How to Cope with a Gossip at Work

Working alongside a gossip can create challenges.

Posted Oct 06, 2014

Hey, did you hear what so-and-so did last week?

Psst….you won’t believe what I saw in the boss’s in-box this morning!

The delivery man brought in a huge shipment of new laptops; I wonder who’s getting “rewarded” with new equipment this time around?

It can be great to have a contact in the office that is able to get to the juicy information with ease. Most of us like to be “in the know” when it comes to personnel issues, planning, expansions, reductions, and so on. However, if your “inside connection” is more of a gossip or scandalmonger, it may compromise her value to you and her value to the group. When someone becomes the office gossip, they have crossed into the “organizational no fly zone,” and you need to limit the scope of your conversations with her. While some gossips may just "create" tales for entertainments, others may actually be sharing truths that are not yet common knowledge. She may have the latest newsflash about the company, but she also may be spilling the scoop on someone’s secrets that she was asked to keep confidential. If you have shared your own updates with her, the news she is sharing with others may very well be yours.

Supervising a Scandalmonger?

If you are supervising the office scandalmonger, refrain from rewarding her inappropriate revelations or salacious updates. If you are gaining insider information that affects you or your team, then use the information appropriately and carefully. If you feel that she is merely spreading rumors to see how you react, simply don’t react. She may also enjoy getting a rise out of people; do not be one of those people. Be highly circumspect of what you say to her, what materials she is allowed to peruse, and the conversations you have in her presence.

Working alongside a Scandalmonger?

If the scandalmonger is your co-worker, take everything she says with a grain of salt and an air of ennui. Don’t let her stir up your emotions if that is her goal. Don’t let her revelations about others pique your interest or boil your blood. Those are her goals and it’s best to use disinterest to disarm. Keep your counsel to yourself to avoid giving her any additional fodder to spread around the office.

Being Supervised by a Scandalmonger?

Lastly, if the scandalmonger is also your supervisor, this can present a double-edged sword. If she really does have inside information about important new organizational transitions, mergers, directives, developments, or policies, her willingness to provide confidential updates can be very useful for you professionally. Knowing what is coming down the pike can help you plan for career moves that propel you closer to your overarching professional goals. However, she may also be pumping you for updates on what is going on at your level or perhaps even more risky, in your life. You may feel torn between being candid with your boss and being cautious in your communications. Choose the path that protects your own long-term investments over those of others or the organization.

Final Advice

This final warning is short and sweet:

Never share any information that you would not want others to attribute to you as its source. Once it has been shared, you have lost all control over where your words end up next.

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Share your difficult co-worker stories online at: http://suzannedegges.com/the-friends-we-love-to-hate-and-hate-to-need/

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