By talking about other people, we can learn who to collaborate with and who to stay away from, something that helps a group work better together. Gossip is a compensatory strategy often used to cover up low self-esteem or feelings of powerlessness. Your co-worker is likely to communicate this way, albeit in a passive, aggressive and manipulative way to seek connection. Your colleague may also feel superior by belittling others.
Why do people gossip? Boredom, of course. But when someone speaks badly about a co-worker, they also often do so out of frustration. That said, it's also very likely that the gossiper has a legitimate problem. If that's the case, the best thing to do is to recognize your colleague's frustration and then help create a solution.
The fact is that people like to gossip, just take a look at any celebrity-focused magazine or website. If this sounds familiar, it's important to learn to set boundaries with passive-aggressive people who gossip and to develop more assertive skills so that you can excuse yourself when gossip starts to surface. That is, if someone doesn't support their own weight, isn't competent or capable enough to do their job, or just doesn't fit in well with the culture, then there will be gossip. In a professional setting, there's no excuse for talking badly about your client, colleague, or CEO, so here are three ways to deal with gossip at work.
Finding that you share an office (real or virtual) with people talking behind your back can be devastating. When you find that people talk about you in an intrusive or inappropriate way, you can address it directly. Gossip is the death of teamwork, as it can create a gap that can sometimes require a high-level leader or manager to spend valuable time refereeing. When all is said and done, being busy doing your job usually works quite well because people who gossip want attention and want to get on stage.
It seems to me that many people, especially those who are kind and compassionate, simply never learn to set limits with gossip. No one who is doing their job to the best of their ability should have time to gossip in the workplace. When in doubt, compliment the gossiper, ask him to show you pictures of his pets, or find out what his plans are for the weekend. Some people insist that office gossip is an essential part of the workplace and a necessary skill to advance their career and, in general, to please others while remaining aware of everything.
However, there are steps you can take to strategically handle workplace gossip when it reaches your ears.