Strategies for Handling Office Gossip

Reviewed Mar 21, 2017

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Summary

  • Approach your boss if rumor is causing high anxiety.
  • Let rumors of job instability mobilize you to shape up your work habits.
  • Avoid negative office gossip involving the personal lives of co-workers.

“Have you heard that management is thinking about layoffs?”

“I heard our department is going to merge with marketing.”

“I think Janet is using sick time to job hunt.”

If you work in an office, chances are you’ve heard similar gossip from time to time. The rumor mill is hard to avoid. But should you?

At times, office gossip can be a source of valid information that is useful to your job. But gossip can be harmful, too. For instance, an employee known to gossip may be seen as untrustworthy, which might affect the chance of future promotion. Gossip sent via an email or instant message could leak out to unintended recipients and undermine working relationships, or worse, be used as evidence in lawsuits. Knowing strategies for handling office gossip can help you make use of factual information as well as discredit rumors that are fictitious and potentially damaging to your reputation or career.

Scenario 1: Organizational rumor

Talk of mergers, acquisitions, personnel changes, downsizing, and restructuring can cause anxiety even in long-time employees. When such rumors begin to circulate, review the latest organizational communications, like newsletters, bulletin boards, and emails, for more information. Often, employees are too busy to read up on company news, and you may have overlooked some vital information.

Approach your boss if rumor is causing considerable anxiety and decreased productivity. If management is aware of the rumor mill, the company may step up efforts to quell speculation and pass along factual information to employees.

Sorting fact from fiction is not always possible, however. In such instances, ask yourself if the source of the rumor is credible. If so, rumors suggesting job instability can mobilize you to improve productivity and shape up your work habits. Management is especially attuned to employee work habits when decisions such as layoffs need to be made. You can also use “what if” scenarios to help you prepare for the worst, possibly giving you a head start on updating your resume and networking for other opportunities.

Scenario 2: When coworkers are the subject of rumor

A good rule of thumb is to avoid negative office gossip, particularly involving the personal and professional lives of coworkers. Sure, venting frustrations about an office mate or boss is tempting, but wait to talk with a close friend or spouse rather than spilling your guts to the mailroom clerk in the break room. If someone approaches you with some juicy gossip, politely interrupt by saying something like “I’m sorry. I cannot talk now. I’ve got to get this done ASAP.”

On the other hand, shoptalk can facilitate positive working relationships. Just be careful of the type of gossip you engage in. If you hear a rumor that you know to not be true, clear up the misinformation. You want people (and especially management) to think of you as a person who gets along with everyone, a team player who rises above petty gossip.

Scenario 3: When you’re the target

If you learn that you are a hot topic of gossip, take the following steps to end speculation, which can possibly jeopardize your reputation as well as your job:

  • When you learn the gossip, set the record straight with the informing party. Thank him for letting you know what is being said and ask for the source of the gossip so that you can clear up the story. Assure the informant that you won’t let the source of the gossip know who shared the rumor with you.
  • Confront the source of the gossip in private. Don’t be aggressive or angry. Try to elicit empathy—tell the gossiper why you are concerned about the gossip and how it may affect your job and reputation.

Resources

Emily Post’s The Etiquette Advantage in Business, Third Edition: Personal Skills for Professional Success, by Peter Post, Anna Post, Lizzie Post, and Daniel Post Senning. William Morrow, 2014.

You Said What? The Biggest Communications Mistakes Professionals Make by Kim Zoller and Kerry Preston. Brown Books, 2012. 

By Christine P. Martin
Source: "Did You Hear It Through the Grapevine?" Training & Development, October, 1994; Emily Post's The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success by Peggy Post and Peter Post. HarperResource, 1999; The Good News About Careers: How You'll Be Working in the Next Decade by Barbara Moses, PhD. Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Summary

  • Approach your boss if rumor is causing high anxiety.
  • Let rumors of job instability mobilize you to shape up your work habits.
  • Avoid negative office gossip involving the personal lives of co-workers.

“Have you heard that management is thinking about layoffs?”

“I heard our department is going to merge with marketing.”

“I think Janet is using sick time to job hunt.”

If you work in an office, chances are you’ve heard similar gossip from time to time. The rumor mill is hard to avoid. But should you?

At times, office gossip can be a source of valid information that is useful to your job. But gossip can be harmful, too. For instance, an employee known to gossip may be seen as untrustworthy, which might affect the chance of future promotion. Gossip sent via an email or instant message could leak out to unintended recipients and undermine working relationships, or worse, be used as evidence in lawsuits. Knowing strategies for handling office gossip can help you make use of factual information as well as discredit rumors that are fictitious and potentially damaging to your reputation or career.

Scenario 1: Organizational rumor

Talk of mergers, acquisitions, personnel changes, downsizing, and restructuring can cause anxiety even in long-time employees. When such rumors begin to circulate, review the latest organizational communications, like newsletters, bulletin boards, and emails, for more information. Often, employees are too busy to read up on company news, and you may have overlooked some vital information.

Approach your boss if rumor is causing considerable anxiety and decreased productivity. If management is aware of the rumor mill, the company may step up efforts to quell speculation and pass along factual information to employees.

Sorting fact from fiction is not always possible, however. In such instances, ask yourself if the source of the rumor is credible. If so, rumors suggesting job instability can mobilize you to improve productivity and shape up your work habits. Management is especially attuned to employee work habits when decisions such as layoffs need to be made. You can also use “what if” scenarios to help you prepare for the worst, possibly giving you a head start on updating your resume and networking for other opportunities.

Scenario 2: When coworkers are the subject of rumor

A good rule of thumb is to avoid negative office gossip, particularly involving the personal and professional lives of coworkers. Sure, venting frustrations about an office mate or boss is tempting, but wait to talk with a close friend or spouse rather than spilling your guts to the mailroom clerk in the break room. If someone approaches you with some juicy gossip, politely interrupt by saying something like “I’m sorry. I cannot talk now. I’ve got to get this done ASAP.”

