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The Dangers of Workplace Gossip

Work is a social environment. It’s very important to maintain good relationships with your coworkers, to be friendly, and to engage them in conversation. But work can also be a hotbed of drama. Conversations can easily turn to gossip, and that is a dangerous place to go.

How do you know the difference between harmless conversation and gossip? Simple: Consider the impact of what is being said.

  • Does it cast negative aspersions?
  • Does it create rifts?
  • Does it exult in the misfortune of others?
  • Does it have a negative emotional charge?
  • Does it serve to perpetuate conflict or negativity?
  • Is it hurtful or damaging?
  • Would you say it in front of the person you’re talking about?

Technically, any sharing of trivial or unsubstantiated information can be considered gossip. But you have to consider the sentiment. For example, if it were rumored that a coworker is being promoted, and you discuss it with another coworker, is that gossip?

Well, if the discussion is hurtful, damaging, or negative, then yes, it’s gossip. If the story is told with negativity and without good will, then it’s gossip. Light conversation is value neutral, while gossip is negative, inflammatory, and/or embarrassing to the person being spoken of.

How gossip hurts

Gossip can increase conflict and decrease morale. It results in strained relationships. It breaks down the trust level within groups. Gossip is the death of teamwork, as the group breaks up into small cliques, and employees start refusing to work with others.

Gossip results in the supervisor spending an enormous amount of time trying to figure out who said what to whom. Or, worse, the supervisor struggles to explain to the manager that the on-going conflicts and communication problems within the workgroup are the reason work doesn’t get done. Productivity is lost, as are good employees who do not want to work in toxic environments.

Breaking the gossip cycle

Here’s how to get out of the gossip pipeline:

  1. Be busy.Gossipmongers want attention. If you’re preoccupied with your work, you can’t be available to listen to their latest story.
  2. Don’t participate.Walk away from the story. Don’t give visual clues that you are interested in listening. If someone passes a juicy story on to you, don’t pass it any further. Take personal responsibility to act with integrity.
  3. Turn it around by saying something positive.It isn’t nearly as much fun to spread negative news if it’s spoiled by a complimentary phrase about the person being attacked.
  4. Avoid the gossiper. If you notice one person who consistently makes trouble, take the necessary actions to have as little interaction with that person as possible. Avoid him.
  5. Keep your private life private. Don’t share personal information with coworkers. Remember, it’s a two-way street: if they are gossiping about others, they will gossip about you, too. Don’t give them ammunition.
  6. Choose your friends wisely at work.You spend a good deal of time at work so it’s natural for friendships to develop. Share information sparingly until you are sure that you have built up a level of trust.
  7. Be direct.If you confront the gossiper and confidently tell him or her that such behavior is making it uncomfortable for you and other coworkers, it’s likely to stop.
  8. Don’t be afraid to go to a superior. Gossiping wastes a lot of company time and hurts morale. A company interested in a healthy work environment will value the opportunity to correct this type of situation.

Now, if you are the target of gossip you have two choices. You can confront the source or make a public statement. Thankfully, gossip has a very short life span. Sometimes, the best thing to do is let it run its (hopefully) short course. Creating a stink sometimes causes more drama than just letting it go.

Put simply: Don’t be a gossip and don’t listen to gossip. Work smart. Keep your focus on the positive and don’t engage. 


Organizational trust and relationships are the heart and soul of a collaborative workplace. Gossip can ruin it. Learn more here:

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