Work Etiquette: How to Handle Gossip and Negativity

I wanted to share something that has been on my heart lately.  Right now at work and school, I am witnessing so much gossip and negativity. It seems that some of my classmates and co-workers talk and laugh about others just to make themselves feel better.  Those being talked about sense the negative energy and are not feeling appreciated or happy. How are we all suppose to be a team and accomplish a common goal if we are not all on the same page?

I am trying to be the person that bridges the gap and keeps everyone on our team happy but sometimes I just feel like saying, “Grow up! We are not children and you need to act like an adult!”  Ever been there before?

The statistics of workplace gossip are mind boggling!  Did you know that:

  • 60% of people in the workplace cited gossip as the No. 1 problem.
  • 2 out of every 3 Americans have low self-esteem.
  • 80% of people are hurt by words. Research shows that only about 20% of people are able to handle put downs without emotional pain or psychological damage.

According to Scott Hunter, author of ” Making Work Work” states in this article that “When gossip infects the workplace, people shift their focus to what is wrong and what is not working, rather than on what is possible.  When gossip is present, there is no communication, no understanding, no appreciation of the other person’s position, no intimacy, and certainly no trust.  Gossip causes turnover and can be an irreversible problems if left to grow and spread within a company.”

So, what are some tips for us to help build a gossip-free environment?

  1. Learn to remain neutral and not say anything at all.  Lead by example by avoiding confrontation.
  2. If you are the target of gossip, don’t let it upset you.  Gossipers like to get a reaction and if you ignore them, they will leave you alone in the future.
  3. Know who you can trust and always remember this Turkish proverb - ”Who gossips to you will gossip of you.”

How do you handle negativity on a team? 



About Anna Runyan

Hi! I’m known as the leading authority on getting women unstuck out of careers they hate. For the last 5 years I’ve been helping clients transition into careers they love. I have worked behind the scenes helping hundreds of professional women find fulfilling, challenging and purposeful careers. Make sure you sign up for my Free ‘CHEAT SHEET’
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  1. Wander says:

    Great post!
    I work at a high school and this summer could not get here fast enough!
    Work gossip and meanness was more than I could take!
    I'm getting really sad that it's almost time to go back (less than a month).
    I've learned some crummy lessons from many who call themselves followers of Christ in the work place!

    I wish there was a way to STAMP it out! But, unfortunately….it's going to go on forever!
    Come back, Jesus! :)

  2. Paige says:

    That was our office secretary this year in our school building (we have three separate buildings with a secretary in each)! She retired and I can't tell you the burden it has lifted off of me and the rest of the staff. Our office is a totally different environment now!

    Have a great week! Love your posts!

  3. Deepa says:

    I think it is inherent in a workplace. Some people are just miserable and I've learned, the hard way, to just be nice to everyone, but especially those who are gossiping about me, that ticks them off to no end!

  4. Jamie Lane says:

    Thanks for the comment and birthday wishes!

    I love this post. Oh I know I'm guilty of gossip, I hate that feeling when you catch yourself right in the middle of a sentence you know you should not be saying. I would say it's not only destructive at work but in famlies too! It's hard to return gossip with a classy smile and walk away. It's the biggest lesson I learned last year!

  5. Maggie S says:

    So interesting…my 13yo twins are deeply hurt as a result of gossip within their circle of friends, but I am having a difficult time getting them to see what it actually is. For example, even when you say a nice thing, you may be comparing people that you know. Someone always loses in that situation. But when are you just relating "News, Weather, and Sports"?

  6. libys11 says:

    as much as im guilty of gossiping myself with friends, i think that in the workplace, it just screams unprofessional-ism.. thanks for tackling this matter! :D

    Animated Confessions

  7. That was so awesome! And crazy statistics, wow, I had no idea it was that bad. Anyway, I hate gossip but will admit that I've participated in it way to often. I need to think about others feelings more and remember how bad I feel when I find out people have said something about me. Great reminder!

  8. Shea says:

    Thanks for stopping by my blog today!! I absolutely love your site. I work in an HR department for the Federal government and know about workplace gossip all too well. I’m always struggling with it. I’m not the one gossiping…I just see constant whispering and backstabbing almost every single day. Most of the time I don’t think it’s about me, but then other days, I can’t help but worry I’m the one being laughed at. I love my job, but sometimes I just can’t take all of the negativity.

    Thank you for posting this…it makes me feel not so alone! :-)

    • admin says:

      Hi Shea, Thank you so much! I am so glad that you enjoyed my blog! Workplace gossip is NOT fun at all. It sucks!!!! Thanks for stopping by and commenting! I really appreciate it! Have a great day!

  9. Sara says:

    Hi. I enjoyed your post. I came into a job which had heavy drama. But then one of the lead employees turned out to be the one causing all of the drama. She’s been targeting me the most this past year. Management and the supervisor have been advised numerous off times but nothing done. I hv taped recorded sometimes and recently heard her telling my business about times me and I baby were sick. I’m so upset and emotionally frustrated I’m not being helped. She is so rude to all people and is the employee from hell!

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