People love stories. People love stories about people they know. And people especially love juicy, interesting stories about people they know.
Thus, I am sure gossip lives alive and well in every lab.
Most gossip is harmless - just people's way of passing along news. Steve's wife had the baby, Kevin's doing well in his new job in New York, Bob went hiking this weekend, Aaron is moving this week. I confess that sometimes I pass along news like this, I don't even think of it as gossip. (Maybe I should?) But I have always been taught that gossiping is a bad habit, and will generally come back to bite you. And so I definitely stay away from speaking negatively about anyone, and I've spoken up before when I think someone is being criticized unfairly while they are not there.
I always figure, I don't want people talking badly about me when I'm not there, so I should develop a reputation for not doing that to others.
But man it's hard to stay away from. There is one guy in the lab who is particularly easy to gossip about, because he's always getting himself into one situation after another. Last Friday about 4pm, (when nobody wants to do any real work anymore), a bunch of guys in the office were sitting around in one of the cubicles. I was walking past on my way to the printer, and one of the guys was telling a new story on the gaffe-prone student.
I picked up my papers from the printer, I turned to walk back to my cubicle. I really wanted to stay and listen. They were all laughing, it was a really juicy story.
I tried to walk on by, but I was torn. "Miss Outlier!" they said, "You have to hear this one!" So I stayed and listened, and it was a really funny story.
But I still feel bad now.
So what's your take - how to deal with lab gossip? Don't worry about positive stories, but avoid critical and butt-of-the-joke stories? Stay away from spreading any stories? Stay away from even listening to stories?