Office Gossip: Friendly Chatter or Hurtful Conversations

Gossip in the workplace is a form of social interaction between two or more co-workers in which speculation and opinion about other individuals becomes the topic of discussion. Gossip can usually be dismissed as idle chitchat, but if you’re not careful, workplace gossip can turn into malicious behavior that can tear teams and departments apart.

In a recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive, more than 2,000 employees were asked to pick their biggest pet peeve. Sixty percent picked workplace gossip as their No. 1 annoyance.

Some companies are taking drastic measures to ensure workplace gossip doesn’t interfere with productivity and employee morale. Empower Public Relations, a Chicago PR firm, has taken steps to prevent workplace gossip by dubbing their workplace “a gossip-free zone.” If anyone is caught engaging in small talk about another person that they wouldn’t say to their face, they are immediately terminated.

According to the CEO of Empower Public Relations, Sam Chapman recently said in an interview with CNN, “Gossip can ruin people’s lives.” A small not-so-pleasant observation made from one employee about another can blow up into a major firestorm of negative comments from co-workers about the employee, ultimately resulting in the employee establishing a bad reputation by no fault of their own. If the issue that was being talked about by other employees is immediately addressed, the problem that existed could have been resolved without jeopardizing the other person’s career or reputation.

Here are a few simple ways that can stop you from engaging in workplace gossip.

  1. Don’t surround yourself with individuals who gossip.
  2. Don’t be afraid to report the gossip to your superior.
  3. Do keep your personal life private.
  4. Do let any gossip you overhear end with you.
  5. Don’t be afraid to let others know that it makes you uncomfortable to be a part of those types of conversations.

Let’s face it, it’s human nature to want to engage in office conversations and often times, individuals enjoy the juicy details of potential drama in the workplace. But you must remember, a real person is involved and the potential damage you or fellow employees can create can be devastating.

If you find yourself in the middle of a conversation that you think might be hurtful to the person you’re talking about, try using these guidelines and eventually, your co-workers will start to realize that you don’t want to participate in workplace gossip.

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