How to Manage Gossip in the Workplace

by Marsha Petrie Sue

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You already know that gossip is idle talk, buzz, or chitchat, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. This chat forms one of the oldest and most common means of sharing usually unproven information, and is known to introduce errors and inaccuracies in otherwise factual information. The term also carries insinuation that the news transmitted has a personal focus, as opposed to normal conversation. The question is how do you manage gossip?

Gossiping in the workplace can either prevent you from being considered for an otherwise deserved promotion or it can get you terminated from your job. As a leader or an employee, remember the way you conduct yourself professionally is an important reflection of your work ethic.

Guide to Managing Gossip:

  • Excuse yourself when the conversation turns to gossip
  • Stick to business topics or current events
  • Don’t discuss personal issues like finance or health
  • Call the behavior by asking the person gossiping to include the person being discussed
  • Express employer loyalty
  • When possible, separate ‘work friends’ and ‘personal friends’
  • Stay friendly while sticking to business

The best tactic to managing gossip with regard to your success is to avoid discussions with co-workers that might be construed as critical to others, or that put down the company.

When you share negative or positive traits about other people, your listener will attribute those same traits to you. Here’s how workplace gossip backfires and exacerbates office politics.

The American Psychological Association published a study about the “boomerang effect of gossip.” It turns out when you say something – for instance, “He’s a selfish, mean jerk” or “Her husband is cheating on her because she’s an icicle in bed” – your listener often attributes those qualities to you.

Researchers call this “spontaneous trait transference.” When you’re indulging in workplace gossip, your words could be interpreted as a description of your own personality and actions. Is that what you want? Learn and practice skills that help you control the gossip in your environment. This may or may not end gossip for the entire company but as an employee or leader, you have worked on controlling it.

Marsha Petrie Sue, MBA
Professional Speaker, Executive Coach, Author

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One Comment

  1. Kathleen Staples says:

    I enjoy all of your work. I will soon be retiring and will still read your site.

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