about the supervisor, leaving her own part of the dialogue out, of course.
“I knew something was seriously wrong when I met with my supervisor for our regular group meeting later that day. The way she spoke to me and treated me changed like a light switch. She barely looked me in the eye when she spoke to me and lit up when she spoke to my coworkers. As the days and weeks went by, it was obvious that she was poisoning the rest of the team against me too. In fact, one day when I was working late, a few my supervisor’s work friends came down to my floor of the building and said, ‘Haha, you’re going to get fired.”
Because of this type of taunting, the woman suffered harassment-related stress, depression, anxiety and fear of retaliation from her supervisor and her influence over the rest of the staff. Being bullied, destroyed her self-esteem and health, she said, even causing her to seek professional medical help.
“My supervisor told me that I was ‘too efficient’ and that was one of the problems she had with me. On a separate occasion after I walked past a group of them whispering about me, she said ‘why would you stay here? You should get another job.’ And then, two of my evaluations were found to have misinformation provided by my supervisor, and her managers that to redo both of them.”
But, the last straw for this woman came on her birthday, “I had requested off for my birthday a month before as was procedure. It was approved, and when I sent a reminder email about my vacation day the day before my birthday, my supervisor revoked it, claiming that it wasn’t processed correctly and that it was too late – she gave the day off to someone else.”
That was it. She had had enough. And, on her birthday, she walked into the office as happy as a lark and said, “I quit, today is the first day of my two-weeks.”