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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Book review: “The No-Gossip Zone”

By Terri Schlichenmeyer
“The No-Gossip Zone” by Sam Chapman with Bridget Sharkey c.2009, Sourcebooks $22.99 / $28.99 Canada 186 pages
The office gossip made his rounds this morning for his daily Pass It On. You had mixed feelings about this.

He oozes into your cubicle like an oil spill, wolf-grinning with glee over what he’s about to say. You really don’t have time for him and you don’t know where he gets this stuff, but one thing’s for sure. The only thing better than hearing office scuttlebutt is repeating it. Truth be known, gossip is fun.

Until you’re the target.

But did you ever think that gossip might be making your workplace toxic? So, without sounding like a grouch, how can you stop the sniping? Start by reading “The No-Gossip Zone” by Sam Chapman with Bridget Sharkey.

Why get rid of gossip? Doesn’t it motivate people? According to a survey done a few years ago, more than a week-and-a-half of each work year is wasted on gossip, much of it untrue. Gossip is clearly hurtful and unproductive.

Although it sounds like a daunting task, you can make a difference in your whole office. Start small: stop listening to gossip and tell people not to gossip in your presence. Own your 100% of every situation, thought, and emotion, which means taking responsibility for what happens to you. Lastly, live a balanced life.

Now imagine a workplace where communication is open and “real”. By eliminating gossip, either through verbal agreement or written contract (making all new hires sign an agreement), and by fostering completely open communication, Chapman believes there would be no need for anyone to prattle. All “dirty laundry” airing is done directly and face-to-face, and questions are allowed to be asked of any employee.

To further open communication, encourage everyone to understand and acknowledge their emotions and to act on them in a safe way. There is no “wrong” emotion, Chapman says, and even sexual feelings can – and should - be acknowledged.

And that should be enough of an indication as to why this book needs to be taken with a whole mines’ worth of grains of salt.

While “The No-Gossip Zone” has lots of great ideas for fostering camaraderie and for eliminating backstabbing gossip – including several really fun, common-sense plans that will make employees clamor to work for you - I had real issues the whole “open communication” thing.

Yes, it’s good to get problems aired but authors Sam Chapman and Bridget Sharkey barely acknowledge the devastatingly-hurt feelings that inevitably come with the brutal honesty they advocate.

Furthermore, to encourage employees to partake in screaming sessions, fits of anger (beating a pillow with a baseball bat), personal attacks-by-group (no matter how supervised) and - in a sexual situation - “retreat[ing] to a private moment in which you feel a little zing or say a little ‘woo-hoo!’” sounded pretty unprofessional to me.

If you’ve got time to assess what’s right and respectful for your workplace, you might find a few worthwhile ideas on getting rid of gossip in “The No-Gossip Zone”. Overall, though, this book about not passing it on should just be passed up.

-- Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was three years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.


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