Some weeks back, I had an evening movie date with DH, and had to meet him up at his office. Minding my business in their waiting room, as DH hurriedly completed a report, I overheard two women gossiping about another lady in their office. They had apparently come to the waiting room, just to have enough space to talk.
“It’s like Stella* is finally pregnant” the first woman said, to which the second responded sarcastically “Na who dash am!”.
The first one laughed before asking “Can’t you see her tummy ni? She looks four months gone oh”.
“I heard it’s F oh, not pregnancy” her friend responded, trying to keep her voice down.
I wondered what F meant, but luckily the first lady also didn’t decode, so she asked “Which one is F again?”
“Fibroid nah!” came the curt reply.
The first lady screamed impulsively, before holding her mouth and then whispering “That big stomach is fibroid? No wonder she has been acting up for so long, stepping on everybody’s toes”.
Her partner in crime hissed before saying “Is that why she should be taking it out on everybody? She has Fibroid, everyone has their own trouble too abeg. Is she not earning money? She should remove it nah. Although I heard she has done surgery before, and I hear she has been trying to get pregnant before having another surgery”.
The first lady, who obviously seemed more sympathetic asked “But how would she carry a baby in the same womb with such huge fibroid?”
Before the other lady could answer, a cleaner came to inform them that their attention was needed in the office, so they left.
I wished I didn’t know the lady they were talking about, but I do. She works closely with my husband and also seems so nice and welcoming whenever we met. I did know she has been married for quite a while, but I had no inking that she was trying for a baby; in fact, I probably just assumed she already had kids. I was pained that these two women could discuss such sensitive matter in the presence of a stranger. I mean, what if I was Stella’s relative? Was it even right to gossip about another woman like that? When my husband came out of his office, I intimated him on what I heard and begged him to tell Stella to be careful of who she opened up to at the workplace. She must have confided in someone about her battle with Fibroid, and that person obviously didn’t keep the confidence. I was stunned when my husband told me she already knows what people are saying behind her back, and she had learnt her lesson. In fact, she said no-one was going to know anything about her until she puts to bed.
“Was she hurt by the gossip?” I asked.
“Who wouldn’t be?” he replied “In the office, you think people are mature and responsible, you would be shocked!”
I never had to deal with office gossip during my TTC days because I was not working yet, but I can imagine just how annoying it could be. Colleagues shooting sidelong glances as you walk past. The office abuzz with stories, rumors and facts, and no-one talking to you about it, when, after all you are the menu on the table. I can imagine that awkward feeling when you enter a room and the conversation suddenly halts; people smiling and throwing greetings, but you know your name was just on their lips a few moments prior. However, picking fights with every rumour mill at the work place would not only drain you of energy, it would also make it impossible for you to focus on what really matters; working at a job you hopefully love, and making a baby to complete your family. It is not easy to stop the rumour mill from going round, because gossips always have a topic on their lips. It helps to keep things to yourself, and confide in people who do not work in the same office as you. But note that the gossips will still help you keep calendar, and chances are, you might get wind of someone saying “Her third anniversary is around the corner, and no baby bump yet”. You just have to develop a thick skin for that.
Overreacting to the gossip, or saying the wrong things can be counter-productive, as it only fans the flames and gives people more to talk about. Sometimes, it is just best to ignore, because you can make the mistake of legitimizing the gossip or rumours by dignifying it with a response. You might also turn it into a bigger deal when you get upset and snap at someone. Since this gossip doesn’t affect a promotion, or puts your job on the line, you can just let it die a natural death. If you do decide to confront someone who spread information you gave out in confidence, do so wisely, so as not to put the person on the defensive. What is ‘gossip’ to you, can be ‘sharing of information’ to another. I once had a friend that spread silly gossip about me, and when I confronted her, she said “I didn’t know I was the only one you told, I thought everyone else knew”. Now, that response pissed me off so much that I regretted even confronting her in the first place. I should have just quietly dropped her as a friend.
The path to resolving gossip is less clear when you’re unsure of the source, or the extent of potential damage, and a direct denial would only attract more attention. Most companies have policies that require communication amongst colleagues to be professional and positive, thus discouraging gossip, so HR Managers can sometimes intervene to curb hurtful, malicious gossip and rumor. Sometimes, it does get to the point when you need to take professional action against the spinner of gossip, especially if you have let things slide for a while, and the person refuses to take the cue and leave you alone. Do all you need to protect your sanity. If your peace of mind has been jeopardized and you have proof that points at someone, then maybe you should speak to the HR department about it. That can serve as a deterrent to other people to either take their noses off your business, or ensure that you never get to hear that anything was said about you.
They would eat their words eventually though. Those that mocked you would be put to shame when your bundle of joy arrives. You would have the last laugh. Just keep it cool and classy until then. God speed to us all.
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