Four employees at a small New Hampshire town hall were fired recently for gossiping about their boss's cozy relationship with another employee.
One fired employee is probably puzzled about the whole thing. After all, she admitted calling her boss "the Fuhrer" to his face one time without any ill effects. This means that he'd rather be compared to Hitler, the greatest mass murderer in world history, than to be accused of spending too long talking about last night's episode of "Lost" with the cute chick in accounting.
Digging deeper, I learned that this po-dunk town in New Hampshire isn't the only place where you can be fired for gossiping.
Just a few miles away from my North Carolina home, liquor store employees in Cumberland County can be fired for gossiping under a rule enacted by the county commissioners.
I'm just guessing, but this probably stems from somebody blabbing about the Holiness preacher buying bourbon one day and him not even seeming to have any semblance of a bad cough.
Growing up in a very small Carolina town, I was always amused at the fortress-like protective wall around the front and sides of the local liquor store. Once parked in the back, you could scurry inside in utter shame and scurry outside, bags in hand, without the threat of gossipy biddies seeing your every move and reporting it back to the entire membership of the Lottie Moon Society.
Perhaps similar walls could be erected between offices with employees having to navigate "Survivor"-style mazes to get to another's cubicle for a little harmless flirtation to break up the day.
Having worked in a cubicle environment for more than two decades, I can tell you that gossip is absolutely essential to the mental health of any employee. Without it, well, you'd just work all day and how much of a bummer is that?
Gossip is as American as apple pie and magnetic car ribbons. It doesn't have to ruin lives to be fun, although that is an added bonus if it's about somebody you really can't stand.
I don't think it's possible to enforce a no-gossip zone in any workplace. This is America, after all, and we have the right to free speech. And if that speech happens to be about the boss's porn addiction, so what?
Already, a couple of those fired New Hampshire workers have been invited back to work and I'm guessing the other two will get their jobs back, too. Fired for gossiping? That's nuts! That's the craziest thing I've ever heard, except for the time I learned that the guy in human resources was really a woman. Not that there's anything wrong with that.