Gossip. It’s in every workplace and can make the office toxic.

Being a gossip, or participating in gossip chatter, can be a career limiting move. It can affect your reputation—with colleagues and, importantly, your boss.

While it might be tempting to listen to juicy gossip, it’s best to not get involved, on any level.

Author Shawn Lim (everydaypowerblog.com) has pulled together seven ways to stop gossip in the office.

Here they are … with our tips at the end on how you can test if you’re a gossiper.

  1. Change the subject

One way to avoid gossip is to change the subject of the conversation. The one who asks the question is the one who has control over the conversation. Don’t join in on gossip. Instead, change the subject by asking an unrelated question such as ‘How was your weekend?’

  1. Keep your goals and priorities top of mind

When confronted with gossip, remember that you have more important things to do and that gossiping is a big waste of time. People who gossip aren’t achieving anything. Create reminders to keep you focused.

  1. Ignore the gossipers

It doesn’t take long to figure out who the gossipers are at work (hopefully you’re not one of them). Gossipers thrive on attention. Don’t give it to them. Ignore them and avoid joining them in conversation. Keep busy. If gossipers see you’re hard at work, they won’t target you.

  1. Walk away

If you find yourself in a gossip situation, walk away. Develop an exit strategy so you’re ready to do so. Politely say something like: ‘I’m sorry, I forgot that I need to send an email’ and then excuse yourself. You might not be the one gossiping but if you’re a bystander you’re involved, and even encouraging gossip.

  1. Focus on solutions, not problems

Sometimes gossip stems from a problem. In these cases, try to steer the conversation to a solution. This can help people realise they’re off topic. Come up with a potential solution and ask the person or people gossiping what they think. It helps pull them back to the moment. If you’re unsure how to do this, or feel uncomfortable doing so, kick your exit strategy into gear and walk away.

  1. Set yourself as an example

Take a look at yourself and ask if you’re a gossiper. If you are, then it’s best to change your habits. It’s best to set yourself as an example—someone who doesn’t get involved. As Shawn says, ‘You can’t stop rumors if you are the one spreading them.’

  1. Encourage positive gossip

You can encourage a positive environment at work by sharing helpful stories and motivating people to focus on common goals. One example is to talk about an employee who has gone above and beyond in servicing a client. Raise this as a topic to chat about. Deflecting or changing negative gossip into positive gossip is encouraging. Sometimes your colleagues might not buy into the idea right away. While you shouldn’t try to force them too, remember that positive energy is infectious.

Tips for testing if you’re a gossip

 Do you stand and listen to people talking about others or do you walk away?

  • Do you share rumours? Perhaps you can’t wait to tell secrets?
  • Are you fascinated with hearing ‘dirt’ on others?
  • Do you find yourself whispering when sharing information (or are you listening to someone who is whispering)?
  • Do you spend time with people who love drama and love spreading negative information?
  • Do people who have juicy information gravitate towards you because they know you’ll listen?

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