Business Etiquette


In 2016, @ETIQhour will concentrate on the top 15 Business Etiquette Essentials every future leader will want to know. Each fortnight a new Essential has been released: Essential #8: Don’t gossip.

It’s so hard sometimes to resist engaging in a little “harmless” gossip. Reality is that gossip is never harmless. It is most certainly damaging to the subject of the gossip, but it also reflects poorly on you. It’s natural to be curious and interested in what other people are doing, but talking about someone who is not present is disrespectful and disgraceful.

Meeting new people and finding your “in” with your coworkers can be nerve-racking—but be careful not to mistake enticing office gossip for a chance to bond with other employees.

In the business world, perception is reality—if you are perceived as having poor manners or a lack of self-control, it unfortunately won’t matter how capable you are at your job or how well you did or doing in graduate school. Others will most likely view you as untrustworthy.

Avoid the Gossip Train

Here are some tips that should help you avoid getting involved in office gossip.

  • Consider other people’s feelings. Remember what they say and listen when they speak. Don’t cop to hearsay.
  • Stick to your convictions, but don’t be stubborn or disrespectful. If others are gossiping around you, try and be as diplomatic as possible and don’t succumb to the appeal of talking about others.
  • Behave as though your children (or parents) are watching you. Set a good example to your coworkers and avoid spreading the catty remarks of others.
  • Remember that every employee of your company is a part of the greater whole. While not widely recognised, you might be surprised how much bearing the cleaner or secretary can have on your day-to-day responsibilities. Although each person has different levels of responsibility, it doesn’t mean he or she isn’t a valuable worker for the company. Remember that each person plays an integral role and without the so-called “little people” the company wouldn’t function on a day-to-day basis.
  • If you find yourself among gossiping peers, switch the topic of conversation from a particular co-worker’s faults to something work-related and positive to distract them.
  • And try to stay away from gossip via e-mail, IM, and social networking sites as well. Just because it’s not spoken verbally doesn’t mean someone might not get wind of it.

Gossip Affects All Levels

And it’s not the so-called “new or entry-level employees” that need to worry about chitchat in the office. A management and leadership training program that provides simulations and experiential learning that test leadership skills in crisis situations such as union campaigns, product safety failures, consumer activism and corporate campaigns, class-actions, and environmental calamities, says upper-level management need to watch out for it too.

Often, if the president or supervisor of a company pokes fun at his or her employees on a regular basis, such behaviour is seen as acceptable. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. That old adage about jumping off a bridge simply because your friend’s do is true: Hopping on the popular bandwagon can prove fatal for some.

What should you do?

If something doesn’t feel right, speak up to your human resources department. While it may seem like small, or even said in jest, office gossip can ruin careers. If you remember to be direct when the gossip reaches your ears, chances are you’ll put an end to it before it hits someone else’s.