HR professionals are often targets to be extraction points of office gossip. Coworkers tend to become “friends” with representatives of the HR team just for this reason (a hidden agenda they’ll never admit to). It’s usually a subtle question thrown over tea or lunch breaks or sometimes when passing by. Those questions range from:

  • So I heard a new bonus scheme is under discussion, or
  • What’s the scoop on the new manager that was recently hired, or
  • Is it true that the CEO isn’t happy with the production team’s output?

I’ve often wondered where people find the time to come up with such office gossip, let alone have lengthy discussions about it. Unfortunately, it’s a behavior that people are becoming quite habitually inclined towards. Luckily, there are ways to avoid it so that you can remain focused on what actually matters – your responsibilities as a professional.

Don’t Be the Source of the Negative

Sure it may seem like fun to indulge in some light-hearted office gossip over a cup of tea and talk about the shortcomings of a coworker. But what if those that you confide in talk to others? You could be the source of the chatter that negatively impacts someone’s career. It’s probably a good idea to avoid letting your personal views about someone get the best of you. While you can’t stop others from spreading rumors, you sure can control yourself.

Get to the Root of it

It’s often a good move to get to the root of the office gossip and address it with the instigator. Having a one-on-one talk with the gossiper usually helps reduce, if not, diffuse the spread of negative talk. Make sure you help the person understand the repercussions of their behavior and the consequences it could have on them and the person they’re talking about.

Define Boundaries

It’s great to be friendly with people in the office so that work doesn’t become a drag and a dull place to be at. But it’s equally important to draw the line between professional and person relationships. Always remember that your loyalty is towards your job, the team and the company. As an HR professional, you’ll be privy to many information which may or may not be fit for the mass audience. Choose carefully what information you share and try to avoid being on the hot-seat of leaking critical information.

Communicate With Your Team

You’ll hear office gossip and probably do a good job of staying away from it. But it’s only natural that some of it may get you thinking and have you curious about its authenticity. The best way to handle your curiosity and intrigue is to frequently communicate with your team. Your objective here is to directly talk about office gossip and help each other (along with yourself) understand what’s actually true. This will also help you and your team to create a stronger bond that can withstand negative talk.

The bottom-line is that while office gossip may tickle our curiosity, it’s a negative that can create divisions and pessimism in the company’s culture. As HR professionals, you’re the custodian of information. It’s part of your job. And that’s why your controlled behavior is critical to safeguard the culture and shape it positively.