5 Ways to Avoid Being the Subject of Workplace Gossip

How Not to Be the Talk of the Office

3 executives gossiping
Don't be the subject of their gossip!. Laurence Monneret / The Image Bank / Getty Images

We all know how the office grapevine works. One person tells a coworker something about him or herself or someone else and before the day is over almost everyone knows about it. It's all just a normal part of life until you become the focus of this workplace gossip. Then it can be really painful. It could do more than ruin your workday. It could damage your career. While you can't completely protect yourself from becoming the focus of this gossip, there are some things you can do that will help you stay under the radar:

  • Don’t Share Too Much Information: What happens when you bring your entire personal life into the office? If you share every detail about your life with your coworkers including family problems, your love life, marital issues or financial difficulties, you will be providing the gossips with a lot of material. That doesn't mean they won't talk about you if you don't share that information—those who gossip aren't above making stuff up—but don't provide fodder for their sick form of entertainment. If you must have someone to talk to at work, try to find a confidante whom you have no doubt you can trust. Ideally that person shouldn't be your superior or subordinate as sharing personal information can affect your work relationship.
  • Avoid Having an Office Romance: The only thing that puts you more at risk for being the focus of gossip than sharing personal information at work is having your private life play out there. That is exactly what you'll be doing if you start dating a coworker. It will be hard to keep your relationship secret especially if your job keeps you in close contact with your partner. The two of you will costar in your workplace's own reality show as your colleagues watch your relationship unfold before their very eyes. 
  • Keep Your Temper in Check: Speaking of shows, don't put one on for your coworkers by losing your temper. They may find it very entertaining to see you get angry and it will certainly give them something to talk about. They will watch excitedly as your face gets red, your hands start shaking and profanities start pouring out of your mouth. Then they will spend the days following your outburst whispering about it behind your back as they wait for the next one to happen. 
  • Watch Your Behavior Outside of Work: You may reason that your behavior outside of work is no one's business. After all none of your coworkers will know about it unless you tell them (yes you get points for paying attention to the first tip to not share too much information). That will be effective unless someone from work happens to witness your behavior. You never know who you will run into at an inopportune time ... or who will come across something you posted on social media even if you took great pains not to friend coworkers. Even worse than that, what if your bad behavior results in an arrest or you make it onto the nightly news?
  • Be Careful About How You Dress: People who wear clothing that is more suitable for going out to clubs than work will really get noticed—and not in a good way. Your coworkers will make assumptions about you that are probably not true, but that won't matter. Once the gossips get something in their heads, they will hold onto it until they do what they can to ruin your reputation. You don't want to give them enough ammunition to accomplish that.