What draws us to workplace gossip? – Reading Eagle


Written by Jerrold Reber

Walking into work on an unseasonably frigid afternoon, I wondered if I was entering a new episode of “The Twilight Zone.”

No disproportionate eyeballs were lurking to shiver my bones. I’m not a librarian with slippery spectacles in a world frozen around me. I definitely haven’t been spending the wee hours of the morning playing Kick The Can and reliving my youth.

Whatever we can squarely blame on how out of rhythm our world feels, I’m baffled.

See, I wasn’t greeted with a “hello” by the manager. The sobering words were, “I heard you were going to call off today.”

Now, work schedules are released two weeks in advance. Fortune generally has favored me working the opening shift on a Saturday. With a dearth of hours available I’m out by midafternoon, the rest of the day gloriously awaiting me. Now, I knew there was a gathering of people to discuss scholarship ideas for a friend from high school who passed away late last year. I assumed I would work till about 3, perform a quick change, and dart off to Birdsboro to meet up with everyone.

As I’ve said previous times astutely, I know what they say about assuming. For once, my own words came back to bite me where they count.

If there’s one aspect of humanity that drives me bonkers, it’s the notion of starting rumors. Maybe not necessarily starting rumors, but playing Whisper Down The Lane.

Yes, the game stems from childhood, but don’t tell me the rules change as we mature into adults.

The truth is where conversation may begin, yet before long you later hear you’ve grown fins for feet and scamper about with a devil’s tail between your legs.

Rumors in the workplace start because, as humans, we inherently like to stir the pot. Our intentions may not be fueled by malice, though one set of ears is all a story needs to deviate from its initial telling.

I believe in the phrase “do no harm.” My parents taught me well.

Then again, I also learned that karma is a vicious mother and that God isn’t always the fatherly presence as perceived.

Personally, I prefer to not stir the pot. I don’t need to see a bar brawl at work.

Real life isn’t Patrick Swayze in “Road House.” Shucks.

What’s the point in ruffling another’s feathers anyway? Boredom, disdain with your co-worker, or just sheer joy?

Look, gladiator battles are archaic, and we aren’t Romans last I heard. (Friends and countrymen, well, that we would be.)

The mischievous folk recanting what they’ve heard may have a better grasp why the story has been skewered.

What, is life just a “Choose Your Own Adventure” now? Perhaps a twisted “Goosebumps” tale?

No no, I’m looking this all wrong, life’s really just People magazine.

I’m not even kidding, either! We instinctively thrive on hearing how other people’s lives are playing out on the daily. Social media is rife with these stories, even our newspapers and local news. We just wish to stay updated on the general well-being of those around us. One sour face is all that’s needed to blow a blurb out of proportion.

Look, not liking an individual is one’s prerogative, but why agitate matters? Pettiness? The desire to illicit a reaction?

So, why didn’t I call off? Because I’m 34 years old, the shift was my responsibility, and no one wanted to swap shifts. No harm, no foul. See? The truth is an absolute dud. Better than calling off because I’m pouting amidst warding off a stage 5 temper tantrum. ¦

Jerrold Reber is a lifelong Berks County urbanite who logs long hours in both customer service and retail. A graduate of Kutztown University, he also pens original features online for Fan Fest News. He may be reached at [email protected]

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