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7 Things to Do in a Gossipy Work Environment

7 Things to Do in a Gossipy Work Environment

Office gossip is alive and well and likely to continue into the next millennium. One study done by the University of Amsterdam has revealed that 90% of the conversation in the workplace can only be defined as gossip. It has also wormed its way into office emails where it is estimated that it occupies about 15% of office communications.

Now, gossipy colleagues may actually perform a useful function, if the gossip remains at a harmless level. It can also be quite funny and entertaining as in the BBC’s classic TV show The Office. Gossip can also fill a gap when office communications and management are inadequate.

But what can you do if you have gossipy colleagues who are hell-bent on character assassination or who are determined to gain an advantage by spreading certain rumors? It can be a negative force and can fuel resentment, fear, envy and low morale. This is when office gossip becomes the ugly face of office politics.

Here are 7 actions to take when you have gossipy colleagues.

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1. Take action to stop negative gossip

If you are in a team leader role, you may have to take decisive action against individual colleagues who are indulging in negative gossip which is affecting morale and also productivity. This will have to be done on a one-on-one basis.

It will be up to you to keep the lines of communication open so that negative gossip never gets a foothold. Damaging gossip is fueled by a lack of appropriate communication.

2. Ask penetrating questions

“I know nothing more annoying when people I don’t know jump to conclusions on my person based on nothing but gossip or speculation.”- Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

If you find a colleague who is telling you doubtful details about a co-worker, try to pin her/him down. You can also ask for more details which will usually get a rather vague response. You can ask detailed questions about when and why various incidents occurred. The idea is to put the gossipy colleague in a difficult position which will expose him or her for what they really are – a gossip-monger.

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3. Stay out of the gossipy colleagues’ radar

“Gossip is the Devil’s radio” – George Harrison

If you decide to have no part in this type of gossip, you can very frankly say that you are just not interested in harmful conversations about colleagues. The gossiper will then leave you alone as he will view you as a poor gossip-monger. You can feel proud that you have taken such a stance. If all your colleagues did that, then this destructive gossip would dry up. Gossipy colleagues with no audience are dead in the water.

4. You can threaten to repeat the gossip to the victim

Gossipy colleagues hate this because they know that they will be exposed. Just say that you intend to repeat back to the hapless victim what you have just heard.

5. Being friendly with the office gossip will not protect you

“Who gossips to you will gossip of you” -Turkish proverb

You might prefer to take a more friendly approach. You might think that tolerance will go far and that you can handle the gossip in a light-hearted way. The only problem is that gossips talk about everyone so you may soon be a target!

6. Teamwork can work well

Try teaming up with your other co-workers. You can play a prank with their help. Invent some gossip about yourself and tell the gossiper that it is top secret. Let your colleagues know and when the gossiper tells everyone, you can confront her and ask her why she betrayed your trust on such a confidential matter. That should silence the muckraker.

7. Talking at the water cooler

This is where you will hear a lot of office gossip. If you find that the topic is the usual one about the uncertain future of the company, or some nasty back stabbing, then try to change the subject. Bringing up a neutral topic like a sports competition, food, sleep, or weather can often break up the gossipy colleagues. If you do not want to be involved at all, then tell them you have an urgent deadline to meet.

Avoiding harmful and horrible gossip is feasible if you follow the pointers above. The best solution is to steer clear of gossip when possible, and when you can’t, invent an excuse to get away. Urgent phone calls and meetings are very useful!

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Have you worked with gossipy colleagues and how did you deal with them? Let us know in the comments below.

Featured photo credit: Gossip Girls / Art G. via flickr.com

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on March 29, 2021

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

5 Types of Horrible Bosses and How to Beat Them All

When I left university I took a job immediately, I had been lucky as I had spent a year earning almost nothing as an intern so I was offered a role. On my first day I found that I had not been allocated a desk, there was no one to greet me so I was left for some hours ignored. I happened to snipe about this to another employee at the coffee machine two things happened. The first was that the person I had complained to was my new manager’s wife, and the second was, in his own words, ‘that he would come down on me like a ton of bricks if I crossed him…’

What a great start to a job! I had moved to a new city, and had been at work for less than a morning when I had my first run in with the first style of bad manager. I didn’t stay long enough to find out what Mr Agressive would do next. Bad managers are a major issue. Research from Approved Index shows that more than four in ten employees (42%) state that they have previously quit a job because of a bad manager.

