Gossiping is a favorite pastime by many people, even among co-workers. Most of the time, office gossip is harmless - it’s just small talk and updates about the lives of each other, but things could eventually get pretty ugly. Excessive gossiping gives birth to rumor mills, which are then fed with jealousy/envy and disrespect, until it becomes damaging to a person’s reputation, dignity, and career.
Eventually, it could cause a toxic work environment, and might even affect your productivity and mood inside the office (even if you are not exactly the target of such rumors). Sometimes, negative rumors and “talking-behind-backs” can either result into a passive-aggressive working relationship, or burst into a full-blown fight with a co-worker.
No one likes to work in a toxic and negative environment. Employees like you should be able to concentrate 100% on actual tasks and responsibilities, instead of wasting energy on negative and unfounded rumors. There is a correct (and professional) way to handle these negative talk in the office, here’s how:
Don’t participate (or stop participating).
You cannot stop all your co-workers from gossiping, but you can stop yourself from taking part in any of it. Trying to stop everyone in the office from spreading rumors and gossip is futile, because even the management cannot entirely prevent it. People will still talk - whether inside or outside the office. So instead of wasting time and energy on feeding the rumor mill, divert these efforts instead on your tasks and responsibilities in the office.
Not taking part in office gossip will clear your mind (and heart) from any negative emotion and distractions. There would be no need to defend yourself when rumors have blown up into actual fights or passive-aggressiveness, and you can face anyone in the office without shame or guilt because you know you’ve done nothing wrong.
Even if the rumors are about you, you will not be stressed out as much - knowing that you’ve done nothing wrong to anyone (or gossiped about others) in the first place. By refusing to participate, there will be lesser reasons for others to start negative rumors about you, and even if there are existing talks, these will all just pass by (just give it some time).
If you are in the supervisory or managerial level, then the more important it is for you to observe this rule. As a supervisor or manager, your subordinates look up to you as a sort of authority. If you participate in office gossip during breaks and office hours, then more employees will be inclined to participate too (because they will think it is okay), and you can’t even reprimand them when things go horribly wrong. You have be a good example to your team, and uphold professionalism at all times.
If you can, confront your detractors.
If you know who the source of the rumor is, then might as well confront him/her about it. Just do it the professional way - have a one-on-one (heart to heart) talk with the person. Don’t shame him/her during office hours in front of everybody in the office (and most especially, don’t share cryptic/passive-aggressive posts in Social Media!).
If you are uncomfortable about direct confrontations, just try it discreetly by sending an email first - then talk personally someplace else to clear the air. You don’t have to be best friends by the end of the day, the goal here is to hear each other out and talk about the matter like real adults, then at least remain civil towards each other after all of it.
Trust that the company will keep it professional.
Surely, one of your worries is that these negative rumors will find its way to the higher-ups, and may even be used as a cause to fire you. But remember, companies usually uphold professionalism at all times - and the management/HR will not fire or call-out anyone based on unfounded rumors alone.
They will HEAR YOU out, and will even give you a chance to defend yourself. If the negative rumors about you are true, then that is a different story - but if it only affects your personal life, then the company would not really mind. If the company does kick you out just because of a rumor, then you deserve a better work environment.
Lastly, you have to believe that you are so much better than what they say. This may sound like a “mind over matter” kind of tip, but it would work in this case. If you let these rumors affect you, then it can have negative effects on your efficiency at work and even on your personal mental health. People may listen to rumors, but if you display professionalism and continue doing what you do best, then people are more likely going to believe what they actually see.
Gemma Reeves is a seasoned writer who enjoys creating helpful articles and interesting stories. She has worked with several clients across different industries such as advertising, online marketing, technology, healthcare, family matters, and more. She is also an aspiring entrepreneur who is engaged in assisting other aspiring entrepreneurs in finding the best office space for their business.
Check out her company here: FindMyWorkspace