Confronting a gossiping peer, boss, subordinate – Quick tips!

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negative office gossip

Using partial truth and little information to establish them as facts is gossip. People gossip about almost anything, personal lives of others, the next one to be hired or fired, company’s prospects, job market, and about things as menial as attire and physical attributes. If gossip is positive, it is healthy for companies. Creating negative environment isn’t!  

It happens when their job prospects are blurry, when they are void of information hence speculate based on vaguely known facts. It is sensible to accept that gossip prevails at all levels in all organizations. When to act on it is the decision you must make based on the following:

  • It is rearing toxic culture in the company
  • It affects other employee’s motivation and morale
  • It is causing poor performance, thereby affecting the team and the business
  • It is humiliating and personal to you or to someone else
  • It is damaging the professional relationships

What to do?

  • When the perpetrator is your Peer
  • When the perpetrator is your Subordinate
  • When the perpetrator is your Boss

Remember, your silence is an assurance to the perpetrator and your agreement is encouragement. React responsibly and professionally.

When the perpetrator is your peer:

  • Begin showing disinterest, the minute such talk crops up
  • Do not participate or prolong the conversation
  • Let them know you don’t appreciate such talk
  • Encourage them to ask questions to know something, rather than guess-it game
  • Escalate, if they don’t stop, let your boss know
  • Stay away from such group/individuals

Opposing such behavior doesn’t mean you should assume rivalry. So, next time you hear someone begin their chat with “have you heard”, “have you seen”, you do what is needed of you, then move on. Let your response be assertive yet professional. Any erratic behavior may lead to further grudges and hatred.

Sometimes it is good to keep your personal opinions to yourself, don’t do gossip or help others do it.

When the perpetrator is your subordinate:

  • Do not send a general email addressing everyone, like an arrow in the sky
  • Address the specific person
  • Let the person know how their inappropriate behavior causes rage in the team
  • Educate about the consequences, and disciplinary measures, if they fail to abstain from gossip
  • Meet with the team in general and make negative gossip a focal point of discussion. Educate!

As a corrective measure always give timely updates to your team. Having the attitude, “They will know when they need to know” sometimes backfires. Do not keep them in the dark for too long.

When the perpetrator is your Boss

Your boss is a human too, it is natural to have a breakdown of emotions, have a bad day and lose self-restraint. Dealing with a habitually, gossipy boss is, however, extremely difficult.

Here are some tips to deal with the situation

  • Stopping the flow of conversation helps break the gossip
  • Do not give in or add your opinions about the subject (in discussion)
  • Talk more about situations than people
  • Remain neutral
  • Add a new dimension to the concern (this politely shows your disinterest)

If it becomes a repeated behavior,

  • Speak one-on-one to your boss, with a positive message
  • Consult a senior colleague who can mentor you confront the blip

Following the above approach based on who the perpetrator is, helps steer clear of negative office gossip!


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