How to Handle Office Gossip: Dos and Don'ts

In many workplaces, a behavior often referred to as office gossip seems to be the norm when employees get together at the water cooler or have idle time on their hands. Office gossip, considered harmless by most companies, can be detrimental to the performance and emotional well-being of employees who are targeted by this subtle form of harassment. If you are dealing with office gossip at your workplace, here are some do’s and don’ts on how to handle office gossip.

Do Address Excessive Office Gossip with Your Manager

If you are continually hearing detrimental things coming from co-workers, it’s up to you to speak up and talk confidentially with your manager about how distracting office gossip is to you. Convey that while you understand office gossip takes place, having to continually hear about it every day is starting to take away from your ability to focus on the more important aspects of your job. If you are subject to being the target of office gossip, seek additional guidance from your company human resource department who can address this form of workplace bulling with your manager.

Don’t Try to Change the Corporate Culture

At your workplace there is a defined corporate culture which may actually encourage employees to spend time talking about clients or each other in an attempt to foster competition or team efforts. When this is the case, don’t try to change the status quo by going against the grain. Instead, become more of an observer and less of a participant in the company grape vine. You’ll stay out of trouble and no one will make you the scapegoat when it comes to corporate gossip.

Do Learn to Remain Neutral

Sure you may be hearing a lot about the way certain employees act, what they do at the office and on their personal time, but you don’t have to get involved in the office gossip that goes on at work daily. Instead, learn to listen more and remain neutral if anyone asks your opinion. Just smile and walk away whenever you can to discourage office gossip in a non-verbal way. Fairly soon, co-workers will get the idea that you have better things to do than participate in this unproductive behavior.

Don’t Confront the Office Gossip

One method that people try when dealing with office gossip is to direct the offender in a confrontational manner. This can backfire and ends up exacerbating the problem. When you are dealing with office gossip, remain calm and don’t let it get under your skin. Remember that the source of the gossip is probably a very lonely person who doesn’t take their job seriously. You are the professional so you have an image to protect at work. Rise above and concentrate on your job, not what others say about you.

Do Bring Up the Subject of Gossip

If you are dealing with gossip that is getting out of control or is making you feel uncomfortable at work, then it’s time to speak up. At the very least, bring up the topic of gossip in a non-threatening way at the next staff meeting and ask others what they think about it. Get an open dialogue going and give others a chance to think about office gossip and what should be done about it so that gossip doesn’t create a hostile work environment for colleagues.