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Ask Liz: how do I handle the office gossip?

Ask Liz: how do I handle the office gossip?
Dear Liz, a colleague in my team has started to get a bad reputation for spreading rumours and being a gossip. She comes across as friendly and open, but people would confide in her only to find their business spread around the office. It has caused damage to relationships and the team’s morale. Is there a way I can tactfully approach her about this, without being confrontational and offensive?

It is a great privilege when other people confide in us. It shows their trust in us and our ability to give them the space to make themselves be vulnerable. This trust is hard earned and should not be broken.

I suggest you do your prep and deal in one or two specific examples. Invite him/her out for tea/lunch/drinks and tell them how great it is that people feel able to talk to them. This is a great skill.

However, when, for example, they disclosed to others about Susan spending the night with the new creative intern she was rather hoping you would keep it quiet as she was telling you in confidence.

She was not expecting you to share this at the agency bar. Ask them to think about it from Susan’s perspective; how would they feel about their personal information being scattered around the agency?

We are curious human beings and the lives of others fascinate us. We all like a bit of chat. Sometimes though we need to consider what we choose to share with others.

The last thing we would want is for the gossip to be constituted as harassment, which could result in legal liabilities for the agency and employee(s). Having more tact than gossip-like chat should benefit all.

If you have an HR-related issue that you need answering by our expert Liz Nottingham, HR Director at Starcom MediaVest and VivaKi Country Talent & Transformation Officer, please contact her via Any questions published will appear anonymously.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and were submitted in accordance with the IPA's terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA's newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 27/06/2014

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