Participation in gossip is typically the fastest entry point into office politics. People employ strategies and try to gain a persona advantage even by using negative connotations at the expense of their fellow workers. A Spanish proverb says that “whoever gossips to you, will someday gossip about you” and this can be disastrous in an office environment.
The following tips will help you remove yourself from office gossip:
- Keep your personal life private
“Three can keep a secret if two are dead,” said Benjamin Franklin. As much as it is fun to have friends at work, so annoying it can turn if you trust the wrong people with your personal life. Draw the lines between your professional and personal life and make sure not to tell anyone a secret you don’t want to be revealed, unless you are prepared for everyone at the office, including your boss, to hear it through the grapevine.
- Consider the incentives
If a coworker approaches you with a juicy gossip about another employee, try to understand what lies behind the storytelling. People have hidden incentives and the storytelling may aim to belittle the other person out of jealousy, or chat about them out of boredom. Sometimes, the incentive may be to help the other employee, but this is seldom the case. Someone who has the time to gossip at the office is probably someone you have to pay attention to, maybe someone with a bad character whom you have to avoid.
- Don’t spread the news
If you happen to overhear something that you shouldn’t have heard, make sure to keep it to yourself. Don’t spread the news around, first of all because you don’t know how true it is and secondly because it is none of your business to spread rumors in the office. Keep a positive attitude and do not repeat anything you hear. Imagine you were in the shoes of the person that your fellow workers are gossiping. Or even worse, imagine you spread a rumor about your boss and your career is jeopardized.
- Make yourself clear
If the other person insists on involving you in the gossip, make it clear that you don’t feel comfortable with this situation. It’s up to you to draw the line and explain to the other person that you don’t like gossiping or basing your work relationships on rumors.
- Walk away
The first thing to do when approached for gossiping is to walk away. You don’t want to get involved in other people’s business so the easiest thing to do is citing work obligations. Remember, you are at the office so the best thing to say is excusing yourself and return to your desk. No one can accuse you of wanting to do your job.
- Don’t get involved whatsoever
Refrain from gossiping even if you cannot walk away. Let’s say that a juicy topic arises during lunch break. Obviously, you will continue to be present at the table, but this doesn’t mean that you have to participate. Have your lunch, don’t get involved and show that you are not interested in participating in hearsay discussions.
- Change the subject
Even if it seems harmless in the beginning, gossip can be really hurtful down the line. Even if it seems like a positive comment on a fellow employee, it’s better to avoid participating in such conversations. Change the subject to an irrelevant topic like the birth of a coworker’s baby or a huge sale that a team member has achieved. Better safe than sorry!
- Stay productive
Focus on your work and do not participate in juicy discussions at work. By staying productive and committed to your work you avoid getting involved in criticism of co-workers. Make it clear that you dislike office politics. In the long run, these tactics may earn you the trust of your coworkers once they realize that you don’t spend time gossiping about them.
- Offer to resolve the issue
It would be wonderful if people never came after you at work, but this rarely happens. And in most of the cases, without a serious reason. If someone at work has it on you and makes it public to anyone in the office but you, you’d better approach the person and try to resolve the problem. Let this person know that you know what is going behind your back and that you would appreciate a direct opposition and solution. If you are lucky, rumors will stop and you will earn a reputation of a good communicator.
- Escalate the issue
When office gossip turns particularly spiteful, turning to your manager may be a good idea. The reason you are doing this is to inform your boss about the situation and prevent a worse situation. It is not necessary to point fingers. You may talk generally and mention what people in the department are talking about and what type of rumors they are spreading. Your manager will have the opportunity to address the issue and resolve it in the best possible way.
Most employees know it’s best to avoid gossip at the workplace, yet they get involved. Although there might be times when you are tempted to engage in office gossip, it is better to come up with a strategy to avoid it. Sometimes we face a lapse of judgement and you wouldn’t want to jeopardize your career over this.
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