The term “gossip” customarily has a negative connotation to it—Does it not? Yet, what exactly is the place of causal buzz and hearsay in today’s workplace culture? Your work environment may not have a designated water cooler or break room, but wherever two people are, gossip can certainly begin.
When colleagues spread information about you, other co-workers, customers or clients around, you don’t have to sit back. Regardless of if the information is fact or fiction, understanding privacy matters is of the essence in workplace culture. Unauthorized disclosure or gossiping through word of mouth is one of the most common HIPAA breaches, especially in health care. If you perceive gossip as a hindrance to a positive environment in your workplace, what can you do? Rumor has it: There are effective ways to handle negative workplace gossip. Here’s what you need to know.
Choose your friends wisely.
Developing fulfilling relationships with your co-workers is key in the present-day workforce. So, naturally, you will develop friendships as you spend a great deal of time at work. That said, know where the boundaries lie. Share personal information sparingly until you build higher levels of trust. Colleague camaraderie banter and harmful gossip are not the same. Establishing a clear balance of friendliness and privacy is key to negate talk of professional or personal affairs. Work is not the place to share these private bouts of specified information.
Keep focused and stay professional.
Simply delving deep into your work and staying busy means you’re not available to participate in story hour. Don’t sidetrack your career goals or company reputation. If people spread gossip, let it stop with you by refusing to be drawn into the conversation. Better yet, change the subject subtly to a more productive or appropriate topic. Do your part to encourage positive gossip by speaking professionally—And don’t share stories outside of work or on social media.
Know when to act or go to a superior.
When the “rumor has it,” ways to handle negative workplace gossip are offensive and defensive strategies. Know that you shouldn’t take rumors to heart, but you can deal with the situation objectively. Don’t be afraid to take action and go directly to a supervisor or HR manager when someone crosses a line of values. Bringing these matters to the attention of management is of the utmost importance to avoid toxic company culture.
Workplace gossiping wastes precious time, reduces employee trust and morale, damages feelings and reputations and can even lead to legal repercussions. Even if a causal conversation about someone isn’t intentionally malicious, conversations at work should be kept more fact-based or business-related. As an employee, you have your own responsibility to act with integrity and maintain a professional image.