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On this Labor Day eve, who couldn't benefit from an improved relationship with their boss and co-workers?

Giving up the gossip habit will put you on the right path, maintains Fortune 500 consultant Beverly Inman-Ebel, who recently spoke in Cheektowaga.

"Gossip is a wicked blend of information and opinion, usually offered by people who have no control over the situation," noted Ms. Inman-Ebel.

At least one Buffalo-area manager, who likes to talk about women, was nearly fired not long ago after he was caught maliciously sharing details of a subordinate's therapy.

An Amherst salesman passed on a false rumor about a man's reputation to a client, not knowing he was slandering his client's husband. Needless to say, he didn't make the sale.

Ms. Inman-Ebel -- who works with such firms as Blue Cross & Blue Shield, American Airlines, Coca-Cola, General Electric and the IRS -- stresses that responsible people don't spread gossip.

"If you let people know that you're not comfortable with it," she said in an interview, "but remain friendly, you're on the road to leadership. And companies are looking for leaders right now."

When someone with exposed incisors offers you information, Ms. Inman-Ebel suggests, ask yourself these questions:

Is she or he giving me information based on personal observations?

Is he or she in a position to change or control the situation?

And perhaps most telling:

Is the person willing to be named as the source?

"If you answer no to at least two of these questions, it's mostly likely gossip," said Ms. Ebel, who pointed out that "talk is not cheap" at Borders, 2015 Walden Ave. Cheektowaga.

In fact that's the name of her new guide, in which she gives workers advice on dealing with vicious gossip mongers, with their poison barbed tongues. Steer clear of them, be "part of the solution not the problem," she notes in "Talk is Not Cheap."

Indeed, spiteful talk is not cheap, as gossip wastes time, clogs e-mail and debilitates morale. "You can lose your sale, your job, your spouse."

It's usually spread by insecure, weak people deluding themselves that they'll gain power and deflect criticism of themselves if they turn their office into Gossip Central. You've heard it all before: She said that he said that she said that you. . . . Ironically, researchers have found another adage true -- "I'm paper, you're glue, what you say about me sticks to you."

People tend to link negative comments to the gossiper, who ultimately loses everyone's trust, viewed as having a damaged psyche.

"I help people understand that some words and mannerisms wreak havoc in our lives while others ensure success and wealth," Ms. Inman-Ebel said.

She assigns clients this goal: "Give a compliment to a different person each day." One Western New York manager, who recently had to change jobs, admits today that she regrets not giving more praise to her her staffers. Praise in public, criticize in private.

Remember that Labor Day is the time to honor all who work in every endeavor. Ms. Inman-Ebel offers this quote:

"Praise loudly, blame softly."

"Adjust your voice -- especially on the phone," said Ms. Inman-Ebel, who started out as a speech pathologist helping stroke victims speak again. "Communicating by phone or e-mail is a problem because you have to make up for the lack of vital information. It helps if you consciously monitor the pitch of your voice. Raise it to create excitement and bring it down to convey sincerity.

"If you want to sound even more serious, slow down the rate at which you speak. A well-placed pause is acceptable. Of course don't slow it down too much, or else you'll wind up sounding like a good old boy."

Happy Labor Day!

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