How To Avoid Work Gossip

Updated July 21, 2022

Establishing and maintaining professional relationships at work can increase productivity and job satisfaction. However, it's important to be professional when talking to coworkers. Some topics, even between friends, aren't appropriate for work. In this article, we define what work gossip is and how to avoid it.

What is work gossip?

Work gossip is the act of spreading false information about coworkers or discussing a coworker's personal life without their knowledge or consent. Here are a few examples of what work gossip can look like:

  • Rumors

  • False information

  • Making fun

  • Leaking private information

  • Telling others' secrets

Work gossip can take place during a casual conversation between coworkers or on social media platforms. To maintain your professionalism at work, try to walk away from situations that might involve gossip.

Related: Conflict Resolution Skills: Definition and Examples

How to avoid work gossip

Here are a few steps you can take to avoid work gossip in a positive and respectful way.

1. Find an outlet at home

To avoid miscommunications and work gossip, find an outlet at home to express your thoughts and feelings. Creating a safe space to relax and process work-related stress at home can help you gain clarity before returning to the office.

Work gossip tends to take place during breaks throughout the day. For example, if two coworkers are in line for the restroom, they may start having a conversation about their experiences at work. Instead of talking to a coworker, consider these alternatives:

  • Journal. Consider purchasing a notebook or journal to write in at home. Write down your thoughts, feelings, or goals so that you can approach your work with a clear head. This can help you stay focused and productive during the day.

  • Talk to a friend or partner. Think about talking to a friend or partner about your experiences rather than sharing them with a coworker. This can help you avoid distracting conversations at work and reduce stress levels.

  • Focus your attention elsewhere. If you find yourself thinking about work when you're at home, focus your attention elsewhere. For example, consider setting aside time each night to read your favorite book, prepare a meal, exercise or to engage with your favorite hobbies. This can help you relax and have fun while you're off the clock so you can approach work with a clear mind the next day.

2. Redirect your attention

A great way to avoid work gossip is to redirect your attention. If you notice your coworkers gossiping, try not to join in the conversation. Instead, consider stepping away from the situation. Think about using this opportunity to meet with your manager about a future project idea or taking your lunch break early. Try to focus your attention elsewhere so that you remain productive and focused.

Related: 10 Simple Ways To Be More Productive at Work

3. Separate the personal and professional

To avoid rumors and the spread of false information, think about what you're comfortable sharing with coworkers. Try to establish boundaries between the personal and professional parts of your life so that you can work efficiently. Here's a list of work-appropriate conversation starters you can use to avoid potential gossip:

  • The progress you've made on a recent assignment

  • A new software program you're learning to use

  • Ideas for future projects

  • The weather, traffic conditions or new snacks in the vending machines

  • Questions you have about an upcoming meeting

Topics like these can help you participate in casual conversation without gossiping. If work-appropriate conversations suddenly turn into work gossip, you can step away from the situation or try to change the subject.

Related: Common Communication Barriers (with Examples)

4. Be transparent

To avoid work gossip, be honest about your goals and feelings. If you need to discuss something with a coworker, consider doing so in a private space so that no one overhears you.

Professional environments can be competitive, too. Try to be transparent about your intentions with coworkers to avoid rumors and gossip.


Tom and Teyana are graphic designers for a startup company in Chicago. They're both competing for a promotion and will find out who gets the job tomorrow morning. Tom is concerned about how Teyana will react to the news.

Instead of discussing these concerns with other coworkers, Tom asks Teyana to talk privately during lunch to address the issue. They're able to openly talk about their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Because Tom and Teyana were transparent with one another from the start, they were able to have a focused and productive afternoon at work.

In this scenario, Tom and Teyana address their conflict directly by having a private conversation. This allowed them to work through the issue together without getting coworkers involved.

Read more: How To Communicate Better With Coworkers

Work gossip tips

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you address gossip at work:

Be an active listener

To avoid misunderstandings, practice being an active listener. Try to make eye contact with your coworkers while having conversations. This can let them know you hear them and care about what they're saying.

Address conflict

If you're experiencing a conflict at work, address the issue directly. Straightforward communication can be a great way to work through conflicts without gossiping.

Be respectful

If you or a coworker are working through a conflict, think about how you can communicate your feelings in an honest and respectful way. This can help you build trust in one another and stay productive throughout the day.

Know your audience

Before telling a funny story to a friend at work, think about how your words might affect others. Try to take the setting and circumstances into account when having casual conversations to avoid miscommunications and gossip.

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Is my story work appropriate?

  • Does it involve controversial topics or sensitive issues?

  • Is there any way coworkers could misunderstand my story?

  • Could I tell this story to a friend outside of work instead?

Be empathetic

To maintain a respectful work environment, consider your coworkers' feelings before addressing them. Think about how you would feel in their situation and note any personal sensitivities they might have.

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