Do your passive-aggressive teammates regularly drag you into gossip sessions?  Are you feeling uncomfortable with these unproductive gripe sessions but unsure how to escape? If you’re going to make your team healthier, you need to shut down gossip.

So many people have asked me how they can get out of this situation gracefully that I’ve decided to focus my latest edition of the Right Words to Say on how to shut down gossip.

Check out the video and then return to the blog for some step by step instructions.

Click here to view the video on YouTube »

Let’s say it’s Mary who keeps coming by your desk and gossiping about other members of the team; today it’s Luke she’s complaining about. What should you do?”

First, ask yourself whether or not Mary has a legitimate concern. Your response to the gossip depends on whether you believe there is or is not something important to be upset about.

Option A: No Legitimate Concern:

1. Acknowledge how your teammate is feeling and then offer an alternative, more positive, explanation for what the person was intending

“Mary, I understand that’s how you felt about Luke’s comment, I can see where you’re coming from. I heard it a little differently. What I heard was…”

2. Ask an open-ended question to encourage your teammate to think more objectively about the issue.

“What do you think Luke was trying to get across when he said that–even if it didn’t come across how he might have wanted?”

3. Encourage your teammate to express their concerns directly to the person they are upset with.

“Mary, this is clearly something you feel really strongly about. I think it’s best that you tell Luc how his comments are affecting you.”

Chastising the gossiping colleague is not going to do any good. Being supportive and helping them look at the situation from another perspective is a better option.

Option B: A Legitimate Concern:

If you believe there is some truth to your teammate’s concerns, you need to take a different tack. Your goal in that case is to get the issue out into the open so that there is a chance for it to be resolved.

1. Encourage your teammate to raise the issues directly with the person in question.  Offer to help them prepare so they feel confident raising the issue.

“Mary, I share your concern about Luke’s behavior in the meeting. I think you need to talk with Luke about it. I’m happy to help you think through what you would say.”

2. Get the issue on the formal agenda for the team.

“Mary, I’m also worried about the direction we took on that project. I think we need to discuss our decision at the meeting on Monday. Would you like me to ask that it be included on the agenda?”

Either way, whether the issue is a legitimate reason for whispers or not, your teammate will learn quickly that you are serious about making the team healthier. It might take a little while, but your colleagues will thank you for getting the conflict out into the open. Best of all, you’ll feel better about yourself for having the courage to do the right thing.

If you change the way you deal with gossip, you will change your team.

Further Reading

Are you Lending Support to a Teammate or just Enabling Gossip?

Have you Ever Posted Beef about a Teammate?

4 Alternatives to Throwing your Teammate under the Bus

Video: Did You Hear About…?