Archive for networking

Gossip in the Workplace: Friend or Foe?

When used appropriately, gossip can be an influential interpersonal communication tool and a lighthearted way of spreading information. As luck would have it, the same concept that creates bonds and builds relationships can often rear an ugly head.


According to Wikipedia,  gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about personal or private affairs of others. The term is often used to specifically refer to the spreading of dirt and misinformation, as (for example) through excited discussion of scandals.

Nigel Nicholson of Psychology Today magazine recognizes, “there are three very essential functions of gossip: networking, influence and social alliances.”  It’s also been said that gossip is a way of having intimate conversation between those with similar style, personal and domestic or workplace scope and setting, while providing the comfort of validation and camaraderie. The challenge becomes drawing (and to keep from crossing) the line between sharing information and being hurtful to the reputation of yourself and others.

Learning to balance over that line with the ease of an expert takes conscious effort and a careful attention to detail. Simply calling gossip “networking” introduces the risk of overlooking (or straight-up ignoring) the dangers that lurk in the workplace. Unfortunately, it seems that the cons outweigh the pros in this potentially harmful practice.

The CONS of Workplace Gossip

  • Spreading wrong information
  • Loss of productivity and habitual wasting of time
  • Erosion of trust and morale
  • Divisiveness among employees as people take sides or “gang up on others”
  • Increased anxiety among employees as rumors circulate without clear factual evidence
  • Hurt feelings and reputations; feeling attacked or targeted
  • Being perceived as unprofessional
  • Disrespect toward supervision
  • Disconnect to company brand loyalty
  • Turnover increases due to good employees leaving what they perceive as an unhealthy work environment or atmosphere.
  • Costly Legal Ramifications: bullying, libel, hostile workplace and harassment case filings

How Can I Avoid Gossiping at Work?

Following some basic guidelines to gossip will allow for maintaining strong bonds OUTside the workplace without sabotaging accomplishments IN the workplace.

  1. Never engage in gossip that is purely associated with malicious content and intent. To hurt someone else does not make you the better person. Ever.
  2. Avoid disclosing pay rates and earnings information. It is no one’s business what you make, just as it’s not your business what anyone else makes. Similarly, discussion about whether or not you find your boss’ pay fair and reasonable is completely inappropriate.
  3. Don’t discuss social plans or un-work-related activities during a shift, meeting or company function. To portray yourself as anything less than focused on your work is a disservice to those who are. Off-site and off-shift (ie., home, parking lot or on your cell phone after hours) are more appropriate times and places for social conversation.
  4. If you question a co-worker’s opinion or decision, discuss it with them in private. Never challenge, embarrass or deface someone’s character in front of an audience of mutual peers or associates. The term “peer” indicates a certain level of respect.
  5. Obtaining a good lead or gaining insider commentary is a benefit of communication with friends, but can lead to loss of trust from your associates and coworkers when you are careless with their tips.
  6. Never recite, even in jest, a friend or co-worker’s social misadventures to your mutual work associates. We are all entitled to a personal life, as well as a private one. What happens between friends outside the office should stay there. Far too often, juicy stories can result in the loss of respect from fellow peers and associates for the both of you.
  7. If irreconcilable differences do occur, keep in mind that while your out-of-office relationship (romantic or otherwise) may be over, chances are you still need to work together to some degree. Be sure to cut ties in a clean and professional manner and bear in mind that no one needs to know what happened between you. We don’t always have to like the people we work with, but we DO have to do our jobs to the best of our ability.

Other networking success resources:

Have I missed some pitfalls of gossip in the workplace?  Please share your advice on keeping positive communication a priority at work…

What’s Wrong with Marketing to the Vulnerable?

So I’m standing there rinsing my hair in the shower after a long afternoon of holiday food and drink binging.  I’m relaxed.  I’m not at work.  In fact, I’m not even thinking about work. Instead, I’m casually reading the back of shampoo bottles and oversized containers of body wash. There are some rather entertaining dialogues between the reader and the product bottle these days. What the hell, I have a few minutes, I’m already here…let’s read all the bottles.

It then occurs to me that this is an opportune time to sell me something I’m NOT already using. 

Can you picture it? Starbucks teaming up with Pantene to write me a message about how fulfilling my post-shower ritual will be when followed by a steaming hot, flavorful cup of my favorite coffee.  Mmmmm…

What better time to communicate than during an already captive moment? Marketing communications are all about establishing a dialogue and motivating the recipient.  Consequently, when you’ve succeeded in snagging the audience’s attention (as with the bottles of shampoo and conditioner that have already been purchased), a creative communicator takes the opportunity to motivate that audience toward another layer. How is it that Sunkist doesn’t currently rent product placement space from the Crest folks? They’ve got at least 2-8 solid minutes of my full attention while I’m brushing, flossing and mouth-washing with nothing else to do but read what lies within my line of sight – and think about what I’m going to do next. Every single day.  They’ve already sold me on the toothpaste, take the ball and run with other products.

