Last Updated Apr 28, 2009 12:52 PM EDT
"You're more likely to get the dirt on layoffs from standing around the water cooler than from scanning your email for an official announcement," she writes on her Harvard Business Publishing blog post, The Truth About Office Rumors. "And unlike in high school, Hollywood or politics, the rumors in an organization are true most of the time. Where there's smoke, there's fire."
Tapping into the office information network, whether it's an overheard conversation at the Xerox machine or a brief exchange in the elevator with the VP of Sales' admin assistant, is something you need to tap into, says Dowling, "if you want to make good decisions, work more effectively, and to get ahead in your job, both in the short- and long- term."
But Dowling's advice, I believe, comes with a big fuse attached that could easily blow up in your face. Let's leave aside the question of whether you will be making "good decisions" based upon what Bob in shipping overheard Mary in forecasting say while on a butt break with Syd, the air conditioning guy.
The bigger danger is getting a rep as a gossiper. Chances are you know who in your own organization is a little loose with the facts, too often seen chatting up co-workers in the hallway, the guy or gal who always seems to know a little bit more than they should and is happy to share.
This is the same person you don't call when you need important work done, have sensitive material to handle or a promotion to make.
Daisy says the idea is not to propagate gossip but rather to employ a little honest social networking to find out about, say, that soon-to-be open job in the New York office.
I'm just saying there is a steep downside for those of us who don't play this game with skill. So my advice remains: Discount what you hear around the water cooler and act on that information at your own risk.
What do you think? What actions have you taken successfully or otherwise based on cube chatter? How do you escape being labled the dreaded office gossip?