Psst! Rumors Can Help at Work
How to make the most of the office grapevine, what telecommuters should do when visiting HQ, why there aren't more female CEOs, and more.

(FORTUNE Magazine) – IF THE COMMENTS THAT HAVE FLOODED MY MAILBOX ARE any indication, the topics you, dear readers, cared most about in 2005 include gossip at work, the hurdles facing Asian Americans, and househusbands. Since you often know more than so-called experts, here is a sampling of your thoughts on the hottest issues.

•Chatter. Let's start with the good old office grapevine, the subject of a Q&A in the June 27 issue, which prompted a research firm called ISR to send me a survey showing that 63% of U.S. employees get all or most of their information about their companies from "water-cooler talk." An HR chief writes, "I've worked in three companies that underwent mergers, during which everyone gossiped nonstop. The biggest mistake I saw top management make? Wasting time trying to find the source of the rumors. Instead, get a few influential people and start your own rumors --accurate ones." "Unless you're bound by some legal restriction, tell everyone everything you know about the facts," says consultant and author Tom E. Jones. "Don't wait until you have all the details. Just get the truth out there, fast."

•Telecommuting. Perhaps it's no surprise that gossip is one of the things telecommuters (May 30) miss most. "You should have warned work-at-home wannabes that if they are extroverts who enjoy daily chitchat with colleagues, they will feel so isolated that they'll run screaming back to the fold," writes Social Animal, who did just that. Aaron W., a seasoned telecommuter, suggests, "When you do visit the corporate office, plan every moment of your trip. You should be busy from the moment you enter the building. This is your chance to network and pick up information"--including the water-cooler kind. One more tip, from Karen J.: "Don't forget to stop by to thank administrative assistants who have helped you out from afar. They'll be glad you did, and consequently so will you."

•Obstacles facing Asian Americans. This subject (Aug. 22) brought a deluge of comments, like this one from Ohio marketing manager E. Chen: "If I had a dime for every time a Caucasian co-worker has asked me, 'Where are you from?' I could retire, and I'm only 34. I'm from Sacramento, but to my colleagues I'll always look like a foreigner." Eric Rosenkranz, CEO of Strategic Thinking Group in Singapore, writes that while Asian Americans in the U.S. are often seen as too self-effacing to get ahead, they "find it difficult to succeed in Asia for the opposite reasons. They're seen by Asians as pushy and not respectful of others." One solution? Seek out Asian-American-owned enterprises, or start one. David Y. Choi, who teaches business at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, sent a fascinating research paper he co-wrote. It shows (among other things) that Asian Americans are twice as likely to be promoted to executive ranks at Asian-American- owned businesses than at those owned by Caucasians.

•Househusbands. By far the greatest volume of mail poured in after I offered encouraging words (July 25) to a young man who was contemplating staying home to raise his two kids while his wife went off to her high-paying job. A reader signed J.B. sent in a few statistics, from a poll by executive job site 42% of senior managers said a guy who did that would be "resented for taking time off." But fully a third (34%) said he'd be "valued [by employers] for his renewed perspective." Most readers took the latter view. "Why should women be the only ones with a choice about whether to work or raise families?" asks Mitch from Chicago. About 1,200 of you pointed out that I should have urged the young dad to do the same things women must if they hope to pick up their careers again later: Read trade publications, keep up with industry trends, be active in professional associations, and take a former boss or co-worker to lunch once in a while.

•Why aren't there more female CEOs? Interestingly, that question (Nov. 14) inspired many more comments from men than from women, and plenty of them echoed this one, from Henrik S.: "When a man in a high position fails, the reason people give is never 'because he's a man.' Imagine, for example, how different the press coverage would have been if Michael Eisner had been Michelle Eisner." Most correspondents passed along advice for young female go-getters. The consensus: More women need to major in the sciences and engineering, go to business school, and, as one reader put it, "stay away from jobs in soft support-staff areas like HR, which don't usually lead to the top no matter who (male or female) is doing them."

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