Gossip is destructive and can quickly reduce morale in the workplace, using (generally false) innuendoes, hints, references, and associations to make people or situations look bad, sometimes with devastating results.
What is Gossip?
Friendly work banter and gossip are worlds apart. But how do you tell the difference? Consider the following:
A friendly discourse can talk about others, but is restricted to general, friendly and supportive references.
Gossip tends to be talk that gains attention for the speaker. They will often adopt a confidential tone and use information about someone else to be the centre of attention, and will impart the details in a way that tries to undermine the credibility or likability of another party.
This is gossip pertaining to general change occurring within a workplace. Someone started it and now it is running about like wildfire. Usually this happens in an uncertain environment and is fuelled by fear, poor communications from management and wild guesses by staff. It is less personal than gossip attacking another person but is as equally damaging and demoralizing.
Every office seems to have a Gossip in Chief
The co-worker who always seems to have the nitty-gritty on who’s up and who’s down… But often the remarks drift into the more personal, who’s dating whom on the sly, who’s pregnant, who’s slipping out the door a little too early, and who has managed to do the least work, but somehow still got a pay rise as well as promotion.
Gossip needs to be addressed
It will grow and grow, negative feelings are toxic to any environment, so stamp it out as fast as possible. If you take action immediately, it will be kept to a minimum and stopped from turning into a corrosive problem.
The chief gossip
or sh*t stirrer is normally an attention seeker who appears to suffer from low self-esteem, one who feels on some level extremely powerless, or inadequate. Since strangling isn’t usually a sensible option, they have to be put down more humanely.
You can sometimes deal with these people by being direct and in their face. If you let them know that you are not interested in engaging in harmful conversations about other people they may leave you alone. In addition, when they are spreading the manure, make a challenge and insist that he or she qualifies the details, or source of this poisonous information.
Instigate an office discussion about how people feel about gossip or being the subject of this “destructive and non-productive” talk. The purpose of this meeting is not to “slam dunk” this person, but to let him or her know that the group as a whole is not going to participate in this vitriolic past-time.
You mustn’t take too much tittle-tattle to heart
Chitchat filled with insinuations, rumours, errors and even deliberately malicious nonsense. Take it with a pinch of salt rather than reacting personally or defensively, this will not help your situation. If you feel you have to, deal with it objectively as a task rather than as a personal attack to be foiled in an emotional or angry manner.
Is there truth to the tall tales?
Sometimes there is a kernel of accuracy and this should be uncovered before addressing the problem. Ask yourself “Am I prepared to die on this hill?” If so, make sure you are well placed to respond with facts rather than emotions.
Inform the gossipmonger that you are prepared to follow up the rumours with the targeted person. This will let the offender know that the information is going back to the victim; the perpetrator may then retract or apologize.
Don’t dish the dirt. If you participate, you perpetuate… how would you like it?