Avoiding Gossip in the Workplace

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Workplace gossip can be damaging both to employees and the organization in general. Challenging gossip is an area where individuals can accomplish a great deal on their own. Gossips thrive on employees being willing to listen to the gossip. Cut off the listening and participation, and the gossip diminishes. Above all, keep the following in mind. When gossip is tolerated in the workplace, eventually, everyone will be the subject of gossip. Perhaps this week it is a co-worker or supervisor, but sooner or later, it is likely that the focus will be on you. When employees actively try to cut down the gossip, the results can be surprisingly positive. 

Techniques for Preventing Workplace Gossip 

  • Evaluate the information you share with co-workers. There are some things that are better left unsaid. You may think what you are sharing is harmless to you and others, while someone else may see it as the latest scoop and start spreading it around. Consider how your information may get twisted and changed as it gets passed along. 
  • Limit your association with the office gossips. By not being associated with those who get a thrill from spreading gossip, you will have less chance of being included as the original source of the gossip. You can indicate you do not want to be involved with gossip, and that you will remove yourself from situations where gossip occurs. For example, you might say: “I’m not comfortable with this conversation. I’d rather not hear who’s doing what to whom, since we don’t know the facts. So, if you want to talk about this, I think I’ll just move on and do something else.” 
  • Let the gossip end with you. When you are given a tid-bit of gossip, do not pass it on. Walk away from situations where gossip is being formulated. Not giving power to the source of gossip will help extinguish the spread of information that may have little or no truth to it. When you choose not to gossip or participate in gossip sessions, you send a clear message to others that you do not want to be part of spreading information that might be false or hurtful about another person. 
  • Confront the persons who are gossiping. Ask them why they believe the information should be spread around and what personal gain they will derive from it. Let the gossiper know you are not comfortable discussing the information they are using to fuel the gossip. You might tell the person who is gossiping that maybe you both should go and ask the person the gossip is about to clarify the information. This is a sure way to stop gossip in its tracks, because most gossipers tend to cower away at the thought of talking with the person the gossip is about. 
  • When the gossip is about you, directly confront the sources of the gossip by letting them know you have heard what they have been saying. Let them know that you do not appreciate them discussing anything about you behind your back and that you would appreciate it if they would be mature enough to come to you directly with questions or comments they may have about you.