To a greater or lesser extent, everyone talks in an office. But there are some who are more predisposed to prying into and talking about other people’s private lives. When this is done with a malicious intent (however mild) and/or designed to undermine the likability or credibility of another person, then it is called gossip. There is a thin line between friendly chat and gossip. People who gossip are often driven by a desire to exhibit moral superiority over other people or hurt the people they don’t like.
You cannot wish away gossiping coworkers. They may be valuable to the organization or good at pleasing the boss. Therefore, you have to learn to live with them. Here are some tips on how to deal effectively with them:
- Refrain from participating in gossip: Coworkers who gossip about other people in their absence will gossip about you in your absence. They are also good at shifting the blame upon you when their extra-occupational activities land them in trouble. So refrain from participating in office gossip. If you must sit with them, then just listen without making any inputs.
- Find out the facts: When a coworker gossips about another coworker, quietly check out the facts to find out the amount of truth in it. There is usually some truth in gossip, but gossipers blow it out of proportions highlighting the negative aspects and downplaying the positive aspects. When the coworker raises the same topic next time, or another coworker mentions it, correct him/her with the facts. This is usually enough to make them shut up.
- Discourage gossiping in the office: While you cannot stop people from gossiping, you can discourage them from engaging in it in the office. One way to do that is to make them feel guilty about it. When a coworker starts gossiping about another coworker in your presence, you can either change the subject immediately or tell him/her that your conscience does not allow you judge other people without solid facts.
- Do not take it to heart: While some office gossip can be malicious and damaging, most are quite harmless and only designed to prove the moral superior of the gossiper. Therefore, it does not serve your and the organization’s interest to react to it. As long as the gossip is harmless, take it lightly and forget it – even if you are the subject of gossip. In fact, you can make a joke out it. Self-deprecating humor is usually helpful in winning the goodwill and sympathy of coworkers.
- Confront the gossiper directly: With gossipers around, sooner or later you will become the subject of gossip. If you believe that they are engaged in willful character assassination designed to destroy your credibility and career, then you mustn’t put up with them silently. Confront them directly in the presence of other coworkers and put the record straight by presenting the facts.