Commentary

April 5, 2013

Breaking the gossip cycle in the workplace

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John Winkfield
Director, Equal Employment Opportunity NTC and Fort Irwin

gossip_part2
Let’s say you’re not a gossiper. You simply listen to your coworkers, so as not be rude. But here’s the thing that most people don’t realize – as a listener, you are a co-narrator to the gossip. In other words, the act of active listening actually supports and promotes gossiping. The more you listen, the more you encourage it. If you don’t listen, the gossip has nowhere to go.

Here’s how to get out of the gossip pipeline:
Be busy. Gossipmongers want attention. If you’re preoccupied with your work, you can’t be available to listen to their latest story.

Don’t participate. Walk away from the story. Don’t give visual clues that you are interested in listening. If someone passes a juicy story on to you, don’t pass it any further. Take personal responsibility to act with integrity.

Turn it around by saying something positive. It isn’t nearly as much fun to spread negative news if it’s spoiled by a complimentary phrase about the person being attacked.

Avoid the gossiper. If you notice one person who consistently makes trouble, take the necessary actions to have as little interaction with that person as possible.

Keep your private life private. Don’t trust personal information with coworkers. Remember, if they are gossiping about others, they will gossip about you, too.

Choose your friends wisely at work. Share information sparingly until you are sure that you have built up a level of trust. Also, close association with gossipers will give the perception that you are a gossiper.
Be direct. Confront the gossiper and confidently tell him or her that such behavior is making it uncomfortable for you and other coworkers.

Go to a supervisor/manager. Gossiping wastes the agencies time and hurts morale. A directorate, agency, or battalion interested in a healthy work environment will value the opportunity to correct this type of situation.

(Editor’s note: This is part one of three on the topic of gossip in the workplace.)




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