Gossip is defined as..."casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true." Gossip in the office can be very damaging, causing hidden (and sometimes not so hidden) conflicts. Dealing with gossip quickly and directly is imperative to keep it from growing out of control.
An organization needs to establish a culture of addressing gossip quickly. Everyone (not just leaders) needs to ask several questions about the comments they are hearing:
1. Would the comment be said to the person's face? Or is it something that people are talking about "behind the person's back"
2. Is the comment negative in any way?
3. Is the comment a back-handed compliment? Meaning made in a way that sounds like it could be positive, but is actually negative?
How to Address It
If any of these are found to be true, individuals need to be empowered to stop the gossip in its' tracks. Address the issue head on by asking direct questions:
1. Why would you say negative things about a co-worker?
2. Does (name of person) know you feel this way?
3. Does this have to do with work? (and if the answer is yes) Let's bring (name of person) in to discuss.
Finally, a short statement indicating that you do not wish to participate in company gossip is an appropriate way to end the discussion.