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What Should I Know about Workplace Gossip?

Workplace gossip is one of the main reasons that people can be unhappy with their jobs.
It is best to politely confront a co worker if you hear them gossiping about you.
Workplace gossip that is presented as fact and hurts someone's reputation can be considered defamation of character.
At any workplace, it's essential that all employees feel that grievances will be heard fairly and without fear of retribution.
Workplace gossip may occur outside of the office.
Staying away from coworkers who gossip can be a good career move.
Workplace gossip may occur through text messages.
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  • Last Modified Date: 16 October 2014
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Workplace gossip is one of the biggest causes of people being unhappy with their jobs. It can destroy reputations, cause people to be disrespected, and result in workplace conflicts. Gossip doesn't have to be the reason for changing jobs, however, if you know how to handle it.

Avoiding gossip at work is the best way to save your own reputation. Getting involved with coworkers who talk about each other can lead to you being known as a troublemaker as well. This can adversely affect your promotions, coworker evaluations, and end-of-year reviews or bonuses. When you hear coworkers start gossiping, casually walk away. It may be tempting to hear what they have to say, but chances are, it is only half true (at most) anyway.

If you notice that it is the same coworker gossiping all the time, you might want to say something to them. Tell them in a very polite manner that you notice they seem to have a lot to say about people. Inform them of the possibility of facing a slander lawsuit if they make someone angry. Don't belittle them or be rude. Chances are, they will be embarrassed enough at being caught in the act.

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When you hear someone gossiping about you, talk to them about it. Politely tell them that you heard what they said and you don't appreciate it. Tell them they are free to come to you if they are curious about what it going on in your life. Refrain from yelling or getting angry, as people don't always gossip to be mean. They may just be bored.

When workplace gossip gets to the point that it is damaging your career, or makes going to work miserable, it may be time to talk to upper management. Ask your manager if you can have a private meeting with him. Explain to him what is going on, without appearing whiny. Inform him of the actions you have taken to fix the situation. Listen to what he has to say and come up with a solution to the problem.

Gossiping at work is rude and immature. It can destroy other people's lives and careers. People who are being regularly gossiped about often find it difficult to face coming to work, and it can carry over in to their personal lives and can affect their relationships with loved ones. If someone you know is being gossiped about, talk to them about how to handle it, as no one should have to deal with that on a daily basis.

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anon934080
Post 23

Any form of gossip is in poor taste, and those who are engaged in such a conversation fully understand the repulsive tone that is attached to it. With that being said, stay the course with your career and don't let head games overturn your dreams and goals.

I had fallen victim to office gossip on several occasions, and if there's one thing to highlight, it's if you try to unmask the motives behind it you'll make yourself miserable in the process.

anon306358
Post 22

Most companies fail to realize the effects of out of control office gossip until the bottom line starts falling, as in my case.

My entire department may get the ax soon. We have a boss who "encourages" and in some cases, "rewards" dirt-digging informants, who, through gossip and innuendo, seek to destroy the reputations of good employees in order to get them to quit. If you're not in his group, you're the enemy and he wants you gone.

In the past three years, 22 good, hard-working, highly- skilled, dependable employees have been driven out of their jobs in my department. With every good employee who leaves, our job performance scores have dwindled. Coincidence? But this hasn't mattered to my boss until now. New owners have come in, and in a department where members of his group spend the majority of their workday gossiping or socializing, the new owners have decided to clean house.

I had always considered myself lucky, since I work alone. The only time I have during the workday with his group is when I clock in and out, and I force myself to ignore their taunts and not pay any attention to the latest "news".

It bothers me that while I've purposely stayed away from the gossip. in the end, I'll be paying the price for the bad example set by my boss, who, if he were more competent, would have valued employees like me, who do their job and take pride in what they do, instead of surrounding himself with toadies, who destroy morale, since doing their job is of little importance.

anon292181
Post 21

I tried avoiding and defusing workplace gossip, but ended up being fired for "not fitting in". Gossiping is beneath me and I'm sorry, but I don't think it's very productive to badmouth clients, coworkers or their spouses, or former employees (I would love to be a fly on the wall when these animals get caught).

I was the bigger person and ignored it and tried to talk about more work neutral topics (such as the task at hand because I'm being paid to work, not be a slacker loser). I also didn't laugh at the inappropriate racist/sexist/homophobic jokes my boss made and that made him not like me. Sorry, but I was raised not to be a bigot.

