Office Gossip? You Have Better Things to Do

By Robert Half March 7, 2018 at 8:00am

It happens to all of us from time to time: You’re minding your own business, and then suddenly, you're swept up in a wave of office gossip.

Maybe you have a particular colleague who’s the office busybody, or you're surrounded by whispering colleagues. The chatter could focus on organizational changes or a coworker's weekend exploits.

Whatever the case, office gossip can cause problems, reduce morale and lead to serious conflict. Follow these five tips to remove yourself from the gossip-go-round.

1. Excuse yourself and walk away

When the office gossip heads in your direction, the simplest solution is to get out of Dodge. Excuse yourself by citing pressing work obligations. The same goes for when the office snoop corners you. You’re at work, after all, so just say, “I really have to get back to my desk.” No one can object to that reasoning.

2. Don’t engage with office gossip

Abstain when you can’t walk away. You may be in a meeting or at lunch with colleagues when a juicy bit of melodrama arises. But just because you’re present, doesn’t mean you must participate. The simple act of not responding lets your coworkers know that you’re not interested in contributing to hearsay. If pressed, you can always say you don’t have an opinion.

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3. Change the subject

Office gossip may seem appealing, but furthering it can be incredibly hurtful. Keep the tone of your office upbeat by changing the subject when you hear negative remarks.

There is such a thing as positive gossip, so steer the conversation toward a happier topic, such as the birth of a coworker’s baby or how well a team member did on a recent project. If all else fails, you can always mention a funny video you saw online.

4. Offer to resolve the problem

It would be nice if it never happened, but sometimes the whispers relate to you in some way. If someone in your office has a beef with you and makes it known to everyone except you, approach the coworker and try to resolve the issue. Let it be known you’re aware of what’s been said and would like to find a solution. With any luck, you’ll flex your communication skills and put a stop to the rumors.

5. Take it to the top

When office gossip turns particularly vicious or focuses on damaging rumors of layoffs, as an example, it may be best to take it to a manager. Don’t worry. You can do so without looking like the office tattletale. Inform your boss of the information but don’t point fingers. Try this: “I thought you might want to know that people are saying X.” Management will then have an opportunity to address the problem, dispel idle talk and reassure a worried workforce.

Gossip around the office doesn't have to be a cause for alarm. The next time you see the Rumor Express galloping in your direction, follow the above strategies to sidestep trouble.

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