Office gossip can be expected in any organisation – it is human nature to want to talk about other people and, provided that it isn’t nasty or unwarranted, there is little harm in it. Then again, when it becomes personal, it can offend and the best thing to do is avoid it as far as possible. However, if it is your boss who is the subject of office gossip, you will need to think carefully about how to deal with it. Here are some ways to cope.
Don’t join in
If your colleagues have an ounce of self-respect, they should realise that they are putting you in a difficult position and should avoid talking about your boss around you. If they don’t, then do your best not to join in when the gossip starts up. Walk away if possible, or just keep quiet. It may be tempting to join in if you don’t like your boss, or argue with them if you do, but this will just fuel the fire and could result in you being the source of gossip too, or, even worse, being fired.
Correct any obvious mistakes
If, however, there are things that are being said that you know are blatantly not true, then you may want to try and put the gossiper right. If you are afraid of approaching them yourself, then speak to other colleagues separately and what you say will undoubtedly get back to the gossiper eventually. Gossiping about your bosses’ working methods or private life is one thing, but if lies are being spread, then this is unacceptable.
Don’t mention it to your boss
It is almost certainly best not to mention the gossip to your boss. It is likely to offend your boss, who may then decide to take action against the gossipers, resulting in them turning against you as well. It can also affect the balance of the office quite substantially, making it a difficult place for all to work. Sometimes saying less is more and this is one of those situations.
If your boss asks, be diplomatic
If your boss hears about the gossip and asks you to confirm it, then be as diplomatic as you possibly can. Don’t use blunt language and explain that there may have been a misunderstanding on the part of the gossiper. You need to remain loyal to your boss at all times, but nor is there really any need to land your colleagues in trouble, unless they have been particularly nasty and unfair.
Report to HR if it gets out of hand
If the situation gets so bad that you begin to dread going to work, then the time has come to report the matter to someone else – either another senior manager (not your boss) or human resources. They are trained to deal with matters like these and should have the means to deal with any bad feelings. There may be underlying reasons that you do not fully understand and would be best staying uninvolved as far as possible.
Following these basic guidelines should ensure that you stay out of trouble as much as you can, while not fanning the flames of office gossip. Ultimately, this will gain you respect.