On the other hand, shoptalk can facilitate positive working relationships. Just be careful of the type of gossip you engage in. If you hear a rumor that you know to not be true, clear up the misinformation. You want people (and especially management) to think of you as a person who gets along with everyone, a team player who rises above petty gossip.

Scenario 3: When you’re the target

If you learn that you are a hot topic of gossip, take the following steps to end speculation, which can possibly jeopardize your reputation as well as your job:

  • When you learn the gossip, set the record straight with the informing party. Thank him for letting you know what is being said and ask for the source of the gossip so that you can clear up the story. Assure the informant that you won’t let the source of the gossip know who shared the rumor with you.
  • Confront the source of the gossip in private. Don’t be aggressive or angry. Try to elicit empathy—tell the gossiper why you are concerned about the gossip and how it may affect your job and reputation.

Resources

Emily Post’s The Etiquette Advantage in Business, Third Edition: Personal Skills for Professional Success, by Peter Post, Anna Post, Lizzie Post, and Daniel Post Senning. William Morrow, 2014.

You Said What? The Biggest Communications Mistakes Professionals Make by Kim Zoller and Kerry Preston. Brown Books, 2012. 

By Christine P. Martin
Source: "Did You Hear It Through the Grapevine?" Training & Development, October, 1994; Emily Post's The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success by Peggy Post and Peter Post. HarperResource, 1999; The Good News About Careers: How You'll Be Working in the Next Decade by Barbara Moses, PhD. Jossey-Bass, 2000.

Summary

  • Approach your boss if rumor is causing high anxiety.
  • Let rumors of job instability mobilize you to shape up your work habits.
  • Avoid negative office gossip involving the personal lives of co-workers.

“Have you heard that management is thinking about layoffs?”

“I heard our department is going to merge with marketing.”

“I think Janet is using sick time to job hunt.”

If you work in an office, chances are you’ve heard similar gossip from time to time. The rumor mill is hard to avoid. But should you?

At times, office gossip can be a source of valid information that is useful to your job. But gossip can be harmful, too. For instance, an employee known to gossip may be seen as untrustworthy, which might affect the chance of future promotion. Gossip sent via an email or instant message could leak out to unintended recipients and undermine working relationships, or worse, be used as evidence in lawsuits. Knowing strategies for handling office gossip can help you make use of factual information as well as discredit rumors that are fictitious and potentially damaging to your reputation or career.

Scenario 1: Organizational rumor

Talk of mergers, acquisitions, personnel changes, downsizing, and restructuring can cause anxiety even in long-time employees. When such rumors begin to circulate, review the latest organizational communications, like newsletters, bulletin boards, and emails, for more information. Often, employees are too busy to read up on company news, and you may have overlooked some vital information.

Approach your boss if rumor is causing considerable anxiety and decreased productivity. If management is aware of the rumor mill, the company may step up efforts to quell speculation and pass along factual information to employees.

Sorting fact from fiction is not always possible, however. In such instances, ask yourself if the source of the rumor is credible. If so, rumors suggesting job instability can mobilize you to improve productivity and shape up your work habits. Management is especially attuned to employee work habits when decisions such as layoffs need to be made. You can also use “what if” scenarios to help you prepare for the worst, possibly giving you a head start on updating your resume and networking for other opportunities.

Scenario 2: When coworkers are the subject of rumor

A good rule of thumb is to avoid negative office gossip, particularly involving the personal and professional lives of coworkers. Sure, venting frustrations about an office mate or boss is tempting, but wait to talk with a close friend or spouse rather than spilling your guts to the mailroom clerk in the break room. If someone approaches you with some juicy gossip, politely interrupt by saying something like “I’m sorry. I cannot talk now. I’ve got to get this done ASAP.”

On the other hand, shoptalk can facilitate positive working relationships. Just be careful of the type of gossip you engage in. If you hear a rumor that you know to not be true, clear up the misinformation. You want people (and especially management) to think of you as a person who gets along with everyone, a team player who rises above petty gossip.

Scenario 3: When you’re the target

If you learn that you are a hot topic of gossip, take the following steps to end speculation, which can possibly jeopardize your reputation as well as your job:

  • When you learn the gossip, set the record straight with the informing party. Thank him for letting you know what is being said and ask for the source of the gossip so that you can clear up the story. Assure the informant that you won’t let the source of the gossip know who shared the rumor with you.
  • Confront the source of the gossip in private. Don’t be aggressive or angry. Try to elicit empathy—tell the gossiper why you are concerned about the gossip and how it may affect your job and reputation.

Resources

Emily Post’s The Etiquette Advantage in Business, Third Edition: Personal Skills for Professional Success, by Peter Post, Anna Post, Lizzie Post, and Daniel Post Senning. William Morrow, 2014.

You Said What? The Biggest Communications Mistakes Professionals Make by Kim Zoller and Kerry Preston. Brown Books, 2012. 

By Christine P. Martin
Source: "Did You Hear It Through the Grapevine?" Training & Development, October, 1994; Emily Post's The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success by Peggy Post and Peter Post. HarperResource, 1999; The Good News About Careers: How You'll Be Working in the Next Decade by Barbara Moses, PhD. Jossey-Bass, 2000.

The information provided on the Achieve Solutions site, including, but not limited to, articles, quizzes and other general information, is for informational purposes only and should not be treated as behavioral health care or management advice. Please direct questions regarding the operation of the Achieve Solutions site to Web Feedback. If you have questions related to workplace issues, please consider contacting your human resources department. ©2017 Beacon Health Options, Inc.

 

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