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What is the best way to handle and minimize office gossip?

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Question: “I work in a small organization and often say that I find out things about myself from co-workers before I even know them! I have stopped socializing after work hours, especially when alcohol is involved, because of the rampant gossip of co-workers. What is the best way to handle—and minimize—office gossip?”  —Not a gossip

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Trisha December 13, 2011 at 9:06 am

You need to leave… NOW, especially if you are experiencing physical symptoms as a result of unwarranted office gossip. You’ve tried clarifying with the powers that be and got no results. If they’d rather believe the gossip mill, in my humble opinion, there’s nothing that can be done to help your situation and your only recourse is to move on. I experienced a similar situation years ago when I worked in an office of 18 woman and only one man (and he wasn’t a higher up). Talk about a snake pit! Being the new kid on the block, I was the subject of vicious rumors from the get go, and all started by my own assistant! She was blatantly jealous and didn’t like working for a younger woman. I tried my best to be as friendly and cheery as possible despite the fact that everyone believed this one person’s lies. Even my boss (the head of the department for whom I worked for directly) bought into the lies. I had a very hard time dealing with that chaos and am glad I left. Everything happens for a reason, VIV. Maybe this is a sign that something better is waiting for you in the wings. Go for it! I wish you the best of luck.


Beth December 5, 2011 at 1:51 pm

This HAS happened. We addressed the “gossip details” extracted fact from fiction and in the end, I still had my integrity and my boss still had respect for me, maybe a bit more due to my ability to stand tall in the face of adversity as I quickly admitted to fault and ability to squash the fictional info with concrete fact and proof otherwise. I’m far from perfect but I’ve learned through the years that admitting to something personally negative takes a lot more courage and self reflection than it does to blame shift or excuse away the issue. I’ll endure the discomfort of making it right than having to endure a self inflicted blast at my integrity.


Kelly December 1, 2011 at 2:12 pm

“Spend so much time improving your life and the lives of those around you that you dont have time for criticism or idle gossip.” Good advice I received a long time ago and if you hold fast to it, it is amazing how quickly things will improve.


Jenny November 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm

I agree with alot of the things said here. However, what do you do when the gossip about you somehow ends up geting to your boss and your boss calls you in to discuss it like it’s fact?


Victoria November 15, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Very well said “One of the Bunch”!!!


One of the bunch November 15, 2011 at 2:47 pm

I’m the collection/follow up supervisor for a large patient transport company Gossip had been the only reason people would show up to work for a short period earlier this year. As damaging as it can be there are also positives – I had everyone here, everyday. Understanding the issue that drives these individuals can help in redirecting their energy.
Recently, I’ve been their favorite target because I’m the new kid. The company has an -0- turnover and I’m the newbie, and brought on with management status. I had to deal with wounded egos and defiant determination to maintain the non-productive routines established long ago.
Take the wind out of their sails. Conduct yourself in a manner that doesn’t offer something to discuss or poke fun at. I have found this stops them dead in their tracks, Bring attention to an error before they have a chance to do it. If you’re able to poke fun at your own mistakes then you’ve just taken the “fun” out it for them. In some cases, it will never stop but keeping to a minimum is key
Redirecting their focus has been quite positive too by making a competition for reaching projected goals. When they are focused they don’t have time to gossip and when it’s a competition for the top spot It’s “Game On”.
Productivity and revenues have increased by 41 and 64 % respectively over this time last year.
Gossip can have a positive outcome, it’s all in how it’s received and if the response in an “action” or “reaction”.
Carry on …


Lisa November 14, 2011 at 5:19 pm

I agree with Anita – I think it’s smart to occasionally attend after-hours events to help build rapport, but stay a short time. If people start getting intoxicated, I would definitely leave.

But I don’t think I agree with the strategy of “If you’re there, don’t participate. Others will get the message.” If you sit there quietly while the gossiping occurs, your silence could be seen as agreement. I’ve attended after-hours get-togethers where some of the employees began to gossip about (or even make fun of) employees where were not present. I always say (politely, not in an aggressive way) that I’m not comfortable with that type of conversation, which tends to shut it off very quickly. If it does happen to continue, you can always choose to leave. You don’t have to make a huge deal out of it, or try to shame the others for their bad behavior. Just quietly state that it makes you uncomfortable, and move on.


