Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The undeserved power of gossip in the staffroom

Gossip is one of those things that is rife in most staff rooms. It always makes me laugh how people assume something is true just because they heard it from someone or multiple people - especially from those in the know (wink... wink...).

I hate gossip. Most of the time it creates cliques where being in the know becomes an important part of the job and increases your status. The easiest way I've found to diffuse the power of gossip is to disseminate absolutely ridiculous gossip to all and sundry. It is hilarious to hear your own make believe come back as fact.

The most irritating type of gossip is the talk about such and such. Her clothes.. his hair.. his attitude to students... the voice.. what the students think.. what such and such said. Everyone has their own idea about the perfect teacher. A diverse culture is the best thing for students.. creating teachers in thy own image is not only short sighted but is detrimental to a school.. Type A personalities take note!

Discrediting gossip has three key effects.. firstly no-one believes any gossip that you have and stops commenting or asking your opinion on things that have little relevance to you.. secondly it makes people think twice before they believe any gossip going around.. and finally by laughing at how gullible people are with gossip, it reduces the ability of those "in the know" from influencing decisions by creating a ground swell of support via the silent network - especially prior to unpopular concepts being implemented or popular concepts being discontinued.

Avoiding staffroom gossip is usually quite simple - avoid the staffroom during lunchtime gossip sessions as much as possible and be known as a little preoccupied with your own learning area. Have interests outside of school to talk about. Most of the time gossip just creates angst, undue tension between staff members, can blow up otherwise controllable situations, creates conflict and is generally just unnecessary for the job.

Time is needed to develop, implement, analyse, continue or discontinue processes within an organisation. Anything that can undermine legitimate organisational processes and structures should be discouraged. Gossip as an undermining influence is number one on my hit list to be stopped wherever possible.

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