I know, I know…product placement is nothing new.  We’re sold suggestively at every turn.  But I’m talking about the communication partnership that occurs when someone else does the selling for you, like with a good networking partner (See point #6 Promoting Partners of The Six Commandments of Sock-Charming). After all, what comes around goes around.

Ultimately, partnership communications have become prime-time for the selling frontier.  It just makes marketing sense.

What small business promotion partnerships can you create by swapping communication space and letting someone else sell your stuff?


What Does Your Handshake Say About You?

More than you know. Your handshake is a large part of the first impression you leave with people. What kind of hand-shaker are you?

Ironman Grip: If you’re getting winces or you hear knuckles cracking, that’s your cue to let go!  Assertiveness and confidence are glorious traits, but they aren’t proven by the physical power with which you shake. In fact, making someone completely comfortable portrays more confidence than a vice grip does. Give a hand a break (figuratively) and take it easy on your target.

The Moisturizer: Sweaty palms…you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes this simply can’t be avoided, like when you’re nervous, are experiencing anxiety or wearing a wool sweater at a summer barbeque. Do yourself a favor by being conscious of what you CAN control…like keeping that shaking hand empty of wet or sweating drink glasses.  If it is nerves, try placing the shaking hand in a pocket until necessary to give it a wipe and put it to work.

Fishy Shake: The largest pet peeve of most career networkers. This shake-style is floppy, disinterested and seen as lacking in commitment and sincerity. If you have an injured hand or a transmittable virus, say so up front, rather than putting in only half the effort. But if you’re going to shake, then move in for web-to-web contact and shake it like you mean it.

The Double-Clasper: Generally the super friendly, open-to-hugging, touchy-feely types. Bear in mind that this approach makes some folks uncomfortable, so act on this impulse only when appropriate.  The most comforting fact about this shake-style is that it exudes genuine friendliness…it’s not easy to fake the enthusiasm necessary to take someone’s hand into both of your own and actually enjoy it.

The Fingertip Toucher: This shake-style requires minimal effort and is comprised of lightly grabbing the fingertips and giving no more than a little wiggle. I bet you’re trying to follow through with the manners your momma gave you, but keep in mind that you’re giving the impression that you’d rather be anywhere but here. Worst case scenario…you’re a total diva and are subconsciously sending the message that you think you’re better than others.

Can’t Touch This: OCD types don’t like handshaking at all. No judgment here! We all have the right to our own quirks and boundaries. Maybe it’s a germ thing. Just remember that it’s okay to let people know if you don’t want to be touched.  You can say you have a cold, or aren’t a hugger…whatever. Most people are easy-going enough to roll right along and appreciate being warned so as not to cause you discomfort.

The Pinky Wagger: If you need to resort to using your pinky to shake, it’s a likely sign that you are holding too much in your hands…OR (gasp) that you don’t really mean it and prefer to fake-shake. The label on this shake-style says disheveled, disorganized or simply more interested in the food or booze than in meeting new people.

Slow and Steady: As the most considerate of all shakes, the slow and steady style says to the world that you’re interested, confident and focused on the individual. Absent are the indicators of being rushed or insincere. Slow and steady allows you to adjust your grip, gauge your tension and get in a friendly shake-pump.

Did you identify yourself somewhere?  Don’t worry, you don’t have to fess up to it in your comments…but if you’d like to, I’d welcome hearing about it.

Will the Real You Please Stand Up

So much of effective networking is dependent on how comfortable we are in social settings. I know, I know…duh. Yet most people don’t realize what a large part of their conversational personality comes across as less than authentic. Discomfort has a lot to do with that and is often the first thing people feel in a room full of strangers. How does one overcome this setback?  I decided to ask an expert.  Here’s what friend and peer, Marilyn Kleinberg, has to say…

Networking the Real You

Will the Real You Please Stand Up?

So often I see a man or women at a networking event whose inner voice and body language says, “Get me outa here” but whose public voice says “hi my name is”.  If this sounds like you or you know someone like this, let me share a little secret with you…that used to be me, too.

So what did I do? I started by asking myself why was I so uncomfortable? I realized what had me paralyzed was the fear of “what am I going to say, will they like me, do I have anything to offer, or the ever present…do I look okay?”  For me, it stemmed from a place of insecurity.

And then I decided to get out of my own way.

Networking is nothing more than—and yet all about—the art of a conversation.

By just being me I can start a conversation about anything…the weather, sports, business trends, or about the crazy day I just long as the discussion comes from a place of authenticity. In other words, I am interested in the answers I receive.

It’s pretty simple really. By approaching networking from a “how can I help you?” and not a “how can you help me” philosophy, you’ll open the door to conversations that will create commonalities, build relationships and foster a positive, authentic dialogue that can lead to new opportunities.

