How to deal with workplace gossip

Workplace gossip may seem fun and harmless but it’s anything but.

If we’re being completely honest, we’ve all done it but some people have seemingly mastered the art. Gossiping may be fun but if it’s spreading cruel or contrived information to hurt someone or ruin their reputation then you have to distance yourself from it and the gossiper.

One main reason to shut down gossip is what my mother always said: ‘he who speaks with you will eventually speak about you’ and this is so true because  a chronic gossiper cannot help themselves as spreading rumours and stories keep them engaged and the center of attention, if only for a time. They thrive on the attention and need to feel important so when there is no legit gossip, they may even totally fabricate it in order to still feel relevant.

It’s easy to shut your door when you see that nosy or gossipy neighbour approach your gate but it is a little trickier when it happens at the office. When people gather in the lunch room to chitchat and it quickly becomes uncomfortable as conversation move from how you spent your weekend to someone’s relationship in the office, you know it’s gossip because it is meant to embarrass the person.

Gossiping about co-workers can make the work environment toxic and difficult to be productive in.

So what do you do when it starts? Walk away. It is not your monkey or your circus and you do not need to add, subtract or divide a thing in that inflammatory conversation. When the ‘mix-up’ starts, ensure that your name cannot be called as you were not even a willing participant. If you are the subject of conversation and it is especially egregious to you, make a report to human resources. A person does not have the right to make you uncomfortable in your work environment and that is what gossip does. It conquers, divides and decreases workplace morale as individuals are not cohesive and do not want to work with those involved.

If you are a floor manager, call a staff meeting and address the problem and then issue a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for gossiping. Demonstrate how it affects the company and why it will no longer be tolerated. Have a sit down with the gossiper and make it clear that they are on thin ice going forward. Then speak to the person being gossiped about and inform them that in the future, they need to keep their private business private and not be so eager to share every detail of their life with people they work with. Just like with accessories: less is better.