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Is office gossip creating a hostile work environment?

On Behalf of | Jun 10, 2022 | Workplace discrimination |

When you get a bunch of people together every day, it’s almost inevitable that they will talk about other individuals in the same office. Sometimes, the chatter is about innocent topics, like whether someone’s new hairdo or outfit is flattering. Other times, however, it can be withering, pointedly false or even outright vicious. It can tarnish somebody’s reputation.

The victim of the covert, behind-the-back conversations in places like the lunchroom may feel that they have been harassed or slandered. They could also believe that the gossip has created a hostile work environment for them. If so, they could choose to report it to human resources or take legal action. 

Gossip can undermine an entire organization

The effects of office gossip cannot be trivialized or underestimated. When it becomes a staple of an office environment, it can cause a downturn in a team’s attitude, lead to a big public relations headache if someone decides to file a lawsuit about it and foster a widespread poisonous atmosphere.

What are the typical hallmarks of gossip?

There are some traits of gossip that can help you pinpoint it and distinguish it from ordinary banter. Gossip, one study concluded, “is up to 2.7 times more likely to be negative than positive….”    

  • The subject can be something like a person’s precarious situation at work. 
  • You would be uneasy repeating the information to the person’s face.
  • Gossipers tend to be people who relish others’ bad luck or failures.
  • Gossip seldom is complimentary or friendly. 

Gossip gets speedily passed along like wildfire from person to person throughout a company. The more titillating it is, the more eager some people are to listen and then broadcast it to others.

Don’t let gossip destroy your working environment

Gossip can be defused when it starts. If you are with a group of co-workers who begin sniping about a colleague, redirect the conversation or just walk away. If you are the one being gossiped about, first use internal channels to address the issue. If that isn’t effective, it may be time to examine all your other options