Gossip, rumours and speculation at work can be very hurtful, and can harm workplace relationships.
Sometimes when people feel frustrated, bored or lonely, they can share personal or private information about others as a way of getting attention, relieving stress or creating excitement. Sometimes it’s just a slip of the tongue, an exaggeration or thoughtless small talk. Sometimes people engage in gossip as retaliation for gossip or rumours that they think were shared about them.
Workplaces that have a high degree of gossip can feel very unsafe for everyone, including the people who do the gossiping. Gossiping breaks down social support at work. If this is happening at your workplace, you may want to think about some of these suggestions.
Getting support for yourself
Being the target of gossip can be very hurtful. It is normal to feel angry and frightened in response to gossip about ourselves. Consider finding ways of addressing the hurt, anger and fear outside of work, perhaps with a trusted friend or counselor. This will also help you to manage your emotions at work, so that you are able to feel confident in how you handle situations with those who are doing the gossiping, instead of responding in anger or frustration at them.
It is tempting to want to get back at people who are doing the gossiping by talking about them or otherwise getting revenge. If you do that, it is probable that you will keep this going a lot longer than you would if you chose not to retaliate.
Many people have friendships in the workplace, but when we are unwell we may lose our judgment about boundaries around appropriate conversations. If you wish to prevent gossip and rumours in the future, here are some ideas you may consider.
- Sharing only information that you are comfortable having others talk about
We never know when someone may pass on private information that we have shared. In an effort to connect with co-workers, we may share private details of our lives. Consider instead connecting without sharing private details and keeping workplace relationships friendly, warm and professional.
- Engaging in ‘positive gossip’
Decide that all of your ‘gossip’ will be about what people have done right.
- Creating your own circle of support
Having friends at work often means being a friend at work. Consider reaching out to those who need a friend.
- Pre-empting gossip about the unknown
If you have been away or unwell, think about how you want to give information rather than allow people to come up with their own story.