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How to handle office gossip

Who doesn’t gossip? It’s one of our biggest past-times! So at what point does it become hazardous in the workplace?

I read an article recently on this topic, Office Gossip Girl from Little Pink Book. The article talks about the toxicity of gossip in the workplace and shows that many businesses have low tolerance for gossip. The key point in the article is how harmful office gossip can be. What starts as friendly conversation can easily lead to a dangerous rumor mill throughout the office.

“Eighty-four percent of executives cited gossip as a common activity at their offices, according to a recent survey. Furthermore, 64 percent of those executives agree that it has a negative effect on the workplace.”

Some of the actions businesses take to overcome gossip can be quite extreme. While the majority of businesses frown upon office gossip, some businesses go as far as banning it entirely. The measures these businesses take to end the gossip can be rather extreme. Do these extreme tactics even work? Is it really creating a better environment for the workplace?

I agree that office gossip can be very toxic but I think it’s unrealistic to think we can ban it or get rid of it completely.

Human beings like to connect in this way and connecting with co-workers is an important part of successful teamwork. The problem comes in when it becomes negative and no longer fun, but harmful. If a manager or workplace fosters an environment of respect, especially by modeling that behavior, that is one of the best first steps to take.

There are studies that show that water cooler talk can actually boost performance, for example when co-workers talk about a problem client they’re having, they come up with a solution by talking it out. So simply pay attention to the topic and tone of the conversation you’re having. We all know when conversation turns from productive to counter-productive; we just don’t always listen to that voice inside of us that’s telling us to stop. It’s just like lying on your resume; you know when you are crossing a line-don’t do it.

When it comes to office gossip, err on the side of caution. Stay away unless you know it’s a safe conversation.

Hallie Crawford
Career Performance Coach

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