My colleagues gossip behind my back constantly. How do I deal with it?

Published On: 17th March 2022 | Updated On: 23rd November 2023

Gossip has several definitions. Some believe it refers to malicious or actionable talk about someone behind their back, while others think it can include truthful remarks. Peter Vajda, an Atlanta-based speaker and expert on business coaching, defines workplace gossip as a form of workplace violence because he believes it is an attack against another individual.  

new study published by Captivate found that 75% of white-collar workers admit to gossiping about their co-workers or workplace issues. Gossiping has become such a common phenomenon that it’s now part of everyday speech and exchanges. The workplace is where you spend the most time, and for many people, this setting also becomes one of the main avenues for spreading news – informal information dissemination channels in the organisation. A study on the Influence of Workplace Gossip on Employees’ Work Enthusiasm shows that negative workplace gossip will harm employees’ work motivation. 

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However, this doesn’t mean that gossiping can be just taken as a naïve reality. There are several options to deal with gossip. In the latest episode of Conversations with Rakesh, SoME Founder & CEO Rakesh Godhwani discusses these alternatives and suggests ideas to deal with gossiping.  

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Following is an edited transcript of the video.

I work in an excellent company, but, unfortunately, a few people there are spreading malicious rumours about me. I feel misjudged and misunderstood. This has taken a toll on my confidence and my productivity. I am now contemplating resigning, going to a new city, and starting again. What do I do?

Do not run away

How long will you keep running away from such people? These people will never go away even if you go to another city and find a great job. They target people like you because they get tremendous pleasure in torturing.

So, if you run, they win. Why would you do this? Why would you let them win? This is a turning point in your life, and my first request is, stay. Stand up and fight for yourself. 

In fact, these people target those who they know will run away, and if you run away, you prove them correct. You deserve to be in a good company and a nice job.  

This is a self-esteem issue, and if you run away, it might never recover. So, if you want to have a good foundation of self-esteem and self-confidence, you should tell yourself that I deserve to be here; I deserve a good career and a nice, comfortable life.  

Build a fine tribe

Now let’s talk about how to deal with such people. There is this lovely movie called ‘Wonder’ which I encourage you to watch. Wonder is the story of a young boy who is about to join a school, and his mother is distraught because he underwent a lot of surgeries, leading to heavy scarring on his body and face.

He’s disfigured and always wears a helmet because he’s apprehensive about being teased. Please watch that movie because it talks about how sometimes we feel like running away because we want to protect ourselves. And you’re feeling the same thing. It’s a self-preservation thing. But this child goes to school, and good things happen. 

He finds some good friends. One of them becomes his best friend, and together they do a cool science experiment for a competition. The whole school loves that experiment, and the kid becomes extremely popularly, leading to his confidence skyrocketing. 

That is my second request, in your office find one or two good friends who give you that safety, and encourage you to do good work. Doing well at work will give meaning to your career, and your results will shut those gossip mongers.  

Stand up for yourself

Gossip mongers are like bullies, learn to stand and speak up against them. Be a little bit assertive, and this is where you can also take the help of your manager, the HR grievance system, and maybe some mentors because you need a support system. 

Have a chat with them, take them into your confidence, and then raise a formal complaint and fight the battle. They have to get the message - that you will not take this behaviour quietly.  

And lastly, reflect on your self-esteem. Don’t bother much about people who have nothing else to do except spread malicious rumours about you. Set them right, get to your work, try-hard, get your results right, and use the HR grievance and redressal system if needed.  

Start becoming assertive, your self-confidence and self-esteem will increase, and these people will be put in place.  

-Sarah Monis and Shadiya Zubair 

 Interns and residnet wordsmiths

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