The boss' wife used to talk badly about the employees' spouses too and my jaw would just drop. It was very disturbing. Gossiping can hurt your career. As a result, I have not been able to find work in my area and have been labeled as being "antisocial" because I want to act my age, not my shoe size and work hard--because after all, that's what I'm being paid to do. Am I right? Out of curiosity, have any of you been fired for being the bigger person, taking the moral high road, and actually working at work instead of acting like a middle schooler? I almost feel like I've been martyred! I'm curious.

kylee07drg
Post 20

Short of getting on the intercom and broadcasting it, what is a good way to let everyone in your office know that certain gossip about you is untrue? I have been so tempted just to press that intercom button and tell the whole building, but I know that could get me in trouble.

There is a rumor circulating that I am secretly dating my supervisor. This is untrue. We have a lot in common, and we do joke around at work a lot, but we have only a friendly, professional relationship.

I hate for people to assume that we are dating, because then, they may think that any promotion or advantage that comes my way is unearned. How should I go about spreading the reverse of the rumor?

Oceana
Post 19

@cloudel - Your plan sounds wonderful. I wish I would have had the strength to do something like that, but instead, I quit my job and started working from home, where I was safe from gossip.

My coworkers were saying that I had inappropriate relations with the boss, and that was how I got my raise. I was devastated when I overheard this in the bathroom one day.

I couldn’t believe they thought that of me. I had never given the impression that I was promiscuous in any way, and this stunned me.

I could no longer face people who thought I had done that. I hated to leave my new raise behind, but the gossip was just too humiliating.

cloudel
Post 18

Office gossip can be an unintentional bully if you let it. Just having the knowledge that others are saying unkind words about you behind your back can push you out the door and into another job, unless you have the determination to stay.

When I heard that people were saying harsh things about me, I began to feel betrayed and brokenhearted. I couldn’t trust anyone there anymore. As badly as I wanted their friendship, I knew it was a farce.

I considered leaving, but after a week or so, I got fresh determination. I decided not to let the gossip control my life.

I started going out of my way to help everyone there. I made sure to be so nice to them that any one of them would feel terrible if they uttered a negative word about me.

My plan worked. Before long, I was overhearing only good things directed at me. I had beaten the gossip bully with kindness.

orangey03
Post 17

The main gossiper at my office gets very excited whenever she has a bit of news to share. Her eyes grow wide, and she has a big smile plastered on her face as she approaches my desk.

Sometimes, when she gets that look, the information is too sensitive to be whispered about near my cubicle. She will motion me into her office, where I sit and listen as she whispers gossip about the higher-ups and what could be about to happen in our office.

She was a valuable source of information during the time of layoffs and salary adjustments. I never would have known many important things, had she not told me.

When her gossip is about office relationships or people’s personal lives, I don’t care to hear it. However, when it involves what is about to happen to me or the rearranging of our department, I am very interested.

tolleranza
Post 16

I think it is a little overconfident to think that people are going to ever do away with gossip all together. But it can and should be reduced to a minimum though.

I think if more people spent more time working and spending quality time with their family and friends, they wouldn't even have much time left to gossip.

I can see why someone would and should get in trouble or fired for excessive gossip at work.

Number one, it means that they aren't working to their full potential. The gossipers' bosses should rightfully give them more work to do or send them home, as it is not productive for anyone to gossip. Number two, it can poorly effect other worker’s performances on the job as well. Not only would it effect the person being gossiped about, but also the people listening to the gossip as well.

What people do on their breaks, of course, are their own business, within reason. But we all know people that do not stop their gossip once their break time is over. Those gossipers' should be let go, as it is a waste of people's money to pay someone just to primarily gossip.

The only work place where I see it would be fitting and productive to gossip is if you worked for a gossip magazine or television show, or something of that nature.

Tomislav
Post 15

I don't think it is a usually a good idea to tell people they are being talked about, because in high school and college I used to do that, and all it would ever do is upset the person being talked about; nothing was ever solved or worked out.

I think it is right to tell another person what someone has said about them, when it is something that could truly harm a person and that is totally unprofessional and out of line.

For instance, at a previous job a coworker said she wanted to harm another co-worker physically.

I think it is one thing to call someone a name, but when someone says they want to harm someone, it is time that something is done about it. Talking about physically/mentally/emotionally harming someone on purpose is very unprofessional and downright wrong.

We took the news to the boss and she ended up getting fired, which really was a huge relief to most people.

Of course I got crap from some of my co-workers for "tattling" on a co-worker, but I did not care much, as to me I felt and still feel like it was the right thing to do.

