How to Handle Workplace Gossip

2017-02-27 by Samantha

Maybe it’s inevitable that coworkers talk about one another while on the job. But as common as workplace gossip may be, it’s potentially harmful, creating an atmosphere of suspicion and negativity. Since everyone has to work together, it’s best to stay out of the way of gossip and focus on developing positive relationships with colleagues. If you encounter an uncomfortable situation, follow these tips to escape and, in the process, keep your nose clean of drama.

Talk a Long Walk
If you’re lucky enough to work in a large office or other location where you can see notorious gossipers from far away, walk the long way around to avoid them. You won’t have to worry about engaging in negative tales about others, and you won’t be guilty by association if someone happens to spot you chatting. You can even sketch out a emergency plan map of escape routes so you know exactly where to skirt off to when you sense a bad encounter coming.

Play the Counselor
Sometimes gossip happens in a place you can’t avoid: at a nearby cubicle or in your own workstation. If someone insists upon bringing you gossip, quizzically ask them why they are telling you that particular piece of information. Or, if you’d rather be less direct, simply change the subject to something a bit more palatable. If you’re told the boss plans to fire everyone before the holidays, ask the gossiper if they still need people to volunteer for the decorating committee for the staff party.

Fake an Illness
All workplaces have one thing in common: There’s privacy in the restroom. If you get trapped in a conversation where putting others down or spreading rumors is the overall theme, get a sudden feeling of nausea or pretend you’ve taken ill. You can dart out for a glass of water or even to a restroom stall to get some quiet time. By the time you reemerge, the conversation will probably be over and you can just say it was a false alarm — you just ate an ice cream cone too fast.

Give the Benefit of the Doubt
Remember some people engage in gossip because they think it’s the way to make friends. Often, they don’t know how harmful their words can be, and they aren’t aware that the person they are talking to may not share their opinions. Try to find common ground with a gossiper by appealing to a shared interest. Look for clues about what movies they might like or their favorite day off activities.

Be a Good Confidant
One of the best ways to fight office gossip is to follow the opposite inclination: Keep others’ secrets and develop a reputation as someone who is trustworthy. You will probably find that the less people believe you want to know gossip, the less they will try to saddle you with it, and you will be able to develop your own group of office friends who will let you do your job and do it well.

When someone expresses negativity to you, respond with kindness. If you hear a certain employee is always coming in late, ask the gossiper if maybe something’s wrong and they can offer help. By offering a positive example, you elevate the conversation in a way that helps you, the person gossiping and the subject of those negative tales that you want no part in spreading.


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