A casualty from the rise of working from home that doesn’t get enough airtime? The sad lack of workplace gossip
Admitting that you love gossip – receiving it, sharing it – is a real red flag for a person’s morals, I get that. We’re supposed to be above this; good, classy people who keep themselves to themselves. But when I saw the footage of Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez and Keleigh Teller at the Golden Globes, all I could think was: man, I miss gossiping.
There are a couple of reasons why this scene went so viral – 2/3 of those involved are obviously very famous (apologies to Keleigh), and we all love a ‘celebs, they’re just like us’ moment of seeing people talking shit at their big work event.
But it was the body language that sold me: Selena, breathless with big news, delivering it with a satisfying nod; Taylor, wrapping her arms around her like you do when you are happily tipsy and see your pal, then open-mouthed with shock, and Keleigh, leaning in uncomfortably far to get the goss. The news bearer, the receiver, the plus-one who’s just happy to be there to hear red-hot tea get spilled. I have been all three of these roles and loved them each equally.
Working in media was the perfect storm for gossip – open-plan offices, professionally nosy people, a social environment where the wine flowed far too freely and bad behaviour was not only allowed, but encouraged. It was incestuous! It was ridiculous! It was THE BEST.
Like most industries, media is obsessed with itself and so the best gossip became lore. The drunken scandals, the furious feuds, the affairs. The fact that every Christmas party, we had to be told by HR not to have sex in the toilets. Even though no-one could ever place the origin story that lead to this, the insinuation was spicy enough to make us all titter knowingly.
This is not a media-specific scenario; the lady who used to dye my eyebrows (a prime source of gossip) once told me she had never heard hornier Christmas party stories than she did from her banking clients, and if you know anyone who works in real estate, you’ll know those stories are often molten hot with drama, hook-ups etc. Every industry has its tales, because humans are famously inconsistent and messy, no matter what career path they sign up to.
There’s nothing worse than being the subject of gossip in your own life, of course, but when it’s about a friend of a friend, or the cousin of a colleague, then you can sidestep the emotional responsibility of the facts and just enjoy the gossip. Heck, there’s a reason we’re all clicking on the Divorce Diaries stories – guilt-free drama! He did what??! She said that?! Oh my god!
In our open-plan offices, there was normally some upper-ranking editor or publisher that still had their own office and when you saw that door get shut, you knew the top of the gossip tier had activated. The inevitable trickle-down effect meant the gossip would be working its way to you by the end of the day.
The best gossip is fluffy, surprising and a little bit sexy or titillating. Ultimately harmless in the long run. But in my life stage of the latest of late 30s, the only gossip that arises in your friend groups tends to be bad news. The break-ups you now get are tragedies, the most surprising updates are either pregnancies – fun for the most part – or new jobs – meh, fine – or illnesses – the worst. Workplace gossip was the perfect frivolous outlet – people you vaguely knew doing scandalous things with people you also kind of recognise from the staff kitchen.
I miss this. My two working-from-home colleagues are my infant son – very dramatic, but not in a verbal way – and my husband who works in academia, which would be high on drama if not for his department: engineering 🙁 Very important, of course, but the gossip stakes are pretty low there.
I feel like I’m out of the loop now. I don’t know of a single feud in my media generation – who has the time? – but I can only hope that people are still being warned not to hook up in the toilets at work parties. Some things are sacred.