Question submitted by Kristina C, Phoenix, Arizona

So… she said whaaaat!!!???

Response crafted by, Niki Ramirez, MBA/PHR

Dealing with office gossip and gab can be challenging, but with some focused attention, it is certainly a challenge that you can tackle – and you need to.

Gossip in the workplace is damaging behavior that left unchecked, can erode an organization, break down teams and diminish trust quickly.  Gossip can start simply as a joke or a snide remark.  If asked, many managers would say that gossip is something that we left behind in middle school, when in reality, it was not.

Let’s get to it – Tips for Dealing with Workplace Gossip

Toughest item on the check list first, ok?

1) Start by taking a look at yourself. Could you be fueling the fire? Most times, people who are hearing gossip are actually a part of it and have some role in it continuing.  Unless you’re shutting it down, you might be supporting gossip.


Whew! With that out of the way…  

2) Model the behavior you want to see.  This is really as simple as leading by example.  Do not display any behaviors that you wouldn’t want to see your employees engaged in! Before you know it, without you knowing it, you are leading and setting the tone with your example … Examples from managers and supervisors are powerful.

3) Be brave and meet [promptly] with employees who spread gossip.  Leadership is a lot about bravery.  Without being brave and taking the first step, we don’t get anything done. Leaders are out front, watching the line and responding quickly to what they see.  This is no different.

In order to deal with office gossip, you have to be willing to have that uncomfortable conversation, across from the person who you believe is gossiping.  Struggling with exactly what to say and how to get that conversation started?  No sweat, Contact Me and let’s talk this out.  Every situation is unique … But let me tell you, it’d probably go something like this:

– “I wanted to meet with you today because I have been made aware that you’re participating in gossip (or spreading rumors).”

– “Without getting into all the details, I want you to know that it isn’t acceptable. Gossip breaks down relationships and it builds up walls that can make working together very difficult.  Gossip at work can make communication between team members so difficult.”

– “Is there an underlying problem or issue between you and “Jane” that I can help you clear up so that we can put this behind us?”

This meeting doesn’t have to be long and drawn out.  In fact, don’t allow it to be.  Get straight to the point.  That is your best bet here.  Sometimes employees will want to rehash every detail of what you heard, what you know, and what you think … Do NOT fall for that.

I generally deliver my message whether an employee “admits” to gossiping or not.  If they are adamant that they didn’t participate in gossip, I will hear them out and finish the short conversation anyway. I implore them to help me spread the word about the importance of building great relationships at work.

An even better approach to dealing with gossip is to establish an environment that simply doesn’t support it.  Easier said than done, right?!  With some attention to what is really going on, you can quickly reduce the amount of workplace gossip in your organization.

To that end, here are some quick thoughts on PREVENTING gossip:

  • Be open and honest and communicate with your team members.  That way, they won’t have to make stuff up!
  • “Manage” by  being around your employees when possible.  This isn’t always feasible, especially with the growth of remote and virtual teams, but keeping a [physical] pulse on your team’s interactions is critical.
  • Build an organizational or company culture that promotes cooperation instead of competition.

prevent problems

Ready to get honest and get down to business?  You don’t have to do it alone, and we love this stuff!

Does your team need coaching or practice dealing with office gossip or any type of workplace behavior issue?  Connect with me and let’s get your unique plan in place to get things moving in the right direction!


About the author: Niki Ramirez is a seasoned professional consultant and coach with a knack for engaging business leaders.  She has a successful track record partnering with a wide variety of organizations to analyze current human resources and business operations with an objective of collaborating to design cost-effective HR, training, employee relations programs, develop employment policies and procedures, and help organization exceed their goals.
Maybe most importantly, Niki is the proud momma to three strikingly gorgeous, intelligent kids.  She loves to horseback ride and get outside to hike and explore the world every spare minute that she has.