Gossip at the workplace has been part of organizations big and small for a long time and is likely to be around as long as humans come together in a group setting. Why is gossip such an inherent part of work settings? People don’t always get along with their colleagues and frustrating situations in the office setting are a common occurrence.

While psychologists believe that some amount of gossip is essential to build camaraderie among colleagues, it is important to ensure that it does not hurt anyone’s feelings or impact team morale. From decreasing trust among co-workers and affecting the level of productivity to raising tensions and turning the work environment toxic, gossiping can have serious organizational consequences. People have been known to seek out other job opportunities due to toxic work conditions.

It’s therefore best to steer clear and concentrate on improving your work and productivity.

1. remove yourself gracefully

Whenever you feel that the group conversation you are part of is slowly moving towards rumors or personal information, gracefully make an excuse and walk away. You can offer the excuse of - catching up with work, not wanting to miss a deadline, or preparing for the next meeting - and go back to your workstation. Again, you need not walk away all the time. Try to understand which conversations are malicious and which are harmless. Malicious gossip, for instance, is one where an employee communicates information about another with the intent to hurt or harm them.  

2. change the topic

Sometimes walking away is not possible. Or maybe you want to stay but not be part of the discussion. At times like this, it might be best to change the topic or say something positive about the person being attacked. Be tactful and not abrupt. Move the conversation around to the latest project, upcoming holidays, or even the latest movie that was released. All you need to do is distract the others in the group and break the momentum.

3. get your facts correct

If the gossip involves incorrect facts, you must bring it in the open and deny that the information is incorrect. State the correct facts immediately and tell your coworker(s) that they have been misinformed. You must understand that you are not doing anything wrong by putting a stop to the gossip. In fact, you are preventing false information and gossip being spread.

4. keep your personal life to yourself

Your personal life should be private. Unless you are extremely close to your coworker, ensure that are not discussing your family matters or your personal matters with everyone you meet. Discussing what you do in your private life with your colleagues is equivalent to feeding people with information that can be turned into rumors or gossip against you. It is fine to tell people that you are going to a particular holiday destination on your next summer trip, however, discussing your daily life with people you hardly know, can lead to you becoming a subject of gossip.

Most often, gossip stems from people’s concern about a certain problem at their jobs. While gossip can play an integral part in creating channels of communication, ultimately it ends up making the work environment toxic which in turn impacts every employees’ morale and productivity.