What should you do if you work in an office where a supervisor bad-mouths some of the people who report to him/her or colleagues regularly talk about one another? It is within your control to stop the gossip and restore integrity to your office’s relationships.
Consider using the following tactics.
1. Take responsibility: Stop blaming your boss or co-workers exclusively, and consider whether you have also colluded and benefited from the behaviour.
2. Create and hold boundaries: When you set a boundary, you are responsible for defending it — do not expect the other party to stick to it. Let your gossiping boss or co-worker know that you do not want to be party to critical conversations about colleagues. If he/she raises these topics again, you should point that out, and promptly exit the conversation if it continues.
3. Escape further collusion: When people give you information that changes how you see others but swear you to secrecy, they are essentially saying, "I’m about to tell you something that will make you feel bad, but I want you to promise me you won’t do anything healthy about it. OK?" Do not let this happen. Tell your colleague or boss that you will not carry around a conclusion about another person without sharing it — this will help them take responsibility for gossiping to you.
Adapted from What To Do If You Have a Gossiping Boss, at HBR.org.
Harvard Business Review