I am a true believer in the old adage, "if they aren't talking about you, then you are losing your edge." Whether you are an employee or the CEO, it is important to keep a healthy buzz surrounding your work. If your name comes up in a fair amount of conversation, it sparks curiosity about your achievements and your direction.
By innovating either as an individual or a brand, people will continue to keep interest. It's less worrisome when people express dislike for you and your brand -- more concerning, I believe, for them to stop talking about you/it altogether.
However, becoming the subject of office gossip is not necessarily the position you want to be in. Negative gossip can send your career into a downward spiral, but through your actions, you have the power to control the conversation about you, and keep that buzz positive. But how?
Here are 5 tips:
BE Nice. This should be common sense, but it surprises me everyday that people just don't get it. People don't usually waste time discussing how nice you are. However, the second that you do something rude, it will spread like wildfire. How do you avoid that? Think twice before you send that snarky email. Think three times before you throw your coworker under the bus in a meeting. Instead, show interest in your coworkers' lives: ask about their weekend, and congratulate them on major milestones. The most fascinating person in the room is always the one fascinated by others.
DON'T do things you don't want people to know about. Let's be real. If you sleep with your boss or backstab a coworker, everyone will hear about it. The easy solution? Don't put yourself in those situations -- as in, don't even tempt yourself. This is not a moralistic suggestion, it's a practical one: In our age of social media, there is no such thing as real privacy. So if you avoid behavior that might seem exciting/satisfying at the time, but will feel extremely embarrassing later, then people won't have a reason to talk.
ADDRESS the issue by turning it into a joke. We are all human, and we all make ridiculous mistakes.. Unfortunately, those small things can turn into office gossip. Did your boss publically yell at you over a stupid mistake? Did you accidentally trip while meeting the CEO? Next time you are gathered around the water cooler, jokingly bring it up. If your coworkers know that you are aware of the situation, and that it is not a taboo topic, they are less likely to talk when you're not around. So brush it off and regard it as no big deal. If you're over it, then it's no longer a scandal.
GET to know as many people as possible. It's so much easier to gossip about people you don't really know (hello, US Weekly). So introduce yourself to people in the cafeteria or on the elevator, and engage them in genuine conversation. If you build a reputation for being cool and friendly, that alone will help stymie unwanted, gossipy conversation.
TRY not to gossip about other people. I admit this one is actually hard for me. I am the type of person that needs to vent. When my clients send a rude email or a coworker looks at me the wrong way, I want to talk about it. But this is how gossip starts, and you have to stop it. If you do feel the need to vent about your coworkers, do it with friends outside of work. It is less likely to get around, and you won't get in trouble. Also? If your coworkers hear you dissing other folks right and left, they may very well start to think, "how does she talk about me when I'm not around?" That's not the perception you want to create. So vent elsewhere!
For better or worse, people talk. Why not use it to your advantage? It's great to keep steady amount of buzz going about you and your personal brand.
But to keep it from sliding into dishy office gossip, you have to be savvy. And by subtly directing the conversation about you, you can keep the spotlight on your fabulous work -- not on other people's beefs.
Rebekah Epstein is the founder of fifteen media, an agency that works exclusively with PR firms to streamline media relations in a digital era. She specializes in business, lifestyle, fashion and beauty. Rebekah also blogs about all things Gen Y at Neon Notebook. Follow her at @BekahEpstein