Option 1: Offer a solution
“Gossip doesn’t just happen at the water cooler anymore,” says Julie Jansen, career coach and author of You Want Me to Work With Who? And in case you didn’t already know, your employer can read what you’re saying online, even if it’s in a private message. “If you need to get something off your chest, talk to someone outside of work,” Jansen says.
Of course, you may still face some challenges since you can’t really control what comes out of your co-workers’ mouths. However, there are moves you can make to handle office gossip strategically when it reaches your ears.
Option 2: Vacate the premises
Even if you don’t contribute to the conversation, you’re still guilty by association. “Listening to someone else gossip does incriminate you on a certain level,” Jansen says. “You don’t want to be a bystander.”
Have an exit strategy prepared so you can politely remove yourself from the gossiping. Keep it simple. Say, “I’m sorry, I forgot I have to send an email,” or excuse yourself and go to the restroom.
Granted, this tactic may not be a long-term strategy (especially if the person gossips a lot), but it gets you away from the scene unscathed.
Option 3: Change the conversation topic
This move requires some finesse. Jansen recommends steering the conversation toward a safe, innocuous topic, like movies (“I saw a preview for XYZ movie, and it looks great. Do you think you’ll go see it?”) or sports (“Did you catch the game last night?”). When in doubt, compliment the gossiper, ask to see pictures of their pets, or find out what their weekend plans are.
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