Surviving the First Month at Canadian Workplace
Lesson 2: Getting Along (Office Politics)

L2 - gossip.png

Prepare for this Lesson
To help your instructor prepare for the lesson, complete a five seconds poll HERE or respond to the email you have received from this website.

To prepare for Lesson 2, skim through the lesson below and read Task 1 & Task 2. What are the functions and forms you may use in the class? Post your answers here.
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Lesson 2: Task 1 (Listening and Speaking)

Pre-task: In groups of four discuss: What do employees talk about during lunch break in your country of origin?

As a class watch the TV talk show and answer the following questions.
( - first three minutes).
  1. When does gossip turn negative?
  2. Give an example of negative gossip the talk show host mentions.
  3. How does gossip affect the gossiper?
  4. What is an indication of crossing the line when gossiping?
  5. How do you create a new culture?

Task: Work in groups of four. For one of you, this is your first week at a Canadian workplace. You are enjoying your lunch and there are three other coworkers (gossipers) at your table in the lunch room. Join the conversation.

Post-Task Analysis: CLICK HERE to read about intonation in tag questions. Did you use the same intonation patterns in your role-play?

Practice: Do the role-play once again. This time focus on intonation on tag questions and appropriateness of questions asked.
Optional Speaking Task Practice (outside class follow up): Download Skype HERE

Step 1: Add / invite your classmates to your friends circle on Skype.
Step 2: Send messages to schedule a Skype call with three of your classmates.
Step 3: Based on the feedback you received from your friends and your instructor, review today’s speaking task.
Step 4: Make Skype conference call to practice today’s speaking task

Lesson 2: Task 2 (Reading and Writing)

Pre-Task: Read the article about workplace gossip below and answer the questions that follow.

What Is Gossip?
“Gossip” is endowed with several meanings. To some, it refers only to malicious or actionable talk about someone beyond the person’s hearing; some believe that gossip involves just untrue tales, while others think it can include truthful remarks. Still others consider “gossip” to be any talk of a person’s or institution’s affairs—whether personal or professional, innocuous or slanderous.
For instance, Peter Vajda, an Atlanta-based speaker and author on speaker on business coaching, defines workplace gossip as a form of workplace violence, noting that it is “essentially a form of attack.” TLK Healthcare, an Austin, Texas-based health care recruiting company, includes among gossiping employees those who tattle to the boss with no intention of offering a solution or speaking to co-workers about a problem. But some amount of workplace gossip is actually healthy, according to Rieva Lesonsky, CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom-content company for small businesses.
“It shows camaraderie among your team,” Lesonsky explained in a phone interview with SHRM Online. “But if it’s starting to hurt someone’s feelings or affect morale or attitude, that’s when the line’s been crossed. You have to be really observant to know when that happens.” Sometimes gossip “is a harbinger of something that’s true and it makes you aware of something, as a manager, that you need to work on,” she added.

Dangers of Gossip

Workplace gossip can be very serious, however, if the gossiper has significant power over the recipient, wrote authors Nancy Kurland and Lisa Hope Pelled in their article “Passing the Word: Toward a Model of Gossip and Power in the Workplace,” which appeared in the April 2000 issue of The Academy of Management Review. Some negative consequences of workplace gossip are:
  • Erosion of trust and morale.
  • Lost productivity and wasted time.
  • Divisiveness among employees as people take sides.
  • Hurt feelings and reputations.
  • Attrition due to good employees leaving the company because of an unhealthy work environment.

