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Want professional success? Stop gossiping at work and help others get off the gossip wheel too

With many people returning to their offices or construction sites, but not everyone! — some pre-pandemic challenges are once again part of today’s corporate culture.

A persistent problem is that of office gossip.

It’s a vicious cycle: Workplace gossip affects employee morale, job satisfaction, productivity, and overall work culture.

FOX Business reached out to experts to find out how to get off the gossip wheel at work — and how employees can remove themselves from tough or difficult situations, which also sends a message to others.

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The experts also shared their thoughts on why all workers, regardless of position, should resist the urge to gossip.

Why is gossip so harmful?

Gossip is one of those stigmas that few people want to align themselves with, especially at work or in the workplace.

“When you or someone else is labeled as ‘office gossip,’ you know it’s not a compliment. It paints a picture of how others see you,” said Kali Wolken, counselor licensed professional and certified professional counselor in Grand Rapids, Mich.

business people at desks in the office

Workplace gossip breaks trust, which can significantly affect office dynamics.

Gossip breaks trust – and in a work environment, it can affect the whole office dynamic.

“A big part of gossip is you sharing secrets that you’re not allowed to share,” Wolken added.

“And when you share those secrets, it’s gossip, and you ultimately tell those around you that you can’t be trusted with other important information.”

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When trust begins to break down, Wolken said others will question other areas of trust, such as your reliability, integrity or accountability.

“And when trust breaks down, it also means those who would stand beside or behind you in support feel more cautious about putting themselves in that risky situation,” she said.

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To curb workplace gossip, experts advise workers to monitor their own actions first and think long-term about their careers.

“It can impact referrals for new jobs or promotion opportunities – and can even lead to you being fired if the company has to downsize.”

How to curb the urge to gossip?

First, control your own actions, experts advise.

Start by asking yourself what information you want to share.

Ask these internal questions, Wolken suggested: Is the information yours to share? Did the other person give you permission to share it? And what is the point of sharing information?

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“If you don’t have permission and the goal isn’t to gain support for the parties involved, then don’t share it,” she said.

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“Most of us gossip because we want to be part of the ‘group’,” says one career expert. (Stock)

Second, resist the urge to join the gossip bandwagon — and dig deeper into your own motivation to gossip.

“Most of us gossip because we want to be part of the ‘group,’ but being part of a group that tears others down is often less beneficial than having the trust of colleagues and our supervisors,” said Wolken.

How can you stop gossiping colleagues?

When your coworkers or co-workers – or anyone at work – talk about someone else, you have clear options for how to respond.

“You can show them you don’t want to participate by walking away from the conversation,” noted Amy Morin, a Florida Keys-based psychotherapist and author of the book “13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do.” and host of “The Verywell Mind” podcast.

Or you could apologize and say something about how you need to get back to work or deal with a problem, Morin said.

team of young people discussing a business plan

If other people at work are chatting, walking away from the conversation sends a clear message.

“It can send a strong message without directly confronting colleagues.”

You can also speak up and tackle the problem head-on.

Morin suggested saying something like, “I’m not comfortable talking about our colleagues without inviting them into the conversation.”

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Of course, when you walk away from the conversation, you can become the target of gossip yourself, but talking shows that you are unwilling to participate.

“Gossip can be detrimental to your success as it can become a distraction for your career development.”

“It can also help others recognize what’s going on,” Morin said.

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Not only does gossip mark you as untrustworthy, but gossip makes you look desperate, Morin said.

“It signals to others that the only way to feel like you’re climbing the social hierarchy is to put others down,” Morin said.

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Additionally, Michelle Enjoli, an Atlanta-based career development coach and speaker, says gossip can get in the way of your success because it can become a distraction to your career development.

“Gossiping can drastically reduce the time you have to learn as much as possible.”

A big motivator for stopping the urge to gossip at work is to refocus your energy on career-building activities, Enjoli said.

“Gossip can become a source of discontent and bitterness that can cloud your judgment of your own career decisions and harm your personal brand,” Enjoli explained.

“Gossiping can drastically reduce the time you have to learn as much as possible.”

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Instead of chatting, Enjoli said workers should spend time adding value to their organization and building meaningful connections with others in the workplace.

And that, for sure, is a much more positive and forward-thinking way to spend time and energy.

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