I thought after that incident that some of my co-workers would stop gossiping as much, at least around me, but it seems some people truly have nothing better to talk about than other people. Some people truly are happy by others' pain and misfortune, which is so very sad.

amysamp
Post 14

I had a job for three years that consisted primarily of working with mostly unhappy/discontent women, so there was quite a bit of gossip going around. I rarely took place in the gossip, as I do not find any joy in talking about others, especially in a hurtful way.

I mostly would just not saying anything, as I could not avoid some of them, as I worked at a job where you normally had to work with one another most of the day. I would either just tune them completely out, or be horrified by what they were saying.

The funny thing about some people who seem to love to gossip about others, is that they are usually the first people talking about the importance of being up front and honest with one another.

Gossiping, in my opinion, is so over-rated. Obsessing about anyone's life, either positively or negatively is unhealthy. People should have their own life and stop feeling alive by talking about others, as this is no life at all.

For most people who gossip negatively on a regular basis, it usually tends to be that they are very self-conscious and feel empty inside.

Most people that have self-confidence and feel whole and full of love on the inside want nothing more than to have others feel the same way as them by sharing and spreading the love.

People who constantly gossip about others, especially in a derogatory sense, need to seek professional help immediately.

julies
Post 13

I think everybody likes to participate in a little bit of gossip from time to time. I don't see any way you can totally avoid it in a workplace situation.

I used to have a boss that I got along with really well. Every Monday morning she would call me back to her office to catch up on the weekend gossip - as she would call it.

Most of our gossip was about our friends, families and weekend plans, but it also led to workplace gossip sometimes too.

We knew that any information that was shared would stay between the two of us, and never had any trouble with either of us breaking any confidences.

Sometimes I think there is a fine line between workplace gossip and discussing what is going on with people at work. As long as it is not mean, malicious and meaning to harm is it considered gossip or information?

myharley
Post 12

For several years my work station was right next to the lady we all called 'the workplace gossiper'.

I was even afraid to take personal phone calls because I felt like she was listening to every word that was said. Because she would only get one end of the conversation, who knew what she would make up when gossiping with others.

This was especially difficult when I was going through a divorce. I usually don't like to get personal calls at work, but sometimes it can't be avoided.

I have learned to be very selective about any kind of information I share with her. Gossiping about other people is bad enough, but when they also twist the story or exaggerate the details to make it sound better is when I really get aggravated.

gravois
Post 11

You know when a lot of people hear about workplace gossip they think it is about scandalous stuff involving office romances or who is a drunk or what kind of pasts people have. But more often then not the most common and destructive kind of gossip has to do with the company itself.

Rumors about layoffs or salary cuts or changes in the corporate structure can spread through an office like wildfire and often lead to lots of problems. Peoples true feeling get show when they are worried about losing their jobs or having their work unrecognized.

The best way to handle this is to have an open and honest workplace. Make as much information as you can known to all. Try not to keep everything behind closed doors and executive communications. This work our better for everyone.

Moldova
Post 10

@Mutsy- The problem with gossip also involves the fact that many people jump to conclusions and start treating people differently and say things that they later regret.

When I worked in a small office everyone thought that one of the women in my office was having an affair with the boss. This was based on the fact that the boss was a flirt and the woman in my office was attractive.

People in the office were saying all kinds of things about this poor girl and really excluded her at lunch because they assumed that they were right and did not want to associate with her. It turned out that the woman in the office had nothing but a professional relationship with her boss and excelled because of her work ethic.

She was later promoted and when my boss retired she took over the office and was a really good manager. Good thing that I didn’t talk badly about her because I firmly believe in the law of karma.

mutsy
Post 9

I think that engaging in workplace gossip is dangerous because the information that you relay can be used against you at a later date when you least expect.

It can be hard when someone starts to gossip in front of you in the office. On the one hand you want to feel accepted and feel like you are part of the team, but if you partake in the gossip people know that they cannot trust you.

My mother always used to say that it is best just to tell the person directly when they begin gossiping that you really feel uncomfortable with the subject matter and feel that it is best to talk about the person when the person is present.

Some people might get turned off by your candor, but others will welcome your ability to be fair and will trust you more in the future.

indemnifyme
Post 8

I actually don't see the harm in a little bit of workplace gossip. As long as you don't get too excessive with it and you don't let it affect your work, what's the harm?