Company Policies

In their employee handbooks, many companies have formal policies restricting gossip. Given the recent NLRB ruling, how can they be sure these policies aren’t “overly broad” so as to become unenforceable?
First, the policy should explicitly state that it’s not meant to limit employees’ right to talk about wages, hours or working conditions; rather, it is aimed at gossip about non-work-related issues, Hyman said. Beyond that, he added, organizations have to decide where the line is between innocuous banter among colleagues and conversations that could lead to legitimate concerns about health, safety or harassment. “Frankly, you’ll never stop people from talking about how so-and-so is cheating on a spouse or came in this morning smelling like booze,” Hyman noted. “That’s human nature. But there’s definitely a line you need to draw, for instance, where safety is concerned, or [with] issues of harassment, or if somebody feels talked about because of their race or sex. Then it becomes a liability if it’s not addressed.” Lesonsky said employers can’t use no-gossip policies to forbid normal griping about supervisors, which the Laurus Technical Institute appeared to try to do.
“As a manager, you do have to suck it up a little, because there’s bound to be some amount of resentment toward the boss,” she said. “If someone says, ‘He’s really hard-nosed,’ you’ve got to let that go. But if it starts to be something like, ‘She drinks every day at lunch,’ it’s going to undermine your authority and credibility, and that’s when you may need to take action.”
Writing policies prohibiting gossip may be tricky enough that companies may instead want to focus on educating employees about the dangers of talking about co-workers behind their backs, said Hyman. “Work this into a broader initiative addressing whatever you want to call the behavior—whether bullying or just unprofessional conduct.”
Lesonsky said another approach is to hire a business coach. “There are ones who specialize in team attitude, and they’re a lot like a marriage counselor,” she explained. “They sit people down and discuss what’s at the root of [the gossip], and maybe they learn that people feel resentful because the manager favors certain employees. Depending on where you are on the managerial team, you have to check the whole train to make sure there isn’t a weak link somewhere.”
Enabling Task 1: Did the following words stop you from reading for comprehension?
  • slanderous
  • tattle
  • camaraderie
  • harbinger
  • erosion
  • reputation
  • innocuous
  • resentment

Now go back to the passage and guess the meaning from the context. Then look up a dictionary to check your understanding.
Follow up activity / Optional: Practice the new vocabulary HERE vocabulary.png
Enabling Task 2: Skim and scan the text andanswer the following questions
  1. According to Susan, what is the reason for workplace gossip?
  2. What are three examples that Susan provides?
  3. What is an example of gossip backfiring on you?
  4. What should you do if you don’t have an answer?
  5. What happens if a leader starts gossiping?

Task: Write an email to your manager/supervisor asking for an appointment to discuss office politics. You have read about office politics in Canada, but you are not sure if your colleagues are crossing the line by talking behind the back.

Task Reporting: Instructor invites 3-4 learners to present their in-class writing to the class. Learners put their writing on document sharing camera ( ELMO), the class read the work silently and then the presenter shares his/her reflections.

Post Task Analysis: The following email has nine errors relating to proper business letter conventions. Circle and correct them.
From: Marisa Romer
Sent < Monday September 12, 2009>
To: Lucinda
Subject: Re.
Dear Lucinda;

On August 25, 2009, I bought a floor lamp in your store. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to use it because it did not work properly. Every time I switched it on, it switched off by itself after about 30 minutes. I took the lamp back to the store but the salesgirl refused to give me my money back. I had a telephone conversation with you about it and you confirmed that your store’s policy is to exchange faulty merchandise rather than refund the money. Unfortunately, the lamp that I want is no longer available at your store. Given these circumstances, I would like to request that you refund my money.

I want to hear from you soon.


Marisa Romer
Source adapted from: LINC 5-7 Activities Book Vol.2

Post-Task Practice: Modals of Necessity - Must, Have got to, Have to

Choose the correct answer for each sentence.

  1. According to the law, drivers __ at stop signs.
    1. ? must to stop
    2. ? must stop
    3. ? must stopping
  2. If Richard wants to become a professional musician, he __ every day.
    1. ? haves to practise
    2. ? has to practise
    3. ? have to practise
  3. Friend: _ pay to see the doctor? Brother: No, she because she has medical insurance.
    1. ? Must your sister / musn't
    2. ? Do your sister have to / don't
    3. ? Does your sister have to / doesn't
  4. If you have a pet dog, you _ feed it every day or it will die!
    1. ? has got to
    2. ? have got to
    3. ? have got
  5. In order to log on to the Internet, Sally __ her user I.D.
    1. ? must enter
    2. ? has got to entering
    3. ? have to enter
  6. Mr. Wu: Hi, Mark. Where's your dad? Mark: Oh, he __ to work because there was an emergency.
    1. ? had to go
    2. ? had got to go
    3. ? musted go
  7. When a police officer asks to see your driver's license, you _ to him/her.
    1. ? have got show it
    2. ? must to show it
    3. ? have got to show it

Check the answers HERE

Optional / more practice: Complete the second exercise HERE
Homework: Based on the feedback you have received today, rewrite your email. Post your email on the discussion board below. Respond to a couple of posts in your group. Your responses should be based on CLB 7 Assessment Writing rubrics.

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Homework / Optional: Read a story here ( Post your response on the Discussion Board below discouraging someone from office politics.

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End of Lesson 2 > Module 1 - Lesson 3 (Getting Out)