How do I deal with malicious gossip?

2008

I have been the victim of gossip in the workplace. My supervisor was made aware of it and yet nothing was done to the gossipers. Because of ongoing issues within the department, I have kept to myself and been advised "not to give them a reason to complain".

I am a senior member of the department but the other members do not want my help or guidance and our customers suffer for it. I have personally observed derogatory remarks but have been told to "not take it so personal" and that "I am personalizing the issue" when I try to address it.

I have been with this company for a long time and I do not want to leave but have contemplated it. I am at a crossroads right now.

How can I address my concerns without coming across as the "squeaky wheel?

Aimee, USA

Rob Yeung's Answer:

I'm very sorry to hear that you're being made the victim of gossip at work. Your supervisor should usually be your first point of contact and I realise that you have already tried to speak to him or her. But would it be worth trying again?

Perhaps make a note of the comments you have received and approach your supervisor when the two of you have the time to consider the matter properly. Perhaps your supervisor was too busy the previous time you tried to speak or had other concerns on his or her mind. Have you tried speaking directly to the people who are gossiping about you? Of course I don't know the precise details about your situation. But sometimes, speaking directly to an "assailant" on a one-to-one basis about the impact that he or she is having on you can defuse the situation.

Some people are simply totally unaware of the impact they have on others they may think that their comments are amusing rather than hurtful.

But if that doesn't work and your supervisor is still not supportive, you need to speak to someone within human resources. HR people are generally very supportive and tend to have good ideas as to how to tackle the situation. For example, this could involve escalating the issue to an even more senior manager.

Another suggestion would be to speak to someone outside of the organisation. In the UK, where I am based, there are charities and informal bodies that are set up to provide advice to people who are feeling bullied at work. Would there be anyone like that you could speak to at all?

Or find a lawyer to speak to. Of course, this may involve paying a fee so even a quick consultation could cost you a not insignificant amount of money.

But if the problem is intractable and the people in your team continue to harass you, your only final recourse may be a legal one to exact financial compensation from your organisation for the treatment you are receiving.

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About our Expert

Rob Yeung
Rob Yeung

Dr Rob Yeung is a Director and executive coach at leadership consulting firm Talentspace. He is the author of over a dozen career and management books including How to Win and I is for Influence.

Older Comments

Don't worry about gossip. I'm sorry that it happened to you. I know that these pepole have a thing about them selves they don't like. I recomend say strong and remember all the good things about your self. So you should talk about how the person/pepole are bothering you without sounding weak. Keep your head up high and you'll go far. It helped me and I got through my first year of middle school. Hope this helped!

lizzie5

hi Aimee.....too bad this happening ...it is so unproductive and degrading ....but if you do not want to sound like the 'squeaky wheel', then you should confront one of more of the people who are involved in the comments about you ....I have done this ...you could mention that if someone has something to say about you or what you are doing, to have the nerve to say it face-to-face and let that person know that the gossip is degrading and unprofessional along with causing a negative atmosphere in the dept. (some people do not have a clue what good office ediquite is!!) ....I have found out the hard way, that by mentioning something like this to a supervisor or Manager, it does no good unless you have a documented list and then it is still hit-or-miss on if they will take action, but you could request a meeting with your boss, you, and one or more of these people .....otherwise, don't let this stuff get your health .....keep looking for advice on bullying and how long you should stay at your position ..... I know it is hard working with people that have bad habits...good luck :)

Linda Illinois USA