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NOTHING NEW We have all grown up listening to gossip and as a nation that’s what we love best
NOTHING NEW We have all grown up listening to gossip and as a nation that’s what we love best

While psychologists say that gossiping is essential, there are now corporate policies that specifically restrict gossip, discovers Snigdha Poonam

Catherine II, Empress of 18th century Russia had died under questionable circumstances involving a horse. At least this is what you will believe unless you happen to have a passion for Russian history. The truth is that she died of a stroke and it had nothing to do with horses. No one knows who started these misleading stories about the circumstances of her death.

The story is not about Catherine II or horses. It’s about gossip. As the little anecdote tells you, people have always been gossiping, for 200 years and more. We still gossip, more so at work where the smallest break from the monotony of a routine job is welcome. What do we gossip about — the latest office policy that bans orkut, the new boss who looks too young to be married, the girl in the PR department who gets paid a bomb for god knows what — the topics never run dry.

Swati Ved, who works with a law firm says, “We talk about employers and how they are favouring only some people. Personal lives are also discussed. If a guy talks too much with a girl, it is fodder for gossip. But basically we crib about managers.”

Major threat

But it looks like gossiping is facing a major threat from new corporate policies that specifically restrict or prohibit on-the-job gossip. In the West, employees are already paying a price for gossiping, with those indulging getting fired or having to confront people they gossiped about. What is more, employees are even asked to take “I Will Kick the Habit of Gossiping” workshops. So much for harmless, small talk!

Swati says that law firms in Delhi even have cameras installed in the office to keep a tab on people’s gossiping. Brutal, aint it?

It has been theorised that gossip played a fundamental role in the evolution of human intelligence and social life. According to volumes of books written on origin and evolution of gossip, two-thirds of all human conversation is gossip. Psychologists say that gossiping is essential to our social, psychological and physical well-being.

Mythili M. Sarma, Psychologist, Aadhihara Clinic says, “Sometimes it can be taken positively to introspect, look at yourself, to analyse why you are being talked about. You take a conscious pause and let it work for you.”

We asked people if the trend of punishing people for gossiping will work in India and here is what they have to say: Vinnetha Athrey, ex-employee of Tata Consultancy Services, says, “As a nation, we love to gossip. This kind of control will never work here. We have grown up seeing our mothers, aunts, grandmothers do it. It is a way of life for us. We can’t mind our own business.”

Visakha, HR Manager, Crisin says, “I don’t know of anyone having been punished for gossiping. Small harmless office gossip can be ignored.”

The verdict is out. We don’t want any gossip police.

Tips for safe gossiping

Be sure no one is listening

Watch your back

Don’t gossip with people you can’t trust. Think about the implications

Don’t waste your time talking about things that everyone knows

If caught, own up. Apologise. This is the only way to control the damage

Don’t believe anything that you hear. Check before passing it on

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