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5 Top Tips on Dealing with Office Gossip

written by: nataliajones•edited by: Jean Scheid•updated: 8/4/2010

If you've been exposed to office gossip either directly or indirectly you know that it can be good but it is usually bad, so it's important to understand the difference and to develop techniques to avoid toxic gossip at all costs. This article offers 5 tips on how to deal with gossip in the office.

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    What is Office Gossip and Why Does It Occur?

    Office Gossip Office gossip is so common it barely needs a definition, but simply speaking it refers to the viral spread of information about a fellow co-worker that may be focused on aspects of that person's professional or even personal life. Every office seems to have one gossiper in the crowd, making it difficult to deal with gossip in the office. Gossipers usually seem to take this role very seriously and will go to extreme lengths to get the latest information on any topic that might be of interest.

    Why Does Office Gossip Occur?

    Office gossip might spring up because certain team members suffer from low self-esteem and, therefore, need to speak about others in a negative light to make themselves feel more important. Office gossip may also persist if there is no system to stem the flow of news-carrying, and if other employees allow it to go on because they feed the ego the gossiper by listening to their chatter and asking for more.

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    How to Deal With Office Gossip

    If you have had enough of office gossip at your workplace, there are a few things you can do; try these five tips for example:

    1. Stop Listening - Probably the most basic of all approaches is to stop listening to office gossip. Make it a point to stop the person in their tracks and inform them that you are not interested in their story because it sounds like the gossip variety. They are not likely to try to bend your ear in future if you take this approach.
    2. Don't Contribute - If that approach is a bit too forward for you, you might decide not to contribute. You can contribute even by asking questions to refrain from extracting any more information and simply say "interesting" or "well, isn't that something" before getting back to work.
    3. Ask the Reporter for the Relevance - Every bit of news that falls in your lap should be evaluated using some basic questions. Before you think about repeating the information ask yourself; "Is it true?" or "Is it kind?," and finally "Is it important?" If you have answered yes to all these questions you may have some information worthy of passing on, if not, it may be best to keep it to yourself.
    4. Pretend to Be Busy at Work - If you want to avoid office gossip, one crafty way to do this is to pretend to be a lot busier than you are. If the person still walks up to you, don't be afraid to let them know that you don't have time to chat at the moment because you have a lot of things to get completed before the end of the day.
    5. Managers Should Not Ignore It - If you are a manager or supervisor you should not turn a blind eye. Make sure you highlight the negative effects of office gossip such as; the time wasted on idle chat instead of productive activity and how it distracts others from their daily responsibilities. Simply speaking office gossip costs money.

    Sometimes learning to deal with gossip in the office can be ignored, but if the situation becomes incessant or if you are in a supervisory position, something may have to be actively done about it before it becomes a part of the office culture.

    Image: Tina Phillips /