Q: I have a coworker who loves to gossip. While I’m not above engaging in it from time to time, what’s the best way to get this person to leave me out of the latest office chatter?
A: Some people gossip because they feel insecure at work. Some do it to draw attention to themselves, and still others just plain love to talk about people. It is just a fact of life that gossip exists in the workplace, but I admire you for wanting to stay out if it.
That may not be possible, depending on how pervasive gossip is in your workplace—especially if you manage a team. Here are some things you can do to keep your involvement to a minimum:
During times of rapid change and uncertainty, gossip will naturally increase due to fear and anticipated negative outcomes. This is a time to over-communicate.
If the subject of the gossip is workplace change, that’s a different story. During times of rapid change and uncertainty, gossip will naturally increase due to fear and anticipated negative outcomes.
This is a time to over-communicate. Acknowledge the fears and share facts as they become available. Be honest about what you do and don’t know and what you can and cannot share, then do your best to find out what people need to know to stop gossiping and continue being productive. Remember, in the absence of information, people assume the worst.
Barbara Mitchell is a human resources and management consultant and author of The Big Book of HR and The Essential Workplace Conflict Handbook. Do you have a question you’d like her to answer in “Ask the Expert”? Send it to [email protected].