Office pitfalls…except when they’re not

3 Apr

Gossip, fraternization, and politics.

We’ve all been warned about the dangers of these pitfalls, and given reasons we shouldn’t participate in them.  Conversely, we’ve all been given legitimate reasons we should engage in these behaviors.  So what the heck?

Every person you’ll ever meet will have an opinion about pretty much everything.  But here’s how I see these three big office “no-nos”:


  • Idle gossip is pretty useless to the work place.  But gossip that’s come down from the grapevine about institutional changes, or staff turnover, or policy problems?  That I definitely want to hear, and I’ll share it with people who are impacted by it.
  • If there’s going to be staff turnover, and gossip tells me the likelihood of that is high, I want to have a head start polishing my resume if need be.
  • Big change, such as weeding a lot of the collection, or changing LMS systems?  I want to know so I don’t inadvertently create more work for myself in the near future.
  • A new policy being implemented, or an old one removed or revamped?  I’d like time to figure out how that changes my job, if at all, and to think about the impact on existing policy.  Just because I’m not an administrator doesn’t mean I don’t have a stake.
  • Serious personal problems for a staff member?  I don’t need to know what it is, but knowing something is going on will help me being forgiving if they make some errors.  This one is iffy, for so many reasons, and I would opt to share my personal woe with one or two trusted colleagues so they can go to bat for me if I find myself in the position of needing some leeway.  If you happen to have a great boss, that’s the person I’d tell.


  • Dating/relationships in the workplace need be conducted by two discreet adults.  If you wouldn’t describe yourself as such, don’t do it.  Be honest – are you capable of conducting yourself professionally, and leaving home at home, all the time?
  • I get a lot of librarians live for the job.  A lot don’t.  I understand it can be hard to find someone, and that you spend a lot of time with colleagues.  Your boss is not your colleague, your reporting staff are not colleagues.  Date, if you must, on an equal playing field.  Preferably with someone in a different department.
  • Aside from dating/relationships, realize not everyone you work with is your friend.  You don’t need them to be; you need them to be good coworkers.  It’s fine to try to make friends in all venues of your life, but realize there are lots of people out there who view “work” and “personal” lives and two completely separate entities, and never the twain shall meet.


  • Oh, that old library school saw.  “The ‘L’ in ‘librarian’ is for ‘liberal’!”  It’s mostly true, though not always.  Conservative librarians tend to keep their mouths shut.  Librarians, as evidenced by some of the more controversial blogs and their comments (hello, Annoyed Librarian over at LJ!), can censor dissenting opinions, or come down in force on disagreement.  Tread carefully.
  • If you do hold some dissenting opinions, realize this: no one really cares what you think.  Unless you’re explicitly being asked, by a thoughtful and respectful individual in a low-key manner, chances are good that the other person is already thinking of their next comment.  Is this a disagreement you want to get into right now?
  • No matter your stripes, repeat: if someone does disagree with my most excellent and correct opinion, it is not personal.


Now, go forth and pitfall!


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