You may be able to tolerate gossip in your workplace -- until the whispers start focusing on you. Whether it’s jealousy, a personal grudge or simply boredom that’s causing your co-worker to target you, take steps to confront her before the rumors or accusations damage your reputation and opportunities for advancement.
Address It Privately
When you hear through the grapevine that a co-worker is spreading rumors about you or openly criticizing your work performance, ask a trusted colleague to confirm that the gossip is really happening. You want to make sure the information is correct before you take steps to deal with it. If you do feel that a conversation with a gossiping co-worker is necessary, ask to speak to him privately. According to an article on WomenWorking.com, this will allow you and your co-worker to discuss the issue without creating a scene that will supply the office rumor mill with even more material. Insisting on a private conversation also helps you avoid embarrassment in case the entire situation is a misunderstanding.
When dealing with the co-worker who is bad-mouthing you, document every interaction in case you decide to file a complaint with management and need evidence to support your case. An article on the CBS News website recommends retaining any emails, voice mails or notes that you’ve sent or received about the situation, in addition to noting the dates, times and details of any face-to-face interactions you have with the other party.
To deal effectively with a co-worker who is bad-mouthing you, avoid stooping to her level. An article on WomenWorking.com stresses the importance of cooling off before confronting your co-worker to avoid an angry outburst. If you are tempted to send a confrontational email to your co-worker or make unprofessional comments about her, resist the urge. Bad-mouthing your co-worker might hurt your case if you file a complaint against her since you’ll be guilty of the same offense. The best response is always to remain calm, professional and in control.
If you’ve failed to resolve the issue with a co-worker who is speaking negatively about you, it's time to take stronger steps. In an article for "The Washington Post,” author and workplace politics expert Sandra Crowe suggests that you have a firm follow-up conversation with your gossiping colleague. Remind him of your previous conversation and warn him that you’re now prepared to go to your supervisor or human resources department if he doesn’t stop the behavior immediately. If that doesn’t stop the bad-mouthing, take the evidence that you’ve documented and collected and discuss the incident with management.
Drea Christopher is a freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in English. She has more than 10 years of experience producing features and SEO articles for national consumer publications, trade magazines and industry leading Web content providers. She has a particular interest in craft, entertaining, education, home and garden and health-related topics.