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How to deal with gossipy co-workers


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Old 10th April 2011, 4:42 AM   #1
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Question How to deal with gossipy co-workers

Alright ladies and gents, I am in need of some input here. How does one deal with gossipy co-workers?

I'll give some background. I graduated with my B.S. in Biological Sciences and have been sending resumes, applying, etc. to jobs in the research fields. I never got a call back from any of the places I applied to and at this point, because I'm pretty confident that I'll get into a grad school by Fall 2011, I just want to find a job that will allow me to save up for future expenses.

My mom was able to find a temp job for me in her workplace that's got absolutely nothing to do with the Sciences. It's a temp job that conducts clerical duties and she's casual friends with a few of the co-workers in the department I'll be working in. I'll call this "cabal" LooseLips. LooseLips have been invited to our family parties and vice versa and I've been pretty averse to these people because of their tendencies to pry into others' businesses, to get involved, and to pretty much gossip about other people's lives. It's easy to get myself out of conversations with them during these parties, but I don't have the luxury of that in the next 3-4 months I'll be working there.

Unfortunately for me, LooseLips will ask why I, a college graduate, am working clerical duties. I'm looking forward to use this opportunity to gain the skills in being tactful and gracefully evasive. These people still maintain this naïve thinking that all college graduates will be successful in finding a job in the field they graduated from on the simple basis of having a degree. I'm not that kind of person that will judge another because of the degree they hold, the job they hold down, the amount of money they have, etc. because the measure of a person's success isn't quantifiable in just those categories. Above all, I'm not that kind of person to pry because simply put, it's none of my business.

I'm not used to answering questions like that. "You have a college degree! Why are you working a clerical job?" etc. I feel like I have to explain myself when I know I don't have to. How can I answer their questions without being rude? I'm quite feisty when it comes to that stuff, I admit. I have quite the sharp tongue in some situations and I know how I will want to answer that question but because I will be in a professional setting, I have to watch myself.

Thank you all!
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Last edited by 0hpenelope; 10th April 2011 at 4:44 AM..
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Old 10th April 2011, 4:59 AM   #2
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Whats wrong with the real answer to the question?
Won't your mum have told them already anyway?

You don't have to explain yourself, but if you're too evasive thats going to end up making people more curious and gossipy.

The working world is full of people who gossip and pry- regardless of the level of the position or the qualifications of the people.

I don't buy into workplace b*tch fests or gossip sessions.

My personal approach to it is to answer direct questions to a point, but not to ASK too many questions about non work related topics or other work colleagues. I also don't volunteer any information about myself unless of course I want everyone to know.

People are far more interested in talking about themselves, or other people who may not be present. Don't give them the opportunity to do it!
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Old 10th April 2011, 6:10 AM   #3
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Learn the difference between an inquiry and someone imposing.

Thru your life as an adult , sad to say, you will need to answer some questions and be held accountable. Not sure where its written that you aren't responsible for your decisions or actions. Step up to the plate and answer directly. Unless you are being interrogated by some martian gang from outer space, I think its safe to say , the truth rarely creates angst.

Wouldnt you find it a wee bit odd if a prime minister took a job as a trash collector? Sorta still in the public servant field but not up to that persons level of service per se. For the most part people put "degree" gifted folks on a pedestal as if they are above certain tasks, thereby giving them the opportunity to ask, why are you in a job that is beneath your level of aspiration? No harm no foul in that inquiry, it is what it is. I personally just answer people in a general way, which is, got bills to pay and car to drive.
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Old 10th April 2011, 6:21 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sb129 View Post
Whats wrong with the real answer to the question?
Won't your mum have told them already anyway?

You don't have to explain yourself, but if you're too evasive thats going to end up making people more curious and gossipy.

The working world is full of people who gossip and pry- regardless of the level of the position or the qualifications of the people.

I don't buy into workplace b*tch fests or gossip sessions.

My personal approach to it is to answer direct questions to a point, but not to ASK too many questions about non work related topics or other work colleagues. I also don't volunteer any information about myself unless of course I want everyone to know.

People are far more interested in talking about themselves, or other people who may not be present. Don't give them the opportunity to do it!
That's the stuff, sb! I suppose it's possible I'm overthinking about how much I'm going to answer? I don't want to tell them all of that... it feels too much as if I'm justifying myself for being there. I need money and that job is going to serve me for my short-term goals.

