A young friend of mine was starting his first important job, a position with the potential to help him begin a solid career. He asked me what one crucial professional tip I could give him to ensure a happy worry-free work environment. I told him the one crucial tip I would give him had two parts: First, be careful what you say; second, be careful to whom you say it. In other words, don’t gossip! That is professionalism and that advice will make for a much happier work place.

Nothing impacts your happiness quotient more adversely than being in a job environment where you are miserable for over 8 hours a day five days a week. The daily demands of a position that may or may not be your dream job are difficult enough; being in a hostile environment can make it 100 times worse.

Gossip in all workplaces is, unfortunately, something that you can’t entirely avoid. You will hear all kinds of things said about the people who work there, some true, some not. Making a personal decision not to repeat what you hear not only makes you a nicer person, it can make where you work a more pleasant place to be. Being seen as someone who is isn’t part of the gossip mill has its own rewards. It adds to your aura of professionalism.

The same advice is true if a co-worker vents to you about your mutual boss and asks your opinion, fully expecting you to agree. Be careful.  If someone, in anger, makes cutting remarks about a supervisor, your best bet is to say nothing. As much as you may feel that the boss truly is an idiot with an ego the size of Cleveland never, ever, say that. You have no way of knowing if your words will reach the ears of a third party who may just mention what you said to Mr./Ms. Cleveland-Ego. If you don’t get outright fired your work life will become very unpleasant to say the least.

The same advice about gossiping in the office holds true outside the workplace. No matter how much you may want to join in during a ‘dissing’ session about a co-worker or boss at lunch or after hours, don’t. Remember that words cannot be taken back. Once they’re out there, they are remembered, sometimes embellished, and have a way of coming back to haunt you at the most inopportune times. Words are weapons too.

Think about what harm you might be doing to your career or even to a much-needed temporary job. You should also be aware that if you intend to stay in the same field, information about you, good as well as bad, travels very easily by word of mouth, texting, emails, and even video conferences. When you are careful of what you say, and to whom you say it, you are practicing a self-preservation mechanism that will make your professional life an easier and happier one.

A wonderful example of professionalism in a competitive market is Diane Sawyer. She was successful not only for her expertise in the field of journalism but also because she was known as someone who could be counted on to be discreet. In other words, she never stooped to gossiping.

On your road to personal happiness in job security and career advancement, it pays big dividends to make the path as smooth as possible and avoid creating unnecessary potholes. Avoid gossip.


  • Kristen Houghton

    Kristen Houghton

    Thrive Global

    Kristen Houghton is the award-winning author of the popular series, A Cate Harlow Private Investigation.  She is also the author of nine novels, two non-fiction books, a collection of short stories, a book of essays, and a children’s novella. Her horror novel, Welcome to Hell, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. Houghton has covered politics, news, and lifestyle issues as a contributor to the Huffington Post. Her writing portfolio includes Criminal Element Magazine, a division of Macmillan Publishing, Today, senior fiction editor at Bella Magazine, interviews and reviews for HBO documentaries, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network, and The Style Channel. Before becoming a full-time  author, Kristen, who holds an Ed.D. in linguistics, taught World Languages on the high school and university levels. Along with her husband, educator Alan William Hopper, she is a philanthropist for Project Literacy and Shelters With Heart, safe havens for victims of domestic abuse and their pets . mailto:  [email protected]