I have run into a problem at work which I can not figure out the best way to deal with; the coworkers often like to gossip about eachother, and me being new makes me a great person to tell gossip (and most likely gossip about).

How can I tactfully tell them that I would prefer not to hear or talk about gossip, without coming across as stern or cold? Acting disiniterested ("mhm, okay.") has not worked so far. While saying "I do not want to gossip about our coworkers, it is incredibly disrespectful." should get the point across, I would still like to at least keep friendly appearances up, if at all possible.

EDIT: I work as a systems administrator at a lab diagnostics company and share office spaces with administrators, other IT personnel and economists. The culture I can't really articulate yet as I haven't been here for long.


"Gossip" is of course a pejorative term for "idle talk". It implies negativity.

That said, "gossip" isn't necessarily saying negative things about people. For example, lets say the gossip was good news: "Alice is having a baby! Isn't that wonderful?" Except Alice didn't want everybody to know she was pregnant just yet. She was looking forward to telling everybody in her own time, and now everybody knows.

Some people are "gossips" their whole lives. Other people learn over time that it can be hurtful. The former tend to get labelled eventually and most people do give them a wide berth.

To be honest, although you are not getting the instant results you want, I think you already have the right approach. Show no interest in gossip, and don't be a part of it. There is nothing you can do to shut it down, especially when it is about yourself. The more you protest, the more gossips will talk about it.

If somebody says something negative to you about another person, you can shut that down by disagreeing, in a polite way. Simply say something nice about them. For example:

Gossip: "I find John a bit annoying. Don't you?"

You: "Actually I've always found him to be pleasant and very helpful."

That tells the gossip that you are an ally of that person and they won't dare say anything negative to you in future in case it gets back to them.

If someone comes to you about something they have heard about you, then you have an opportunity to either correct it if it is untrue, or confirm it. When dealing with something untrue, try not to get upset. Just dismiss it as untrue. You could ask who told them, but then you're getting into the realm of causing divisions. Telling someone that they've been lied to will put them off listening to gossip in the future. If something is true about you and is fascinating other people, a smile and a quiet confirmation shows you aren't embarrassed of it, and again this diffuses gossip. It isn't exciting if it doesn't cause you embarrassment. Of course, when dealing with malicious or unacceptable extremes of gossip by all means take whatever action is available to you in the workplace to root it out and have it dealt with formally.

Lastly, don't start to imagine the gossip that might be said about you. We can't ever know what people say about us behind our backs; not even what our friends say about us. Therein madness lies. True friendship involves knowing people's bad points and still being friends.

You are new to the office, and so things will settle down over time. Decent people will be drawn to you and will grow to trust you over time if you just keep out of the gossip.


I used to work in a group that loved to do this- they spent a lot of time tearing each other down, talking about one another, and generally just doing the things that you speak about.

My reaction to this was to just say "that's not my issue" or not engage in it. I never stopped it from happening, and that's primarily because you cannot change other people's behavior but can only change your response to it.

I also found that speaking positively of others and giving them the benefit of the doubt did change how others spoke around me. I didn't argue but would just try to always speak highly of others. That also changed the conversation.

Lastly, I did see one thing happen in a different job that really stuck with me. During a meeting, one person tried to apologize for another. The person running the meeting said simply, "Let's not talk about [x] while he/she's not here to defend him/herself" I use that a lot nowadays and it's really effective.

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