Is Gossip at Work Toxic or Harmless? — 6 Tactics To Avoid The Fallout
How many times has a colleague told you:-
“You know who….”
“Just between you and me…”
“Now this you must not repeat!”
“Mum’s the word”
We all hear gossip at work — you cannot escape it. We probably indulge in a little gossip ourselves.
“Nothing wrong with a little harmless gossip” you probably tell yourself. You are maybe a little envious that the gossip industry on celebs is worth about $3 billion.
I wish I was that famous!
However, the good news is that gossip can also be a bonding factor and can build cooperation. According to one study, 85% of gossip is harmless and just friendly small talk which will not harm anybody.
But hold on!
There must be something wrong when we read that gossip is like a virus that is now present in about 15% of work emails.
Then you say,
“But what’s wrong with it?”
Usually, the office gossip-monger is very active and can cause a lot of radioactive fallout.
“No one gossips about other people’s secret virtues.”
― Bertrand Russell, On Education
Here is when gossip is really toxic and dangerous.
· Gossipers, more often than not, have not checked their “juicy bits of gossip.” They could not care less whether or not it is true and that can damage as it spreads like wildfire.
· Just imagine that they are all talking about YOU! This could affect your chances of promotion. They are often talking about your character, your private life or reputation.
· When you are in a one-on-one meeting with a gossiper, you have to be very wary that any opinion or fact about a colleague is not misinterpreted and then relayed (with variations) with great vigor around the office.
· You also know that gossip flourishes when there is insufficient communication between management and staff. That is the ideal breeding ground so if you are close to a manager, you might mention that the lack of certain information is causing a gossip wildfire.
· Nasty backstabbing can occur when a dishonest and vindictive colleague wants to damage your reputation or simply steal your project. If you look bad, then that nasty person can gain a distinct advantage. If the gossiper knows about this, then the fire will rage for a long time and there will be extensive damage.
“Rumor travels faster, but it don’t stay put as long as truth. ”
― Will Rogers
Here are 6 tricks which might help you to avoid the worst fallout.
1. Toxic gossip about colleagues can be really nasty. Take a stance by distancing yourself from this. A useful trick is to say that you will report back to the victim what they just said about him/her. You are becoming a gossip yourself but this is perfectly justified!
2. You may prefer to ask what their sources are. If you hear nasty and harmful gossip which is about a coworker’s private life and has nothing to do with work, just challenge them and ask:-
“ What’s your source for that?
“How do you actually know it is true?”
3. At the water-cooler, you can easily steer the conversation to neutral topics like the news, sports, TV shows or whatever.
4. Make an excuse when it gets really nasty and none of your other tactics work. You can invent an urgent meeting, a phone call or simply that you are under a lot of pressure and have to go.
5. Avoid the main gossip-monger when and if possible. Never reveal personal or other information. They can be very charming and manipulative!
6. When things get really bad, try this trick. You will need some teamwork for this but that should be easy when other colleagues are getting a bit fed up too. Just invent some gossip about yourself and ask the gossiper not to spread it as it strictly confidential.
Tell your colleagues that they will soon be hearing a juicy bit of gossip about yourself and make sure they tell you! When they do, you can challenge the gossiper and ask them why your trust was betrayed.
Finally, you really have to decide whether the gossip is harmless. It may well be jokes, teasing, light banter or silly remarks about a coworker’s habits. Just laugh- you don’t need to do anything.
On the other hand, you can easily detect whether it is crafted to criticize, despise, or rejoice in someone’s misfortune. Is it being shunted around to create division and rifts?
It is when you realize it is just toxic, then you really should take a stance and follow some of the tips I have mentioned above.
“Stay away from people who gossip and spread rumors. They are choosing the path of emotional bullying and negativity.”
― Steve Maraboli