What's wrong with giving them the real answer is that they will further gossip about me. As for my mom, she doesn't disclose that kind of information to them because she knows that they're the kind of folk who will discuss other people's business to others; she's aware that while LooseLips are kind-hearted and nice people, she won't overlook their wagging tongues. I've seen and heard them gossip about other people before and I'm sure she has, too; one time, I felt so bad about who they were gossiping about that I had to walk out of the room. I did not need to know that so-and-so got laid off and perhaps he didn't work hard enough that's why he got laid off, blha blhablah. I know I will not be exempt from that kind of treatment. Anyway, my mom gets along with them on a superficial basis now and I noticed that I haven't seen them in as many social events.

Not only are LooseLips gossipy, but they're also judgmental too. I just don't want to give myself as fodder to their gossip.

So... how do I not give them the opportunity to do it? How do I say my answers? How can I choose my words wisely? I'll even take clichés that usually shut gossipy people up! I'll admit that I've never been exposed to this kind of situation, and knowing me, I'm more likely to end up answering more than how I need to answer. I want to avoid that.

Thank you!
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Old 10th April 2011, 6:29 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tayla View Post
Learn the difference between an inquiry and someone imposing.
Oh, I really like that one. I never thought of assessing situations that way...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tayla View Post
Thru your life as an adult , sad to say, you will need to answer some questions and be held accountable. Not sure where its written that you aren't responsible for your decisions or actions. Step up to the plate and answer directly. Unless you are being interrogated by some martian gang from outer space, I think its safe to say , the truth rarely creates angst.
Right! I'm just trying to be careful in what I say. That's really my intent, too. I will never pry in their business but I've never seen them honor others with that courtesy, so I'm being vigilant in what to say to them and how to interact with them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tayla View Post
Wouldnt you find it a wee bit odd if a prime minister took a job as a trash collector? Sorta still in the public servant field but not up to that persons level of service per se. For the most part people put "degree" gifted folks on a pedestal as if they are above certain tasks, thereby giving them the opportunity to ask, why are you in a job that is beneath your level of aspiration? No harm no foul in that inquiry, it is what it is. I personally just answer people in a general way, which is, got bills to pay and car to drive.
Would it be okay to say something like "I've applied to related positions, didn't receive a call back, and I need the money for personal expenses."

Is that okay? I hope it is. I don't want to open the floor to more questions. I can rub elbows and laugh at their jokes and be a team player but other than that, I'm really there to just do my job and earn that pay. I want to be a team player without subordinating myself to their gossipy ways in order to do so.

Thank you, Tayla!
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Old 11th April 2011, 12:24 AM   #6
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Simply smile and say "I'd rather not talk about it" or "Well, I try not to tell people personal things at work".
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Old 11th April 2011, 12:44 AM   #7
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Yeah you can say something to the effect of "i dont talk about personal things at work"

Or you can throw them for a loop and say "The janitor job I applied for got taken from me by an MBA graduate."

You cant worry about what they think of you, especially since youre only there temporarily. You also cant be a people pleaser and shut them out at the same time. Its one or the other. So just keep them at a distance, dont worry about what they think of you, and make up the answers to any questions they throw at you.
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Old 12th April 2011, 7:54 AM   #8
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You don't really need to say anything unless you want to, but I'd just say "I am saving up for grad school in fall". That really ought to be enough and it's pretty much the truth? Huge numbers of graduates do clerical jobs to pay the bills until either the right job comes up, or they've saved up for further studies, or whatever. Lots of my friends have done exactly that in the past. I guess there is a possibility that there differences in culture where you are, and that isn't such a commonplace thing?
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Old 12th April 2011, 3:08 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 0hpenelope View Post
Would it be okay to say something like "I've applied to related positions, didn't receive a call back, and I need the money for personal expenses."

Is that okay? I hope it is. I don't want to open the floor to more questions.
The first thought that popped into my head when I read this is that it is fuel for further gossip. This could be interpreted as YOU are unable to find a job, which implies there is a shortcoming about you personally to gossip about...even though the real situation is likely far from that.
This is especially the case if it is a malicious gossipy environment.

I would simply answer as such: "I'm attending graduate school shortly, and I want to keep my work flexibility open for classes. I'm not really looking for a career oriented position at this time".
Or something along those lines. This answers exactly why you're not using your degree yet without adding fuel to the fire.
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