Have you ever asked questions like these? My coworker loves to gossip about the rest of the staff behind their backs. How do I deal with it when she wants to unload the dirt on me? What if I’m the subject of her chitchat?
by Rosemary Flaaten
Gossip is a nemesis that runs rampant in workplaces. A tantalizing snippet of information or a morsel of exaggerated juicy news goes a long way to spice up a humdrum work environment. But, left unchecked, it creates a toxic environment that will suck the health out of workplace relationships.
The effects of gossip can only be felt when they are passed from one coworker to another. When your gossiping coworker starts to share with you the latest bit of office gossip, it is best to simply stop it. Interrupt her monologue and say “I really don’t want to hear this about this person. I don’t want to get drawn into gossip”. You’re not slamming her behavior; you are simply setting boundaries on your involvement. Chances are she will be surprised and may even mutter something like “Well, you’re no fun.” or sarcastically exclaim, “Aren’t you all high and mighty.We’ll give you the Miss Perfect award.”
Unfortunately, you may find that your unwillingness to participate in her gossip circle may make you the brunt of her gossip. But, know that doing the right thing is always the best rule. Perhaps your courage to stand up and stop being engaged in the gossip will make a positive impact on the workplace environment.
Jesus had a great deal to say about how to get along with the people in our lives who are our enemies – people who gossip about us and even slander our character. Jesus evidenced for us the value of speaking the truth in love but He went even further to give us relational pointers that will reverse the toxic nature of gossip. C.S. Lewis referred to the topsy‐turvy nature of God’s kingdom and these four points from Luke 6:27‐28 are indeed counter‐cultural:
1. Love your enemies ‐ If loving your coworkers is too high of a hurdle to stride, use the work care instead. Caring for this coworker means that you will not force your convictions on her; you will forgive her for the offensives she has made against you and you will take pleasure in only the truth about her. If this seems impossible – you’re right, it is, on our own. We must open our heart to God and allow His love to flow into us so that we can become the conduit of Love to those people who desire evil against us.
2. Do good to those who hate you – Kindness disarms hostility. Find ways to show kindness to her, even while she continues to gossip or slander you. Raise the bar. You have the opportunity to bring kindness and benevolence into the workplace.
3. Bless those who curse you – blessings involves desiring good things to happen to and for others. Blessing is the antithesis of retaliation. When given a chance to say something unkind about someone who has been spreading gossip, choose to find something good to say about them. Follow the adage “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”
4. Pray for those who mistreat you – As Christ hung on the cross, he prayed for those who had orchestrated his crucifixion. Praying allows God to transplant our bruised heart with a supple heart that turns our focus to God rather than the mistreatment we have received by the words of others. True heart change will occur when we start praying.
It is never our responsibility to try to change the gossiping habit of our coworkers. We are simply responsible for our behavior. Deciding that we will not even be a receiver of gossip will break the cycle. Being on the receiving end will necessitate a decision between retaliation and love. Treating our enemies the way we would want to be treated is living out the Golden Rule.
Rosemary Flaaten’s successful book, A Woman and Her Relationships helps women process their outside-of work relationships, so now she’s delving into these 9-5 relationships in A Woman and Her Workplace. Her Relationships book won The Word Guild Award, which is Canada’s top Christian literary honor. A dynamic speaker—Rosemary challenges women of all professions to view their work as a calling and their workplaces as opportunities to live out Christ’s love. Rosemary lives with her husband and three children in Calgary, Canada.