Also, I don't think you could be sued for slander for workplace gossip under most circumstances. The only way you could be sued for slander is if someone else overhears what you're saying and it results in actual harm to the person you're talking about. So if you just state your opinion about one coworker to another, or share a piece of gossip with one other person, you wouldn't be setting yourself up to be sued.

sunnySkys
Post 7

@ceilingcat - You raise a good point-avoidance is best. However, most people don't have that kind of willpower! Workplace gossip hits much closer to home than celebrity news and gossip. After all, you can't call a celebrity and let them know what people said about them. But it can be hard to resist telling an office mate that a supposed friend was trashing them over lunch!

I have to say though, I think workplace gossip is often a symptom of unhappiness. When I've been in work situations where everyone was productive and well paid, there was very minimal workplace gossip. However, in my last office situation everyone working there was very unhappy and gossip ran wild! I'm not proud, but I participated too.

ceilingcat
Post 6

Workplace gossip is a tricky subject. We all know it's bad, but gossip is a pretty integral part of our society! There are gossip magazines all over the place, various forms of online gossip, and gossiping over social media website. It's very hard to avoid.

That being said, I've found that avoiding workplace gossip is the best policy. And by avoid, I mean totally avoid. I think confronting gossiping coworkers is a really bad idea, especially if they were talking about you. By confronting them, you're becoming a participant in the whole dramatic thing and giving them more things to gossip about.

I would also never dream of telling someone they were being talked about. It's almost like middle school. "You'll never believe what so-and-so said about you!" If the person didn't know they were being talked about, there's no reason to make them feel bad by telling them!

Mae82
Post 5

@manykitties2 - I used to have problems with being forced to listen to gossip in the workplace during all of our breaks and lunchtime, until I finally decided enough was enough. I felt bad for the individual who was talked about most, and while I like gossiping about celebrity lives on occasion, I feel that those we know personally should be off limits. I will stick to my celebrity online gossip now if I want a fix.

What I did was start taking my lunch out of the office and being busy on breaks if the conversations started to go where I wasn't feeling comfortable. I don't know if my coworkers ever figured out why I stopped the casual chats, but they keep talks strictly business now.

manykitties2
Post 4

There is nothing worse than having to sit through listening to the latest gossip at work. I really don't have any interest in my coworkers personal lives, especially when they are being catty. I am not sure how to duck out though without seeming odd or judgmental. I suppose I understand the desire for some people to spice things up at work by having something scandalous to talk about, but it is really making me uncomfortable.

Can anyone give me some suggestions on how to avoid workplace gossip when people insist on pulling me into the conversation? I don't want to come across as rude, but it just isn't like talking TV gossip. There are real people.

burcidi
Post 3

I agree that there are different kinds of workplace gossip, some of it is just silly talk among bored employees and others are workplace slander that aims to damage someone's character and reputation in an office. It all depends on who does it and what the aim is.

I tend to keep out of any gossip or politics and I think that this is the best way to deal with it. I also think that the organization's management can take actions that prevent gossip in the workplace. The last firm I used to work at had a no-gossip policy. Anyone caught in the act could be fired. It definitely worked, I rarely saw anyone gossiping there.

serenesurface
Post 2

I think that workplace gossip is a tricky issue because as undesirable as it might be, it has a big role in office politics which has an impact on everyone's career.

We cannot deny that people who do well and advance in their careers know how to play the game and are generally very involved in office politics. Of course, it's a risk to take because like the article mentioned, gossip can also be detrimental to careers. Especially upper management and people around CEOs tend to choose sides in an office environment and some gossip inevitably takes place.

It's absolutely fine for people not to want to take part in all this, but it also means that you're probably not going to get very far in that organization.

So, what should someone do in such an environment? Gossip and be active in office politics or not?

bear78
Post 1

I used to work at the front desk of my University office for a while when I was a student. There were several folks in the office, mainly office managers and administrative personnel that would go out for lunch every Friday. Along with lunch was the weekly gossip session about what is going on with Professors and Higher Management.

I was invited to lunch with them twice and I did attend because I didn't feel that what they were talking about was damaging to anyone or anyone's career. It was nothing personal anyway. They mainly talked about the problems the University management experienced between themselves and the Professors and what they disagreed about.

I just had my lunch and listened without saying anything when I went. I never saw those employees gossiping in the office, being disrespectful to their superiors or breaking workplace ettiquette rules, so I took this whole event lightly. I even thought it was a little funny because it seemed like Friday lunch was their time to vent and release the stress they experience at work.

I'm sure all workplace gossip isn't as harmless or innocent as this. But I do feel that people in stressful jobs tend to do this to relax a little bit. I don't think we need to worry about every incident of gossip in the workplace.

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