Current Events   
Learn More

Have You Heard? How to Stop Office Gossip

EAP Navigator

Have You Heard? How to Stop Office Gossip
If you've been the victim of office gossip, you know it can be both cruel and destructive. Such malicious gossip has shattered many people's lives and careers.

What is gossip?
Gossip is anything negative you say about someone to someone else – whether the information is true or false. Some people, however, believe it's OK to talk about others if what they say is true. While it's legal to spread truthful information about someone, it is gossip, and unethical.

Gossip ruins lives
Obviously, gossip causes damage because it can ruin a person's reputation. Spreading rumors about someone else's personal life can lead to the breakup of a marriage and family. Talking negatively about someone's job performance can be devastating to that employee's career.

Why people gossip
Spreading secret information, especially something negative, makes people feel important. It also adds a bit of intrigue to the same old boring workday.

”For most of us, exchanging critical evaluations about others is far more interesting and enjoyable than exchanging good news,” explains Rabbi Telushkin, author of Words That Hurt, Words That Heal .

This type of gossip happens all the time at work. One employee gets mad at another employee, so the disgruntled person complains to a third party to vent his or her feelings.

This type of office triangle damages companies for the following reasons: Nothing gets resolved between the two angry employees. A third person becomes involved and must take sides. Pretty soon the entire office gets caught up in an undercurrent of damaging gossip, with everyone choosing sides. The resulting tension lowers office morale and affects employee productivity.

What you can do about office gossip
If you're the target of gossip, or if office gossip is a general problem, ask your supervisor to create an office policy on it. Management should announce the policy at a staff meeting or in a written directive all employees must sign. The policy should spell out that:
• Gossip about anyone's personal life or work life is unacceptable.
• If two employees can't resolve a problem between themselves, they should each write down the problem and possible solutions and submit it to their supervisor. The supervisor can then meet with the two employees and help resolve the problem.
• An employee upset with a supervisor should talk directly with the supervisor and not with anyone else. Employees who violate the rules will suffer consequences, which should be clearly noted.

What if you've done it
Notice how often your talk unintentionally drifts toward discussion of other people. Next, notice how often you're a willing recipient of gossip. If you listen to gossip, you're guilty, as well. A listener must complete the gossip connection.

”If you have publicly said something cruel and regret it, call the victim of your remarks immediately and apologize,” advises Rabbi Telushkin. ”Gossip spreads like wildfire, and you have no control over which direction it heads or how much damage it leaves in its path.”

You Can Cultivate an Optimistic Point of View
Every few days, we see the words of economic prognosticators who say the state of the economy is improving. They are giving us a dose of realistic optimism. That point of view can be learned, but first you have to know what optimism is not: It isn't being always cheerful and thinking everything is wonderful. Rather, healthy optimism is being in touch with reality and its possibilities.

In his new book, The Pursuit of Perfect , Tal Ben–Shahar describes realistic optimists as those who can make the best of whatever happens. As an individual, Ben–Shahar, a Harvard professor, uses what he calls ”PRP exercises” when he feels down. Permission – He allows himself to be human. Not everyone can be the best at whatever they do and all the time.

Reconstruction – He learns about what works for him and what doesn't, and from the past.

Perspective – It involves acknowledging that in the grand scheme of life, one event doesn't matter that much. By being optimistic, he experiences less health–threatening stress. He can tolerate circumstances, accept them and deal with them constructively. His attitude goes along with the new field of positive psychology. People are taught to strengthen their strengths instead of their weaknesses. Instead of focusing on righting wrongs in their lives, they are taught to just move forward.

Optimism is contagious, so try to associate with happy, positive people. A study at the University of California, San Diego shows the happiness contagion works even in the largest social network of all. They found that those who smiled in their Facebook photos tended to have friends who smiled. People who smile tend to be more optimistic.

April is Physical Wellness Month
A healthy lifestyle cuts risk of serious diseases. A big study of people ages 35 to 65 shows that having just four healthy habits reduces your risk of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer by almost 80 percent. The research by the Centers for Disease Control and colleagues shows the association with four lifestyle factors: Not smoking; eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in meat consumption; getting a half–hour daily of moderate exercise; and avoiding obesity.

Diabetes risk was most sharply reduced by a healthy lifestyle, while cancer was affected the least. Avoiding obesity was most effective in reducing risks, followed by not smoking.

The potential for avoiding society's biggest killers through healthy living is ”enormous,” say the researchers.

Download the PDF on the left to read more!