I’ve been working as a customer service associate in a call centre for a while. Until lately, the workplace has been a pleasant environment. Most recently a few of the employees on my team are talking about one of my colleagues behind their backs, and they are trying to engage me in this conversation. This has made me very uncomfortable. I spoke with my Reena job coach about this situation. I really like my job and would like it to return to the positive place it used to be. Please can you suggest the best strategies to deal with these negative conversations.
Signed: Office Gossip
Indeed, office gossip is very hurtful to the person being targeted and the other co-workers who are listening! I do have some suggestions of how to handle this unfriendly and tense situation as a result of negative conversations from your colleagues. After consulting with your Reena job coach from Channels as well as https://www.kellyservices.ca/ca/careers/career-resource-centre/managing-your-career/eight-ways-for-dealing-with-the-office-gossip/, here are some strategies to consider:
• Nip it in the bud. An office gossip often makes up his or her mind whether or not you’re a receptive audience during your first meeting. As soon as what’s being said becomes unprofessional, simply say something like, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but I really don’t feel comfortable talking about colleagues in this way.”
• Change the subject. Instead of letting the conversation continue in a gossipy vein, change the subject back to work-related matters or even something neutral like the weather.
• Confront bad-mouthing people. In the event someone’s spreading malicious gossip, for example that a colleague isn’t good at his job, tell him or her that it’s up to your supervisor to judge your colleague’s performance. Also, emphasize the fact that gossiping could really hurt someone’s career, and request politely that he or she stop spreading rumours.
• Don’t be antagonistic. Whether the gossip is being spread with malicious intent or not, being antagonistic isn’t likely to improve the situation. Instead, try using diplomacy or even humour to get your point across without getting into an argument.
• Take it to your supervisor. If the office gossip simply refuses to stop and it’s affecting your enjoyment of your work, it’s time to make an appointment with your supervisor and request that he or she steps in.
• Avoid certain topics in the workplace at all costs. Although the damage of the gossip has already been done at your workplace, you can still play an important role in preventing any future negative conversations. Never ever talk about the following in the workplace: religion, politics, Negative feelings about your boss/co-workers, Personal problems or personal information, Medical or Health issues, as well as Personal questions or comments about others.
The consequences of gossip and negative conversations at the workplace are countless. I know of some cases that this turned to legal issues! It’s important to stay position and refrain from participating in any negative conversations, even if you have to walk away!
To submit your questions for this column IN CONFIDENCE, please email Joanna Samuels, Reena’s Employment Supervisor, at firstname.lastname@example.org