Regardless of their age, gender or position, gossipers on the job share the same goal: to use “information” to feel more powerful than their targets. What can be frustrating are their methods.

Sometimes the gossip is elusive, crafted in a hint or casual reference. Sometimes it is directly stated. Whatever the delivery, gossip can undermine a person’s credibility and add to on-the-job stress, something nurses always need to reduce.

Most gossipers are attention-seekers. In confidential tones, they will often share more personal details about someone than you are comfortable with. Their information may or may not be true. But if you weigh in, they leave with even more ammunition. 

So what do you do the next time the workplace gossip heads your way?

Consider taking these actions to stop gossipers in their tracks:

Avoid information exchanges. Every tidbit delivered comes with a price, as this person will use your response to spread more gossip.

Deal with the rumormonger. Talk to the person directly and let it be known you are not interested in hearing or repeating destructive or non-productive talk about your colleagues. Be direct, firm and polite.

Ask the person to clarify his or her comments. Ask specific questions, which gossipers tend to avoid, as they often like speaking in vague terms. Some gossip may contain a kernel of truth that is surrounded by rumors and errors.

Change the subject. Nothing ends gossip quicker than not listening to it.

Say you will repeat the information shared with you with the intended target. 

Help the gossiper. Find out what is bothering him or her to the point that they engage in such negative behavior. 

See also
Inclusion, Part 2: Changing the Culture

Address the topic of gossip in a meeting. Discuss how harmful hints and innuendos can damage one’s reputation and confidence.

Keep confidential business to yourself. Knowing who to trust on the job is not always apparent.

Another reason to avoid engaging in gossip? You could be the next target.

Robin Farmer is a freelance journalist with a focus on health, business and education. Visit her at


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