How to Deal With Rumors in the Workplace

Water cooler talk can affect the productivity of the entire office.

Water cooler talk can affect the productivity of the entire office.

Rumors in the workplace can be an annoyance, a negative impact on your performance and a form of harassment that must be dealt with. Rumors can start as harmless commentary and grow into hurtful untruths. It is best to confront and tamp down rumors as early as possible but it is still possible to eliminate them if they continue to grow.

Confront the person or people voicing the rumors. Walk straight up to them and ask them how they know what they speak of and offer the truth to offset the fictional story. Bringing the truth to light and standing up to the perpetrators in full view of your coworkers can be enough to stop the rumors immediaately. This is a much more effective method of dealing with rumors than ignoring them and allowing them to grow.

Beware of with whom you share personal or career information. While you may feel comfortable opening up to an office friend and you may view your coworkers as a second family of sorts, there is no telling what they might do if it came down to self-preservation. All your private details can make their way into the public domain if another peoson believes it will help her to keep her job. If you keep your information to yourself, there is less to make rumors about in the first place.

Voice your displeasure with the rumor mill that exists within your workplace to the boss. Gather together some non-gossiping coworkers and request a meeting to discuss the state of affairs. Tell your boss that the unnecessary gossip is distracting the office and negatively affecting production and efficiency. Don't name names, but make it clear that you are asking that something be done to change the culture that allows for such rumors to fly. A training program can address good and bad office communications and the threats that gossip poses. Your boss, manager or even the CEO may choose to make an announcement that prohibits workplace gossip and helps to eliminate the situation once and for all.

Tip

  • While avoiding any discussion of your personal life can prevent the creation of rumors, an open relationship with your coworkers can do the same. When you offer information about yourself, developments in the company and personal or career changes, you eliminate the specter of the unknown that often leads to rumors and gossip.

Warning

  • In some cases rumors can be set into motion by company management. Your boss may wish to better understand the reaction of her workers to a big change in the company. She may spread word of the undertaking to a few of the most prevalent office gossips. As word gets around she may elicit the assistance of these ringleaders to assess the overall morale and response of the office. In these cases, your negative opinions of the boss can make their way back to her, so, as always, be careful what you choose to say.
 

About the Author

Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.

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