The Dream Type Of Manager

My best manager was a total opposite. A man who had been the head of the UK tax system and was working his retirement running a company I was a very junior and green employee for. I made a stupid mistake, one which cost a lot of time and money and I felt I was going to be sacked without doubt.

I was nervous, beating myself up about what I had done, what would happen. At the end of the day I was called to his office, he had made me wait and I had spent that day talking to other employees, trying to understand where I had gone wrong. It had been a simple mistyped line of code which sent a massive print job out totally wrong. I learn how I should have done it and I fretted.

My boss asked me to step into his office, he asked me to sit down. “Do you know what you did?” I babbled, yes, I had been stupid, I had not double-checked or asked for advice when I was doing something I had not really understood. It was totally my fault. He paused. “Will you do that again?” Of course I told him I would not, I would always double check, ask for help and not try to be so clever when I was not!

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“Okay…”

That was it. I paused and asked, should I clear my desk. He smiled. “You have learnt a valuable lesson, I can be sure that you will never make a mistake like that again. Why would I want to get rid of an employee who knows that?”

I stayed with that company for many years, the way I was treated was a real object lesson in good management. Sadly, far too many poor managers exist out there.

The Complete Catalogue of Bad Managers

The Bully

My first boss fitted into the classic bully class. This is so often the ‘old school’ management by power style. I encountered this style again in the retail sector where one manager felt the only way to get the best from staff was to bawl and yell.

However, like so many bullies you will often find that this can be someone who either knows no better or is under stress and they are themselves running scared of the situation they have found themselves in.

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The Invisible Boss

This can either present itself as management from afar (usually the golf course or ‘important meetings) or just a boss who is too busy being important to deal with their staff.

It can feel refreshing as you will often have almost total freedom with your manager taking little or no interest in your activities, however you will soon find that you also lack the support that a good manager will provide. Without direction you may feel you are doing well just to find that you are not delivering against expectations you were not told about and suddenly it is all your fault.

The Micro Manager

The frustration of having a manager who feels the need to be involved in everything you do. The polar opposite to the Invisible Boss you will feel that there is no trust in your work as they will want to meddle in everything you do.

Dealing with the micro-manager can be difficult. Often their management style comes from their own insecurity. You can try confronting them, tell them that you can do your job however in many cases this will not succeed and can in fact make things worse.

The Over Promoted Boss

The Over promoted boss categorises someone who has no idea. They have found themselves in a management position through service, family or some corporate mystery. They are people who are not only highly unqualified to be managers they will generally be unable to do even your job.

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You can find yourself persistently frustrated by the situation you are in, however it can seem impossible to get out without handing over your resignation.

The Credit Stealer

The credit stealer is the boss who will never publically acknowledge the work you do. You will put in the extra hours working on a project and you know that, in the ‘big meeting’ it will be your credit stealing boss who will take all of the credit!

Again it is demoralising, you see all of the credit for your labour being stolen and this can often lead to good employees looking for new careers.

3 Essential Ways to Work (Cope) with Bad Managers

Whatever type of bad boss you have there are certain things that you can do to ensure that you get the recognition and protection you require to not only remain sane but to also build your career.

1. Keep evidence

Whether it is incidents with the bully or examples of projects you have completed with the credit stealer you will always be well served to keep notes and supporting evidence for projects you are working on.

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Buy your own notebook and ensure that you are always making notes, it becomes a habit and a very useful one as you have a constant reminder as well as somewhere to explore ideas.

Importantly, if you do have to go to HR or stand-up for yourself you will have clear records! Also, don’t always trust that corporate servers or emails will always be available or not tampered with. Keep your own content.

2. Hold regular meetings

Ensure that you make time for regular meetings with your boss. This is especially useful for the over-promoted or the invisible boss to allow you to ‘manage upwards’. Take charge where you can to set your objectives and use these meetings to set clear objectives and document the status of your work.

3. Stand your ground, but be ready to jump…

Remember that you don’t have to put up with poor management. If you have issues you should face them with your boss, maybe they do not know that they are coming across in a bad way.

However, be ready to recognise if the situation is not going to change. If that is the case, keep your head down and get working on polishing your CV! If it isn’t working, there will be something better out there for you!

Good luck!

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