Gossip at Work: Don't Become the Talk of the Office

Co-workers stacking hands together
pixelfit / Getty Images

Most people have experienced at least some kind of workplace gossip. You tell a co-worker something in confidence (you think). Before the day is over, almost everyone knows about it. It can be extremely painful to find out your colleagues are talking about you behind your back. But worse, it can severely damage your reputation and career. Follow these five tips to avoid becoming the focus of office gossip:

Don't Share Personal Information

What happens when you share too much information with your co-workers? Everyone will know things about you that you may prefer they didn't. Be careful about openly discussing family problems, marital issues, details about your love life, or financial difficulties. You're just giving the gossips a lot of material to use against you if they choose. Withholding information won't stop all office gossip—those who like talking about other people aren't above making stuff up—but you can at least avoid providing fodder for their sick form of entertainment.

This isn't a directive to refrain from forming personal relationships with your co-workers. It would be hard to survive at work without friends. Still, a secret, once shared, is no longer a secret. Choose confidants you know will take yours to the grave. Think twice, as well, about sharing personal information with your superiors or subordinates because it can affect your professional relationships with them.

Don't Get Romantically Involved With a Co-Worker

An office romance puts you at risk of becoming the subject of workplace gossip. In this case, you won't even have to share personal information with your co-workers. They will be able to witness it live and in person. You and your partner will be the stars of your workplace's reality show.

Keeping the relationship a secret is possible, but difficult, especially if you and your co-worker are on the same team. If it's already too late, at least be discreet when dating a co-worker. Don't flaunt your relationship in front of your colleagues. Refrain from public displays of affection or arguing in front of everyone.

Keep Your Temper in Check

For some people, there is nothing quite as entertaining as watching someone lose their temper. Your colleagues will excitedly observe your red face, shaking hands, and the profanities pouring out of your mouth. Then they will spend the ensuing days whispering about your outburst behind your back as they wait for the next one.

When something at work upsets you, take a moment—or a few—to cool down before you address it. If you don't think you can speak without yelling or cursing, then don't. Wait until you are calm and to express your thoughts. Do your own part to avoid contributing to office gossip, too. If one person is the subject of your anger, then talk to them about it. Don't discuss it with others.

Watch Your Behavior Outside of Work

You may think your behavior outside of work isn't your boss' or co-workers' business. After all, no one will know about it unless you tell them. And that may be true—unless, of course, a colleague happens to witness your behavior.

You never know who you will run into at an inopportune time. If you post about what you did on social media, as so many people are apt to do, one of your co-workers may come across it. Even worse than that, what if your bad behavior results in an arrest or gets you on the nightly news?

Dress Appropriately

Whether it's right or wrong, people love to gossip about appearances. Show up for work, even once, dressed as if you were going out to a club or wearing something that you would clean the yard in, and your colleagues may be talking about it forever.

This is enough reason to be careful about how you dress. Always wear clothing that's appropriate for work. Whether that's a suit or jeans and a T-shirt depends on your workplace. Clothing makes an impression, and once the gossips assume something about you based on what you are wearing, they'll hold onto it until they do what they can to ruin your reputation. Don't give them ammunition to accomplish that.