Have you ever had a friend or co-worker say to you something like “Someone said something bad about you…” After the announcement, they tell you all the juicy details but leave you hanging about WHO said all the bad stuff. Gossip contributes to a lot of workplace drama.
You wonder about their motivation. Do they want you to know that they know something you don’t? Do they want to hurt your feelings? Do they assume you are interested in gossip that limits your productivity? Well, there are many reasons but reasons won’t change the situation. Don’t bite the bait.
Getting Reeled In Equals Losing Power
If you work with someone who plays the “I can’t tell you who’s talking about you” game, you have to tell yourself the truth about what is really going on. The bad news is almost always an invitation to take the bait. If you take the bait you’ll get reeled in and now you’ve lost your power and your productivity is sure to suffer. You don’t have to take the bait. You have an opportunity to call out the behavior by questioning uncertain motives and you can respond in one of these two ways:
The Two Approaches to Stop Workplace Gossip
1. “What is your purpose in telling me this?”
2. “ Is that supposed to hurt my feelings or help me?”
There is third way, which is to give absolutely no energy to the problem. You can lighten up and simply take the wind out of their sails by saying, “Well, you know what they say…it doesn’t matter if what they say is good or bad, it just matters that they’re still talking about you.”
The only potential challenge with this method is you do not want to miscommunicate. This can be seen as a passive-aggressive approach, and may even entice your “fisherman” to try a little herder to get you to bite. Sometimes you have to be direct, so use your best judgment on addressing this type of subtle bullying.
The truth is you don’t need to get sucked into the drama and game playing. Knowing this keeps your energy and productivity high.
If you manage others it’s important not to get side tracked in by gossip or hearsay. Listen to what people say but make sure you know all the facts. A big mistake that managers make is to listen to a favorite employee who comes loaded with “inside” information but without all the facts. The universal lesson applies to all areas of life.
Marlene Chism is a consultant, national speaker and author of Stop Workplace Drama (Wiley 2011). Marlene’s passion is developing wise leaders and helping people to discover, develop and deliver their gifts to the world.
Marlene’s message is spreading across the country at association meetings, corporate retreats, universities and other venues. If interested in exploring speaking or training opportunities please call 1.888.434.9085