When office gossip turns ugly, and it's directed at you, it's time to develop a strategy to cope with it.
Q, I feel that I have become the target of the office gossip. We used to be friends. Now he doesn't like me because I disagree with his take on the politics of the office. He spreads rumors and gossip about people he doesn't like; he's done that in front of me. Now I am afraid of what damage he can do to me and my reputation at work. It's hard to catch him in the act. Yet you know by the snickers behind your back and people who stop talking when you walk into a room that something funny is going on. How do I defend against the office gossip? His other targets have taken the strategy of just ignoring him. He doesn't stop and has even turned some people against the targets.
A. Sandra A. Crowe, a Rockville, Md., workplace advice consultant to corporations and government agencies, said that "ignoring is a form of reward" for the gossiper; he assumes he is getting away with his behavior and can think to himself, 'I'm having way too much fun doing this' to stop. As he goes on, "he's enrolling other people in the gossip," co-workers who might think they're getting the inside scoop on something important.
As a result, Crowe, who wrote a book about disruptive workplace behavior called "Since Strangling Isn't an Option," said the victim of this gossip "absolutely ought to confront him."
"He should approach him directly, not confrontationally, but with strength and openness," Crowe said. "You don't go charging into an office; you'd come off as a little loony.
"And then you say, 'It's come to my attention that you've had some conversations about me. Quite frankly, I find that offensive. This is unacceptable. I ask that you not have these conversations behind my back,' " she said.
Crowe predicted that the gossiper will somehow try to redirect the conversation, deny the gossiping, claim that the victim misconstrued something or that he is overreacting. She said the victim might allow for some misunderstanding, but firmly say, "'I just thought you ought to be aware I know what you are doing."'
Crowe said that by confronting the gossiper, it might give him pause the next time he is inclined to spread more maliciousness. But she said if it does not stop, the victim ought to tell a supervisor what is going on.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.