It's human nature to talk about other people, especially when a 90's rap song taught us that it was cool to talk about other people's *assets*. But the truth is, gossip is toxic. Once it starts in the workplace, it travels fast, fueling rumors, undermining relationships and trust, and most likely creates a working environment you don't enjoy.
Yet, you can be part of the solution to stop it.
Become a master of redirection.
(v) direct (something) to a new or different place or purpose.
When someone comes to you with gossip, don't reward the information by engaging in conversation.
Instead, give nonchalant interest and then ask a question to change the topic, like this:
Gossip Coworker: Hey, did you hear about Susan? She may get fired.
You: Hmm. I didn’t hear that. By the way, I'm glad I ran into you because I've been meaning to ask: how has it been going on the [insert specific project or objective here] project?
You probably know who the gossipers are, so think about a few topics that you can have on hand that would be relevant to those gossip people and be ready to redirect at a moment's notice.
A second tactic you can use is directly calling out basement behavior.
If someone is trying to gossip with you and you recognize that it’s a result of talents being misused causing basement behavior, tell them. You learned about balcony and basement behaviors with The Collaborative with the intent that it provided you with more awareness of when you are using (or not using) your talents to their greatest potential. Be honest with a peer as a developmental opportunity. It could sound like this:
Gossip Coworker: Ugh! I really hate Jeff's tight deadlines. It forces me to be so stressed, I think he does it on purpose because he wants everyone to be miserable like him. Did you hear that he is having trouble with... ?
You: I’m not sure that’s fair, and honestly I think you could use your empathy that is clearly reading that he has a lots of stress and is dealing with it poorly. Maybe instead you could use that Empathy to ask him what we can do to help, and read when it’s a good time to create more achievable timelines for projects. I’d be happy to help you come up with ways to approach him best.
We need each other to help us develop our strengths.
The bottom line:
Gossip may sound cool in a 90's rap song, but it doesn't belong in the workplace.
Gossip only lives if it's given fuel. Stop fueling it.