5 reliable methods to prevent gossiping in the office

Being the social animals that humans are, gossip can seem like an unavoidable fact of life. But while no-one wants to work in an environment where there’s no room for socialising, engaging in gossip at work can have negative consequences. According to research by the University of Southern California, gossip has been proven to reduce team morale. Not to mention that people engaging in gossip are unlikely to be devoting their full energies to work.

According to a white paper by employee recognition company O.C. Tanner, trust is vital to retaining talented staff.. Gossip erodes that trust and creates anxiety and tension in its place. However, there are effective methods by which workplaces can avoid harmful gossip and ensure that everyone feels valued and included.

How to stop gossiping in the office

Here are some practical suggestions you can follow to avoid alienating any employee in your workplace. 

1. Encourage open communication

Michelle Riklan at the leadership institute says, “gossip starts when there’s misinformation or change.” 

Negative gossip gathers pace when clarity and honesty are lacking. If employees feel like important information is being kept from them, they fill in the blanks with rumour.  “Gossip prevention is easy if you keep an open door policy about what’s happening in the office,” Riklan explains. 

If staff members feel informed, there will be less need for people to speculate. This can have the effect of stopping potentially malicious rumours in their tracks.

2. Just walk away

Fortune 500 business strategist Victor Lipman is an advocate of refusing to engage in gossip. “Voting with your feet can be a simple but effective tactic,” he writes. Consider telling people gossiping that you’ve got a tight deadline or don’t have time to chat. In doing so, Lipton says, you’ve sent “a quick clear message and you’re gone.”

Being known for refusing to partake in gossip sessions is sure to enhance your reputation as someone fair and professional. This is a far better image to project than being rude and immature- like your colleagues huddled at the watercooler. 

3. Bring the subject back to work

If you’re unable to walk away or just ignore the conversation, try and bring the topic back around to work. That way you are immediately on far safer ground, and no one can realistically object – after all, this is a workplace.

Victor Lipan describes taking the following approach; “Without registering any concern, or even much comprehension, I would respond with something like: “You know, I haven’t seen much of X lately, but I’ve been meaning to ask you about that competitive analysis you’ve been preparing for Y. How’s it coming? I know it’s due on the 15th so I just want to be sure you’ve got all the data you need for it.”

Steer the topic away from the personal and back onto the professional. That way you avoid making a big deal out of refusing to engage, but clearly signify that you are here to work. 

4. Emphasise the positive 

No less eminent a thinker than Socrates had a useful three-stage test for determining if a piece of gossip had benefit. 

  1. Do you know the information being shared is true?
  2. Is the information being shared good?
  3. Is the information being shared useful? 

When faced with a person gossiping, you could do worse than to apply these tests. If the gossip you’re about to receive (or share) fails to pass the tests, there’s a high chance you might hurt the subject of the gossip.

In an office environment, it is important to emphasise the positive whilst avoiding the negative or unverifiable. By choosing only to pass on good news and positive comments you avoid stirring tensions between colleagues and social groups; if you’re going to spread gossip, make sure you’re spreading good gossip. 

5. Set an example

You don’t have to be an etiquette expert to navigate the workplace with grace and delicacy. By refusing to engage in workplace gossip you are setting a healthy example for others to follow. Keep your private life private, and expect others to do the same. Gossip needs an audience to spread and hurt people – if everyone decided to not engage with it, our working lives would be far less toxic. 

Be the change you want to see at work – refuse to spread rumours and set an example of responsible colleague-ship. 

RELATED: How to return to the workplace safely.

All groups of people will engage in a level of gossip – it’s human nature – so it’s important that you don’t make a colleague feel bad in a rude way. By practising these proven methods, you can make sure that your workplace is a welcoming environment for everyone.

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Rovva puts everything you need for your business in one place. From an accountancy helpline to a drop-in business lounge - we've got everything covered.