Everyone enjoys a bit of light-hearted gossip, especially in demanding work environments like a school.
Letting off a bit of steam in the staffroom is equivalent to therapy.
But what happens if someone crosses the line and starts circulating fake news about you?
Don’t take it personally
I don’t mean “just ignore it” (anyone who has been at the receiving end of unjust criticism knows this is impossible). Humans naturally have a strong negativity bias; we naturally pay more attention to the negative than the positive.
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A quick glance at the news will quickly confirm this.
We are programmed to quickly forget the positive things people say about us and focus on the negative.
It is important to realise that should someone feel the need to spread unkind and false information about you, it says more about them than it does about you. People who are happy and secure are simply not motivated to do this.
Take the high road
Do your best to rise above it, apparently the Queen Mother lived by the mantra: “Never complain; never explain.”
If the instigator sees their remarks have upset you, that is a victory for them. This approach is particularly useful if the rumour is absurd and easily disproved. If, however, it is more subtle in nature, and potentially more damaging, you may wish to consider the next option…
Nip it in the bud
I’m not saying you have to go all The Only Way Is Essex and confront the instigator, but you could have a mature and sensible conversation with them. Should you take this approach, make sure you speak to the other person in private and once you have calmed down. It may also be wise to go over what you are going to say with a friend beforehand.
If this is not an option, then you are best discussing the situation with your line-manager. Spreading rumours about colleagues is a form of harassment and should be taken seriously by any school.
The National Education Union teaching union urges schools to develop policies and procedures in consultation with unions to tackle workplace bullying or harassment. This may feel that you are reacting with all guns blazing, but if your professional reputation is in jeopardy, it is essential you address it.
If the rumour is you never turn up to your break duty on time, always ensure that you do.
Or if it’s that you flirt with colleagues once you’ve had a beverage or two, make sure you don’t (unless you don’t care, in which case, do whatever you want).
Ride it out
The expression, today’s news is tomorrow’s fish 'n' chip paper, may (a) mean very little to those born post-1985, but (b) be a useful analogy. Although your world may feel like it is crashing down around you in the short term, in the long run it is unlikely to have a major impact. Act with integrity, and your actions speak for you.
Remember to stay positive and surround yourself with people who care about you. Use your emotional intelligence to regulate your emotions.
As Professor Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence says: “Taking a moment to step back from these situations [and] simply label your emotions can be very helpful in managing emotions.”
And if all of the above fails, just remember what Oscar Wilde said: “There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”
Gemma Corby is a freelance writer and former special educational needs and disability coordinator