How to overcome workplace gossip

How to overcome workplace gossip

A day at work wouldn’t be complete without workplace gossip. From the mysterious secret life of the new boss to supposed changes to company policies, there’s nothing like the latest scoop.

While some view workplace gossip as healthy, the majority see the act as an enemy to productivity. After all, what good is it to pass on the latest rumor when thousands of documents need filing? Still, even with a full day’s work ahead and numerous threats of discipline, employees make time for the latest scandal. So what should we do?

Surprisingly enough, the answer to workplace scuttlebutting is not simply ignoring the practice. You will spend many lunch breaks eating alone in the car and will still be unable to escape the power of good hearsay. Instead, you should consider gossip as a part of job culture and use the following steps to overcome the controversial practice.

  1. Understand the meaning of gossip

    How can you identify something without fully understanding all that it encapsulates? Contrary to popular thinking, gossip is not just the latest rumor about who Molly slept with over the weekend. The act also includes false information about company changes as well as public humiliation.

    You are essentially guilty of the gossip if you do the following:

    • Entertain rumors
    • Pass along false information
    • Belittle, ridicule, or humiliate a coworker in a public manner
    • Share confidential information about another employee regardless of whether or not such leak was intentional
    • Fail to stop gossip in the workplace

    From this explanation, it seems that no one is completely innocent of spreading hearsay at work. That’s why it’s important to understand the true meaning of gossip and refrain from becoming high-minded when someone presents the latest scandal to you.

  2. Seek to understand the gossiper

    Negative energy doesn’t just create itself. There is always a reason behind someone sharing information that disrupts harmony in the workplace. Perhaps the person telling you about the new boss’ incompetence was passed up for the position. While it may be true that the new supervisor has made rookie mistakes, the gossiping employee telling you these things speaks from a place of bitterness. You should refrain from engaging in the conversation, even if it is slightly true, as such contribution places you in jeopardy of being labeled as a salty worker as well. Seeking to understand where gossipers are coming from instead of immediately engaging or ignoring their comments allows you to remain neutral.

  3. Weigh your options

    While it is true that you have the option of walking away from gossip at work, you also may change the atmosphere by saying something positive about the accused. A simple compliment about the victim’s work ethic could make the conversation turn for the better.

    Attempting to change the conversation’s climate instead of simply walking away is always the better option since dismissing yourself from the hearsay only saves you from learning the details surrounding the scandal. The gossiper is still influencing other coworkers who will, in turn, share the news with you in due time. Changing the subject with positive comments closes the conversation and potentially prevents the rumor from spreading further.

  4. Don’t allow yourself to be the subject of gossip

    Social media often blurs the line between coworkers and friends, which is why we feel more comfortable with sharing personal information in the workplace. You should, however, remain focused on the fact that you have been hired by the company to complete a job. Camaraderie outside of work is an option and not an obligation. You should give coworkers enough information about you to maintain harmony in the workplace. You should not tell them your life story unless you want to hear about it in the breakroom one day.

  5. Confront the gossiper

    Sometimes subtly changing the subject doesn’t work and walking away only motivates the gossiper to follow you around with the latest hearsay on their lips. It is in these instances that you must conquer your fears and confront the accuser directly. You don’t have to be cruel with your words but you will need to be firm. Convey your message in a way that tells the gossiper that his actions aren’t tolerable and that you are not afraid to report rumors or gossip if necessary.

  6. Report with caution

    Technically speaking, gossip is harassment. Most corporations have zero tolerance for such activity, which means that individuals spreading scandals place themselves at risk of termination. You should take note, however, that not all hearsay is worth reporting. A person who passively mentions policy changes heard through the grapevine should not be viewed as one guilty of intimidation. An employee who consistently discredits another worker’s character is a bully and should be reported. Make sure that you have all of your facts in order before presenting your case of harassment to management. Documenting the dates and times of offenses is the easiest way to accurately make your claim.

While the verdict on whether or not workplace gossip is productive is still out, there is no denying that scandals are unavoidable. The key to harmony on the job is not found in trying to ignore hearsay, but rather in facing negativity head-on and bringing about more harmonious results.


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