So the days of the stereotypical water cooler huddle may be long gone, but that doesn’t mean the gossip that fueled them has disappeared. If anything, the majority of offices are rife with whispered kitchen conversations, instant messaging and cliquey lunches, all starting with those enticing words - ‘did you hear…?’. There is obviously nothing wrong with chatting to your workmates and even having a bit of a vent can sometimes be healthy, but you need to be cautious that it doesn’t start to become too negative, toxic, or hurtful. There is a fine line between chit-chat and playing office politics and spreading rumours.
Here’s some things you can do to cope with office gossip.
Avoid the negativity
Try not to get too friendly with the gossip instigators, especially if they often bad mouth the company or your colleagues. This type of negativity can be very hard to ignore and may end up creating opinions that you would not have formed on your own. You don’t have to be rude, but just be conscious that you want to keep the relationship with them purely professional. Maybe avoid getting suckered into a Friday night drink and b*tch session with them…
Just say no
Be brave and let people know you have no interest in hearing rumours or talking ill of your colleagues. If you can feel a conversation heading in the wrong direction, calmly inform the other person that you don’t want to talk about the subject. If that feels a bit too scary, try to smoothly change the subject. You might need to do it a couple of times, but they’ll eventually get the message.
Know who to vent to
You may have some *ahem* ‘strong opinions’ about the people you work with or the company’s policies, but try to keep those to yourself. Voice them to your partner when you get home. Let your mum know the next time she calls. Tell your best friend over a wine/beer/milkshake. Basically talk to anybody you like, except the other people you work with. You could find yourself in a very awkward situation, and you don’t want to gain a bad reputation.
As an employer, there are also some things you can do to reduce gossip in your workplace.
Communication is key
Make sure you are constantly keeping your employees informed about changes in the business. This will stop any speculation surrounding what is happening, who is leaving, who is getting the promotion, etc.
Make sure your staff know they can come to you with any issues or concerns, whether it’s regarding their role, the business or a colleague. This may stop them from talking to their co-workers about issues that could be harmful.
Take complaints seriously
Gossip can be very hurtful to the person on the receiving end. If an employee comes to you with a grievance, take it seriously and do your best to resolve it.
If you found this post useful, then check out our Mind Your Manners guide for employers and employees. It talks about other things people do at work that they really shouldn’t, from lateness to ghosting, and pulling a sickie to procrastinating. Download it now.