Steering Clear of the Office Gossip Mill

10 September 2020 Jacquelyn Parrella

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When it comes to the ‘water cooler’ talk in the office there is a fine line between day to day office chit chat and hurtful gossip. Although it is commonplace, gossip has negative connotations for most people and in a recent study it was found it accounts for approximately 65% of speaking time, furthermore 96% of subjects surveyed admitted to participating in it.

Office gossip can be one of the most challenging constraints to navigate within the workplace and with the help from this article we’ll provide simple tips and measures you as the individual can enforce to help protect yourself and your career path.

1. Be preventative and don’t participate

It’s not always possible to avoid a negative workplace influence however it is possible to make your own personal policy on office gossip clear. Make it clear that you will not speak badly of your work colleagues, you can voice this in a casual way if you were to be pulled into the conversation. Most importantly don’t pass it any further, take responsibility of closing the conversation down to avoid the spread.

2. Turn a negative into a positive

The workplace is usually a great breeding ground for these negative conversations to start, it can create a toxic work environment and overall, it’s bad for business. Learn to derail the negative conversation and turn it into a positive, by changing the course of conversation you are taking a positive step forward and setting the benchmark. Not all gossip is bad, speaking positively about colleagues can lead to increases in motivation and creates healthy habits amongst the office.

3. Addressing the participants

In most cases the act of confronting the gossiper in a direct manner is enough cause for the gossip to cease altogether. It all comes down to the approach you take, and you will come
across far more professional if you focus on the actual behaviour rather than the individual person. Address your concerns e.g
. “I am concerned about the gossiping and I want it to stop”, this conversation is to take place in a private space and handled with maturity and professionalism. Ensure you have enough time to address the issues and come to an understanding.

Becoming the person to engage in gossip is not a great reflection on your overall reputation and will harm the way you are perceived by your colleagues, there is always the added factor of this behaviour reaching those within senior positions which can harm your career. Always think twice about what you are saying and who you are saying it to, be empathic and put yourself in the shoes of who you are speaking poorly of. Is what you are projecting constructive or destructive? Are you adding fuel to the fire? Ultimately- when in doubt, be kind and professional to those around you and remember those who gossip with you will also gossip about you.