Top Ten Ways to Deal with Workplace Gossip

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Office gossip is unavoidable but it’s not something you have to deal with everyday. The following are ways to help bring it to a minimum and ways to deal with it if you happen to be the target.

  1. Don’t engage- People will gossip with you if you let them and especially if you yourself offer information you’ve heard around the office. Though it may be hard at first, don’t be apart of the problem. If you simply must say something about someone else, focus solely on saying nice and positive things. When the hardcore gossips realize you won’t stoop to the petty talk, they’ll move on to someone else.

  2. Have a vague answer to get out of the conversation- Say things like, “I didn’t hear that but are you sure it’s true?” or “I’d love to be able to talk more but I’m swamped with that big project”. If you can give a short and sweet answer to get out of talking more than you want to, you’ll be able to fend off the gossips without outright ignoring them and thus giving them reason to make you a target next.

  3. Stay busy- Be too busy to be part of the conversations. It’s better to be known as the person who works too much than a slacker and it looks better to management if you’re not constantly spending your time talking with your co-workers versus working anyways. You’ll probably get rewarded for your hard work which is more than what you’ll get if you participate in the gossiping.

  4. If you’re being targeted, find out who started it- You then have the choice of confronting them yourself or going to your manager or human resources to do it for you. This choice depends on what was said but try and to deal with the person directly to see why they’re spreading gossip about you and find a way to ask them to stop. If they refuse or it gets worse as retaliation, go to your manager and tell them you tried to stop it yourself but you now need their help.

  5. Don’t offer information you don’t want everyone in the office to know- You truly can’t trust anyone in the office no matter how trivial that nugget of information you offered. It can be used against you or cause problems you never considered with your co-workers.  Only offer what you feel comfortable with every last person in the office knowing about you.  Don’t be too withholding of information but don’t tell everything either.

  6. Be careful of who you choose to be your work friends- It’s hard to know people’s ulterior motives. They could simply want to be your friend to get information to use against you to your boss and thus increase their chances of being promoted and/or a raise. They could simply want to be friends to blackmail you to do their work for them. I’m not saying everyone in the office is a bad person but expect people to ultimately act in their own interests and not yours.

  7. Turn it back on the gossiper- Karma has a way of getting people who engage in negative behavior and by turning the gossip back on the originator you’ll speed that karma up a bit. Turn it back in a positive way though. Spread nice gossip about them and once it gets back to that person they’ll either go crazy on what the real reason of why something nice was said about them or they’ll realize that they too can be talked about behind their back. Either way, it should curtail their habit.

  8. Make the team aware of the problem and the steps being taken to stop it-  Send a team email saying this is a problem that needs to be addressed and stopped. This will make everyone on the team know that it’s becoming a problem that  will be handed over to the manager if you things don’t improve. You may get some flack about it or even accused of being too sensitive but that would be the opportunity to share your feelings and for everyone on the team to share theirs too. If this does devolve into a fight or a back and forth accusation game, go to your manager and they can deal with this as a team and individual problem.

  9. Accept that some people will never stop gossiping- They do it for so many reasons that it could be impossible to truly know what drives them to say hurtful things about people they work with.  You can’t change them and they probably wouldn’t even if you tried.  Look at them as someone with a problem and try not to take their behavior personally because it most likely isn’t about you.

  10. Ask these questions- Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? These questions will help guide you on what you should say about others. If they don’t meet all three of these questions then don’t say it.
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