The Difference Between Good and Bad Office Gossip

Does the word “gossip” conjure images of teenage girls huddled together whispering? Or perhaps in this modern age, a shared group text with a rumor about another student?

Sure, gossip has a notorious reputation for being part of adolescence, but it doesn’t stop after graduation. In fact, the office is one of the most prevalent places for gossip mills to thrive.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, if it’s used to spread positive news. For example, maybe a coworker is happy his son is engaged and you want to share his joy. Maybe it’s to help someone, such as telling your boss you’re worried a coworker is depressed and needs help. Perhaps it’s helping people vent about customers so you can come up with a good solution to a problem.

Unlike these examples with positive motives, bad gossip is meant to damage someone’s morale. Maybe you’re complaining about a colleague not doing much and how you feel he’ll ultimately get fired. This does not help anyone and certainly isn’t meant to solve any problem. It’s simply complaining for the sake of complaining.

Remember, bad gossip gives power to the disgruntled and solves nothing. Bad gossip sets up cliques where others feel left out. Bad gossip can happen in front of or behind someone’s back. It’s up to each and every one of us to control gossip in the work environment.

Besides opting to not participate in negative gossip, you can also take steps to limit others’ participation by:

  • Walking away from groups participating in gossip by saying, “Sorry, I’m really busy” or “I don’t believe that’s for us to be discussing.”
  • Coming to the defense of a person being maligned.
  • Not listening when someone tells you that another person gossiped about you. Always take the high road.

Remember, you may think you’re a good performer, but you are also judged by the effect you have on the performance of the group as a whole. If you adversely affect the performance of another individual or the group, you will not be seen as a leader and your career opportunities may suffer.

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