Nicole November 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Quitely, remove yourself from the source of irritation.


Pat November 12, 2011 at 1:41 pm

One of my favorite quotes, “What others think (or say) about you is none of your business!” I use it quite often – for myself, when I start to get discouraged about all the nonsense people are saying behind my back (and it gets back to me), and for others when the gossiping starts among them. I work in a hospital – gossip runs rampant here. I don’t believe you can stop it. It’s all about how you respond (or don’t respond) to it. I wouldn’t worry about the social events. Like the others have already said, just limit your alcohol or don’t drink at all, and excuse yourself if it looks like things are getting out of hand.


Amanda November 12, 2011 at 11:13 am

What I do, when they start saying something to be that is negative to another co-worker, is to ask, “Well, what did she say when you talked to her about it?” 90% of the time the response is, “I haven’t talked to them about it” or something similar. My immediate response is, “Then isn’t it a little rude to be talking to me about it when you haven’t given her the chance to defend herself yet?” Over time, they’ll still complain about others, but they learn not to complain to me about them.


Trisha November 11, 2011 at 3:30 pm

Re: After Hours Socializing… Join them but don’t drink. That way no one can blame you for doing or saying anything inappropriate.

I once worked in an office of 18 women and only one man. Talk about a snake pit! Being the “new kid on the block” at the time, I can totally related to what you’re going through. If you’re not doing anything to feed the gossip mill, then you don’t have anything to worry about. It sounds as though your co-workers may have a serious jealously issue.


Victoria November 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm

What a funny subject, blah, blah, blah. I lead by example. If someone wants to believe in something they hear when they see something different… that’s THEIR personal problem. And the one doing the talking (gossiping) REALLY has issues. I walk away from gossipers or point blank let them know that they are gossipping and I don’t participate. But to be quite frank, people can and will say what ever they want to say be it the truth or a lie. Learn to be comfortable and confident in your own skin. Again, your conduct will speak for itself.


Anita November 11, 2011 at 2:30 pm

It is understandable to participate in after hours social events, I find it helps build rapport with coworkers we hardly get to talk to. The work parties I have gone to can be a lot of fun but once I see people start to get intoxicated, I gracefully excuse myself and go home. I have had coworkers do things to embarrass themselves and it bothers me that people still talk about events years later. So, there is nothing wrong with hanging out for a while but you need to know when it is time to go home.


Chris W November 11, 2011 at 2:28 pm

I am an AA and often have employees come to me trying to find out what happened to another employee. I just politely tell them I cannot give that information out, how would they feel if I told someone their information? They usually get the message and leave me alone.


Admin 123 November 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm

I’m a hermit, it is possible to get along with people without painting the town red with them or disclosing too much information. After all, it’s a workplace not a social club you want to be a part of full time. I”m invited to after hour/weekend gatherings but only go occasionally to make my presence, do not drink and leave after a short time. My excuse is either got to get home to my family or something which is my own personal agenda.


Diane J-H November 11, 2011 at 2:08 pm

It sounds like an icky situation. It’s really hard to deal with this in a small organization. Luckily, they didn’t hire you to be gossipped about. :) Focus on your work—doing the best, most accurate job with the degree of professionalism you can be proud of. As for your personal life, it is up to you how much you want to share. Usually sharing nothing but the most basic of facts (my children are sick, I have an appointment that I need to keep, etc.) is just enough to get these spin meisters going. You can’t control that, but you can certainly sit back and enjoy the show. Then smile at them politely and carry on with your job. It’ll make them wonder what you’re up to now.


Pam Gould November 11, 2011 at 2:03 pm

If you are there, don’t participate. The others will get the message. If you don’t respond or express an opinion, they will drop the subject. Walking away works, too. It’s not a snobbish move, but a smart one. Your boss won’t appreciate the water cooler environment, so you don’t want to be a part of it.


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