How To Handle Workplace Gossip and Stay Productive On the Job

3 ways to effectively handle the trash talking and gossip that takes place in your office.

Trash talking isn’t just relegated to the football field and basketball court. Today, trash talking, griping, and toxic gossip is common in every office across America. Now how is it that dedicated, hard-working and intelligent people can so easily participate in nasty and demoralizing office gossip? More and more it is happening in today’s workplace, and in some cases it has become the norm. With people becoming more productive and passionate about their work, the level of commitment also increases. This level of commitment leads to competition which can be an asset because it leads to new ideas and results, but it can also be a liability because it leads to toxic gossip.

Thanks to technology, today’s watercooler conversations not only take place in the office break room, at a co-worker’s desk or office, but also through text messaging, instant messaging, and e-mail. These new media mean that gossip is traveling faster and farther, and it can do greater damage. Gossip usually comes in two forms: either rumors about company changes, including promotions, staffing changes, layoffs or merger; and personal gossip about specific employees — who is dealing with personal problems, who is doing well, and, of course, who’s having an affair.

With gossip working its way in and out of every office in America, here are three ways to effectively handle it.

What are the intentions?

Gauge what the person’s intentions are. Do they want to vent, or do they want to use gossip in a destructive way? Decide whether or not you want to listen. You are not obligated to listen, but if you do let the person know that you are supportive by being a sounding board. If you decline to listen, acknowledge that the person has feelings; maybe direct them to someone other than yourself who may be better suited to listen to their issue.

Position the conversation

Take the conversation to a private setting where others won’t overhear, and listen without taking sides. After listening, ask the person if they would like more help in the form of advice, or more listening, but don’t take on the problem yourself. Oftentimes people look for someone that they can team up with to further their intentions.

Move on

When the issue has been dealt with, dead it and keep it moving. If you dwell on it, keep having the same conversations and talking about it, then you become part of the problem. If other people have become involved go straight to them and let them know that the issue has been resolved so they can also move on.

Daron Pressley (@daronpressley) is an entrepreneur and former Fortune 500 sales and marketing executive who has been featured on outlets including Fox45 News, Black Enterprise magazine, and The Washington Post. Knowledgeable in marketing and branding, Pressley works with professional athletes, organizations, and individuals to develop strategies to create, build, and grow brands. As a speaker, Pressley has reached more than 20,000 students. He also provides dynamic insights on leadership and branding via his Website: