Dear Stasia | Office Gossip

December 21, 2014

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Dear Stasia,

I don’t know if it’s due to the holidays and the year is coming to an end, but the gossip in my office is driving me nuts! I don’t know how to handle the office politics anymore? It’s really getting my spirits down. I think people are acting nuts because bonuses will be handed out soon and there is so much gossip about people, positions, and promotions. How do I handle this negativity?

Thanks, Melissa


Dear Melissa,

First, the title is a bit misleading, but you’ll see my point in a moment.

Your year-end observations are correct. To some, the idea of a co-worker getting a larger bonus and a possible promotion can bring out the worst in them. Gossip begins out of insecurities and can become a pervasive issue quickly.

Recently, while at a cafe I overheard office gossip in full swing. A higher up was gossiping to a new employee during their lunch break. The junior woman handled herself well, but you could tell she wanted to leave. This woman was her senior (not thee boss, yet above her none-the-less), and this was a promotional lunch.

The Conversation


The Conversation(3)

2 Ways To Handle Office Gossip 


1. Don’t Engage
Focus on your work, be good to others, and don’t be part of the pack. If you find yourself in a situation like above, learn from her and say as little as possible. I think she handled the situation well. On the other hand, if you find yourself at the water cooler, a table, or in an office where negative gossip begins, excuse yourself; don’t stay and engage.

2. Positive Talk 
Positive conversations is the only way to go. Positive talk boosts spirits.

Here Is Why We Love Office Gossip


When you know who gossips; you know who you can trust, and who you can’t. Who to surround yourself with, and who you shouldn’t.

It reminds you to treat people the way you want to be treated. It reminds you of the importance of being civil and kind to one another.

Good luck Melissa, and I hope these tips help you navigate the water cooler with grace. Now, I’d love to hear from you. Have you been in Melissa’s shoes? How did you handle it?

With all my love,

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SHOW COMMENTS

I am not sure that I agree with these all of these tips, apart from the first. Politely excusing oneself, or discreetly leaving, are good ways to go when gossip is happening.

The problem with going to a boss, or HR, is that often they are going to want names, and then you are in a very tricky situation. If you don’t give names, you may appear non-compliant to your boss, even a bit belligerant, and also, make her concerned about your true motives for telling about the gossip. I have found that negative gossip flourishes in unhealthy work places to begin with, and these exist usually because of poor management and poor leadership in the first place. So going to the boss is likely to be problematic as it is an implicit criticism of their leadership. If you do give names, then you risk entering into a situation whereby you could be revealed to your co-workers as someone who is not to be trusted, and used as a pawn in office politics. So, no, I personally would never advise going to a higher-up unless you were confident that it would not be turned against you.

Finally, if you have positive things to say about people then say it directly to them. Where gossip is concerned, it’s important to be very careful, regardless of the content. Making the occasional positive comment about someone’s abilities or accomplishments is not a bad thing, but indulging in a conversation about them, even if it is positive, is another matter. It also can fuel strange alliances and jealousy in a workplace, depending on what is going on overall. Basically, I think it’s best to keep all opinions about co-workers to oneself, and only share privately with a trusted friend outside of work. There are many ways to show kindness and compassion to one’s colleagues without talking about them when they aren’t present.