Also important for me, was the understanding that I don’t need to wear a pair of high heels and the “perfect fitted suit” to be accepted. I need to look businesslike and I need to be comfortable. I need to be genuine from head to toe, inside and out.

So just get over it and get on with it! People are waiting to meet the “real” you!

About the author:

Marilyn Kleinberg

Marilyn Kleinberg is the Executive Managing Director of eWomenNetwork Southern New Jersey and the former Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce Southern New Jersey.  Marilyn’s a seasoned networker, a wealth of resourceful information and an interminable support to women and women in business.  I welcome you to send her a shout-out at .

The Six Commandments of Sock-Charming

I spoke at a seminar this week about Networking…in fact it was called, “Marketing Through Networking” and frankly, I was amazed at how many folks truly felt that this is one topic you just can’t learn enough about.  One of my attendees (in fact, the SPONSOR of the event….thank you Howard of said…’this really ought to be the topic of your next blog post’. So here it is;

My take on Networking is simple.  You are marketing yourself at every single moment. And while you can’t necessarily control what people are going to think of you, or how they’ll react to any given statement that you make, you CAN control how YOU make them feel while THEY are talking.

I call these the “Sock-Charming Tactics”.  That simply means – little things you can do to make sure someone feels appreciated and listened to while they are speaking to you.  In other words, there are ways of charming people’s socks off…even when they’re the ones doing the talking.

As we discuss these sock-charming tactics, remember…this discussion is not about you. It’s about how you’re making others feel while they converse with you.


  1. The Eyebrow Flash – The gem of ‘Interested  Conversation’. Ever speak to someone who does nothing but stare with non-descript expression?  Be sure that YOU’RE not “that guy”. Give people an indication, even if simply with minor eyebrow fluctuation, that you are A) listening and B) interested. You don’t have to be a master at moving those brows…just raise them from time to time if someone says something that warrants a change of expression.  Often times, people give their best networking-shot by telling stories that may or may not be as funny to you as they are intended to be. You don’t have to feign being at a comedy show – No Insincerity Please –  just acknowledge the attempt and raise those brows with a smile. You can make someone feel like a RockStar if you just wear “surprise face” in the right place.
  2. The Affirmation Nod – Along with acknowledging someone’s train of thought, comes the ever popular nod.  This simply CANNOT be overused. People love to know that “I’m right there with you”. Sprinkle in an “MmHmm” and an “Oh yea” every now & again and you have yourself a dual conversation, even if they’re the ones in the spotlight for the moment. The give and take from an effective affirmation nod can make the difference between feel spoken to and feeling embraced by the conversation.
  3. Open Arm Gestures – We’ve all heard about the open-arms versus closed-arms approach at a boardroom table or a seminar.  Have you given much thought to what your arms are doing at a networking function?  Closed hands and folded arms are a typical body language faux pas, as they are said to indicate a “closed” personality or mood. Realistically however, at networking functions we are often strapped with a glass or a small plate of hors d’oeuvres, indeed – but this is not an excuse for presenting yourself in a closed manner. Consider keeping your right hand open (at all times) for shaking and keep them in front of yourself, in full view of your conversation partner.  No fists, no hand on the hip, no hand behind the back.  Hands in the pocket can be a great way to appear casual and approachable, but be sure to take them out BEFORE a hand is extending in friendly greeting.  You’ll seem more inviting that way.
  4. No Baggage Onboard – OMG can you remember to leave it at home already?! There’s nothing worse in a networking setting than asking a simple “how are things going?” and getting a reply that sounds like a dissertation in Negative Nuances. If the dog peed on the rug and it made you SO late that you were pulled over for speeding and spilled your coffee on your lap while merging into the shoulder, either make it funny or keep it to yourself.  Nothing kills a conversation more than someone that has only negative things to say.  We all have baggage – choose when and with whom to bring it up.
  5. Avoiding the Mirror Technique – Contrary to popular belief, mirroring the voice level or mannerisms of the person you’re conversing with can backfire.  If you’re speaking with a quiet type and you mirror their docile speaking pattern, they may be temporarily placated by your similar softness.  But if you take the same approach and next mirror someone who is boisterous and energetic, you’d better be sure that never the two shall meet.  Pick a personality and stick with it.  Be yourself.
  6. Promoting Partners – Nothing makes you look better than promoting those around you.  The best way I’ve found to make a good impression on others is to avoid talking about myself altogether. When introducing someone else, sing their praises (but only if you really mean it – authenticity is key). Comment on their business, their successes or their unfaltering habit of {…insert humorous compliment here…}. Making someone else look good serves to take the focus off of you, allows you to appear humble and creates an atmosphere of interaction.  Not to mention that most folks will genuinely want to return the favor, leaving you to focus on learning about each other rather than talking about yourself. Wallah!

We all want to do business with people we like. Ultimately we need to be ourselves while leaving a lasting impression. Give something for people to remember you by…even if you’ve left them without their socks on!