What is the best way to eliminate manipulative gossipers at a workplace?

Friday June 18 2021
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Caroline Mboijana. PHOTO/FILE

By Caroline Mboijana

There is a group in my office that enjoys spreading malicious gossip around. I have noticed that they change the focus of work in some cases and distract employees from the objectives and goals.  What do I do to stop the habit?  Janet

Hello Janet,
In a workplace, it’s common for employees to chat about others .  However,  this can easily turn into gossip. This can be especially damaging if it becomes malicious or if it distracts from the work at hand.

It can be hard to know what to do when there is a group at work who are gossiping. Although it can be hard to manage how others behave, you can certainly manage your own behaviour.  Be careful not to get drawn into the gossip. 

It can be tempting to listen in and get wrapped up in the drama. Try not to participate or,  if you do,  turn it around- if they are saying something mean about someone in the office or spreading a rumour,  instead say something kind about the person or ask them where they got their information from.

It may also be good to confront them about their gossiping. If there are one or two people who mostly lead the gossiping, perhaps speak individually to them. 

When you speak with them, deal with the issue and not the person. Rather than telling them you think they are bad people, tell them that the way they speak about others makes you uncomfortable. Try not to make them feel attacked.  Instead, be willing to have a real conversation about it with them about why they enjoy speaking poorly about others.

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If the gossiping continues,  do not be afraid to involve their supervisors or Human Resources.  It is important for the company that people are working effectively,  if this is being undermined by distraction or by a breakdown in the team due to gossiping, they should know. 

Their supervisors or HR should definitely be informed if the gossiping crosses the line into harassment or bullying.  Ultimately, if more serious measures need to be taken it’s not your responsibility.

It may take a long time for the gossiping culture to change to being a culture of encouragement and trust. In the meantime, protect yourself. Keep your private life private and be careful about who you share personal information with.

Good luck, Caroline.

Caroline Mboijana, Managing Director, The Leadership Team (U)  
cmboijana@gmail.com

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