“Show me someone who never gossips, and I’ll show you someone who isn’t interested in people.” – Barbara Walters
Here’s a Christmas tale with a moral for you…
As the office starts to wind up for the end of the year, and office parties kick in as the primary source of socialising, you now have the perfect opportunity to find out what’s actually going on in the office.
It is, however, a little related to what the men and some women, in your office refer to as office gossip. And office gossip can be more insightful than you give it credit for.
Many would argue that women are excellent at gossiping, but something we have an innate capacity to do, is to really hear what is being said. Sometimes the story can become embellished as it does the rounds, but if you sit back and listen, there’s a lot you can learn. Use your skill at reading between the lines and dismissing the exaggeration to find the core message.
Listening to ‘informal office conversations’ isn’t about satisfying curiosity (okay, well maybe it is just a little); it will also tell you a lot about the thoughts and feelings of your team members. You can gauge emotions, and learn about a person and office politics by what they say, who they say it to, and how they are saying it.
Remember – it’s not gossip if you’re using it to make improvements; it’s information.
It also gives you a good insight into the dynamics between staff members, beyond the unexpected, sometimes alcohol-induced Christmas revelations! You are given the gift of real insight into how your employees feel about each other, what irks them, or what inspires them about another.
Even observing intimate interactions between employees as they hand out Christmas cards or party invitations, or discuss what they’re going to be doing over the holidays can tell you a lot.
All of these things provide insight into attributes such as work ethic and attitude, what motivates and inspires someone, and equally what demotivates or annoys them. You gain a deeper understanding of what’s working with your procedures and processes, or how you interact with others – as well as how they interact.
You are afforded the opportunity to make changes and improvements that will make everyone more efficient and effective, and be incredibly surprised at how intuitive you have been.
Now, don’t forget that, as a leader, you need to be particularly mindful of what you’re saying/doing at the Christmas party because people are applying the same filter to you. In your case, your words and actions have a much bigger impact because of your status. You might like to use the ‘front page of the newspaper’ scenario as a test. If your words and actions ended up on the front page of the paper the next day, would you be proud? Let’s hope so.
What’s the moral of this tale?
Well, while it’s a far step from the highly recommended employee satisfaction survey or one-on-one time with them, using that thing you’re good at – that thing that women just do without thinking – listening to gossip – you’ll be able to make huge changes for the better.
And all because you listened to a little office gossip at the end of year celebrations.