You Need a Gossip Strategy

Public servants have a hard enough time without giving each other grief. And yet, how many of us are guilty of taking part in office gossip?

I try to be a Good Human, but I sometimes fail. And I sometimes gossip. Reflecting on this, I’ve realized that I had no “Gossip Strategy”. Now I do. And here it is. I hope it helps you.

I’ve found that one of the best ways to steer away from gossip is to be prepared to deal with it. I’ve learned and developed some handy responses that I use to put a stop to gossip. Sure, the gossip may continue at another time, with another party – but I can’t control that. All I can control is what I do in the moment when gossip is being dished my way.

If someone is especially keen on sharing the latest, juiciest office gossip, it may take more than one attempt to shut it down. Be persistent. Be polite. Be firm. If they try to justify the gossip or prove the truth of their words, simply repeat your response, or add a second response, and change the subject. If all else fails, take extreme action. See suggestion #7.

  1. “I can’t imagine that’s true.”
  2. “Even if that’s true, I don’t feel comfortable talking about it.”
  3. “That hasn’t been my experience”. This is an especially effective response if the person is making sweeping generalizations about an individual or a group of people (based on age, race, ethnicity, gender, country of origin, education, occupation, sexual orientation, etc.).
  4. “That sounds like very personal information. If I shared that kind of personal information with someone, I would trust them to keep it confidential.” The person who betrayed the confidentiality may be the person you’re chatting with, or someone else. Either way, this tells them that you think this betrayal is bad news and you want no part of it.
  5. “Gosh, I would hate for someone to share such personal information about me.”
  6. “I was once the subject of vicious gossip. It was very hurtful and damaging.” If you want to be generous in your response, add “I know you wouldn’t want to hurt X or damage their reputation”.
  7. Walk away. Just walk away.

You don’t have to get in a confrontation. You don’t have to belabour the point or even explain yourself. You just have to shut it down. It’s good to stop the vicious cycle of being vicious.

Tracy McCabe is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Catherine Andrews

So smart, Tracy – I never thought of actively being prepared to deal with gossip, but I will now… luckily, the GovLoop office is pretty gossip free, but it’s still a good strategy to have in everyday life!


Hi Catherine, Thank you! Glad to hear GovLoop is pretty much gossip free. That would have been my guess as everyone from GovLoop is so positive and helpful. What a super culture you seem to have there. It’s been my pleasure to ‘visit’ with you all during my stint as a guest blogger.

Deanne N. Bell

Great advice, Tracy! Job-seekers work hard to obtain bona fides to qualify for a job and prep for the interview but we seem to miss the mark of arming ourselves for the obstacle course of office politics that may arise during our employment. Thanks for the weaponry. 🙂