How do you deal with gossip in the Korean workplace?

This one is very simple to answer -- I deal with gossip in the workplace in much the same way I deal with gossip anywhere, which is that I don't ever say anything to anyone about anyone or anything, unless it's something that I wouldn't mind other people hearing as having come from me.

Gossip in nearly every workplace I've ever been a part of has been atrocious, so I haven't found it to be much different in Korea, other than the fact that, as the foreigner, at first I tended to generate a bit more interest, and so word about the most mundane things would travel the width and breadth of the school in record time, and come back to me from the most bizarre places. But that's mostly fine, as again I'm really careful anyway about the things that I say.

Now that I'm really close to a few of my coworkers, the situation is a bit different. I know, for example, that I can complain to Co about the male instructor who gives me a hard time, and the only people she will tell about it will be the other co's that I'm close to, who also will not pass it on to other teachers who may blab it outside of our circle. This came with time, as they also realized they could complain to me about the instructors, who I actually work with, without me letting on to them, or about the head teachers, without me making an issue of it. Basically building trust and relationships the same way you would with any other social group. But mostly, I generally try not to say anything about anyone that I wouldn't or haven't already said to their faces anyway. I think it's kind of a nasty character trait to have in the first place. I'm not perfect, by any means, but I've found that life is a lot simpler when you learn how to keep your mouth shut most of the time.

But in regards to your personal life and your other coworkers, at first, it's best to just assume that anything you say to anyone will be the equivalent of speaking it into the mic over the school PA system. Don't talk about anything in your personal life that can be taboo in Korean culture, unless you're okay with everyone knowing it, and figure out who among your coworkers have allegiances and relationships with who, before you open your mouth about anyone to anyone else.

And try not to get too upset about the fact that you told your co-teacher you're going to the movies this weekend, and some completely unrelated teacher mentioned this fact to you five minutes later, while coming from a completely different direction. As the other teachers at school get used to you, their interest will wane, and you'll eventually be just another boring coworker, like I am now for the most part.

Ask me anything


Tim said...

i mentioned that my girlfriend (who is korean) was getting an abortion... and i can safely say that this information wasnt shared around the other teachers. so i guess it depends on what school you are at. i have 170 students in the whole school.

cunt said...

Actually gossip is key to maintaining good relationships at the workplace, if you don't participate in gossip you're considered to be hiding something in Korean culture.

I'm no Picasso said...

Well that's an interesting perspective, but I wouldn't say that it's "key". I've maintained perfectly lovely relationships with my coworkers, and no one thinks I'm hiding something simply because I don't talk badly about other people behind their backs.... I wasn't really aware that was an aspect of Korean culture? I must know some very unusual Koreans then. All of the dozens and dozens of them that I've worked and socialized with over the course of the last two years, really. How odd.

cunt said...

I suppose you're right, one never knows for sure with Korean culture. I did have a kiwi coworker before that got fired. The reason? The boss claimed he couldn't trust anyone that doesn't drink alcohol.