Sadly, office gossip is difficult to avoid. And while gossip about the latest buzz-worthy movies and their stars can foster camaraderie, spiteful talk can cause deep personal pain, as well as lead to conflict, turnover and lawsuits. Even if rumors prove false, the person hurt most is the one being gossiped about.
That said, gossip isn’t going away any time soon. Here are ways to minimize its damaging effects, which can include backbiting and a stressed-out workforce.
Don’t be a gossip. When co-workers and bosses realize you won’t spill their secrets or betray confidential company information, they will naturally trust you. You might even be given more responsibility on the basis of your integrity.
Distance yourself from gossips. When someone starts gossiping with you, walk away or change the subject. Even more effective—tell the person you’re uncomfortable discussing this particular topic or person. Explain that you’re not the kind of individual who talks about others behind their backs, and they shouldn’t be, either.
If you’re the person being gossiped about, confront the gossiper. Make it clear the gossip must stop. Summarize what you’ve heard and ask the person to come to you with questions, rather than running to colleagues. (Ask anyone you hear gossiping about you to stop as well.)
Of course, if you keep your personal life to yourself, you’re less likely to be gossiped about. So limit what you reveal on social media and don’t tell your secrets while having lunch or dinner and drinks with colleagues.
Speak with your manager. Ask that he or she create a no-gossip policy, to be announced at a meeting or via memo. Request that they be transparent about downsizing, staff changes, mergers and other hot-button issues…and quash rumors with alacrity.
Finally, if you have a piece of information about a co-worker or the organization you can’t wait to share, ask yourself: Why do you want to share it? If it’s to make yourself seem more important, i.e., to feed your ego, don’t do it.
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