The Smart Girl’s Guide to the Office – Part 1: Talking Shit About People

Hello, gentle readers. I would like all of you to learn from my experiences here in the office. Call it a public service gesture, if you will.

Lesson #1: Talking Shit About People

In workplaces all over the world, there are people that talk about other people. Co-workers either trash each other behind their backs, over email, in private meetings, over the water cooler, at the vending machine, or in hushed whispers in the hallway between offices. No matter where you talk shit about people, please be aware of a few Smart Girl Rules of Talking Shit About People:

1. When slinging shit, be sure there isn’t any on YOUR shoes. If you’re complaining that Miss X in the next office doesn’t come in at 8 AM every morning, you’d best be sure you haven’t been breaking that rule yourself. The shit will bounce off the wall and smack you in the face if you’re as guilty as Miss X. If you’re complaining about someone doing something that you do yourself, shut your mouth and go back to work. You will be more respected for it. (This seems like a common sense kind of rule, but it really isn’t. My co-worker this morning was bitching about people being late and taking days off, and she’s one of the most regular offenders.)

2. Choose your audience carefully. There are many pitfalls to consider when talkin’ smack in the office, and the biggest one is who is listening in on your rants. There are some people who will simply nod and make murmers of agreement, and that’s fine. There are others that will march into the next office and tell Miss X that you’ve been running your mouth about her, which could end poorly for you. There are still others who are connected to the hilt and everything you say will and can be repeated all over the world, which could possibly come back to bite you in the ass when Miss X hears from Miss K that you’ve been running your yap. Further, someone could overhear your ranting, which is probably not such a good idea. It’s best to rant in a safe, secure location, or be entirely certain that the person within earshot won’t tattle on your smack-talkin’ self. (Again, this should be a common sense sort of thing, right? Wrong. My co-worker was talking the shit about someone I’ve befriended here in the office. Like I want to sit here and listen to her bitch about him over the phone? Duh? I’m sitting RIGHT THERE behind her and can hear every damn word!)

3. Consider the reasons behind the complaint before you put it to paper or email. This is a rather important step. An email filled with evil intent will not go unnoticed. If you email Miss X and copy the entire office, including your boss, the email better be as pleasant as pie, otherwise you will look like a totally bitter bitch who is out to start somethin’. If you are out to simply get someone in trouble, it will be clear. If you are just trying to solve a problem, there is a way of writing the email so that goal is obtained without any toe-smooshing or hair-pulling. Remember this: nobody likes a snitch, not even you. How would you feel if someone broadcasted YOUR mistake to the entire office and God Almighty Himself with the intent of getting you sacked? Not good, right? Do you think you’d want to work with that person ever again, despite the rules of your position? (Again, my co-worker presented a brilliant example of this rule this morning. She looks like Bitter, Bitter Betty and hasn’t really gained anything from it.)

4. Leave other people out of it as much as you can. There seems to be this need to unburden yourself on others at work when you’ve had a hard day or your boss is bugging you. However, you should try to contain it as much as possible. This isn’t always easy to do, but it is advisable. See above explanations as to why. The fact is, no matter what the complaint is, professionalism requires that you work civilly with other people, and it’s hard to do that when you suspect someone’s a total louse and tattle-tail. Gaining someone’s trust by sharing secrets is nice, but if you have a reputation for spreading information around like a rabid computer virus, your relationships will suffer. Don’t talk shit or spread other people’s shit if you’re not sure how it will affect you.

5. Personal relationships at work DO MATTER, and probably more than you think. Stuff gets done when people like each other. You do favors for people you’re loyal to. People who are loyal to you do stuff for you. It’s a circle of life kind of thing that you can’t ignore. You don’t have to go camping with the co-workers every weekend or bring in doughnuts every Friday, but a little sweetness and light will carry you farther than the tar-and-feathers routine. (Being nice to mean, lazy people sucks, no question, but try it. As one professor pointed out, relationships are built on one conversation after another, good or otherwise. Do you want the person whose job affects yours to completely hate you? Think about it.)

The Moral High Ground is a steep climb. We can claim it upon occasion, but it’s best to pick and choose your moments. We have the freedom of speech, but we do not have the ability to control how what we say will be viewed by other people. Unburdening your troubles on a co-worker can be a huge relief, but you should be careful about how and when you do it. Don’t put thoughts to paper or email that will forever peg you as a tattle-tail or bitter bitch without thinking it through first.

And thus ends the first lesson. Drive safely.

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