Unfortunately, gossip is a part of most offices. Whether it’s casual stuff or more damaging material, office gossip can quickly become all-consuming and can actually end up hurting your career. But while you don’t want to get caught up in the drama of your workplace, you also don’t want to seem anti-social by steering clear of cubemates who do gossip. So how do you find a balance? We’ve got some tips:
Change the direction of the conversation
Most gossip-filled conversations start off pleasant enough, but take a turn as people feed off of one another. Instead of avoiding conversing with your co-workers altogether, make it a point to steer the conversation away from petty gossip. When you sense that a conversation is heading toward a spiteful place, quickly change the topic. Bring up something funny that happened at the office last week, mention a movie you’re going to go see, or ask someone about their kids. By steering the conversation away from your co-workers, you’re able to be social without being spiteful.
Create a time and place for it
Some people are just naturally more inclined to gossip, and may not even realize they’re doing it. If you’ve identified a co-worker who means no harm but has to get her gossip fix, find the right time and place to let her vent. Instead of letting her talk your ear off about a co-worker’s halitosis or possible affair with another colleague in the middle of the break room, suggest that you two grab a cup of coffee. Let her vent in a place where other co-workers won’t hear, and then head back to the office. Make sure not to chime in as the gossip session is taking place. This way, your co-worker can get her daily dose of gossip, without creating a stir within the office.
Resist the temptation
If you noticed something particularly juicy or are having a bad day, it can be tempting to bend your co-worker’s ear for a bit. While you may experience relief in the moment, fight the urge to pull your cubemate aside and spill the details. Though your conversation may only last a few minutes, your thoughts can be repeated for months to come. Plus, you never know who may overhear you talking. If you must gossip, do so with friends or family members who don’t work in the office. You’ll get it off your chest without setting yourself up for a long-term issue.
Make it known that you’re not into gossiping
Typically, office gossips look for other types who want to share juicy details. If you show that you’re not interested in joining the party, it’s likely that these gossipers will move on and find someone else to chat with. This leaves you to focus on your work and find real friendships within the office.
While office gossip may feel fun and exciting at the time, remember that anything you say can easily (and often incorrectly) be reiterated to other members of the staff. An offhand comment may come back to haunt you months later. It’s great to be social with your colleagues, but never say anything that you wouldn’t want the whole office to hear.