Most us have been there — either through overhearing, instigating or as a victim of an ugly pastime of many office cultures — workplace gossip. Oftentimes, many feel the tension between not giving into the temptation of gossip as a way to “build trust” with another coworker, and knowing we need to speak up and stop the gossip in an effort to create a healthier work environment. This is a difficult battle to fight — one that takes courage.
It’s important to understand the root of gossip — and what motivates us to either not take action or take the wrong action. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, gossip can be defined as “a rumor or report of an intimate nature” — the key being “an intimate nature.”
Why is it that when we witness a vulnerable or sensitive situation with another individual, some of us are tempted to share or allow others to share that openly?
It’s in these vulnerable moments that we have the choice to step in, listen, and love the coworker who is being victimized rather than tear down, scrutinize, and belittle them. As easy as it is to justify our words and actions, we all need to be reminded that as Christians, we are held accountable for all our actions and words, and I believe this also applies to the gossip we hear but don’t step in and stop. Ephesians 4:29 reminds us, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
If you find that you are easily tempted to pick up the “small talk on others” around the office, here are a few helpful tips to practice:
- Keep a journal at your desk. If a certain individual is bothering you and you feel that you need to share with someone else “so they can understand” — share it with your journal. You will quickly find that this journal helps you avoid spreading your negative thoughts, and may allow you to see the root of your frustration.
- Pray quickly and authentically. Take a couple of moments right away when something happens to talk to the only One who can put your thoughts in check. Don’t sugar-coat or hide your feelings from God, but take these feelings and temptations to Him seek His guidance.
If you are in an environment saturated with workplace gossip, here are a couple tips to encourage you:
- Talk honestly and lovingly with the person gossiping. Though you may wonder if you will become the next target of gossip if you confront them, know that you can find confidence in the Lord’s goodness when your actions are based in love and your words are founded in truth (Deuteronomy 31:6).
- Find a creative way to redirect the conversation and issue. The individual gossiping usually wants someone to be on their side and to know that they are not alone in their thoughts (or even elevate themselves among their peers). Encourage this individual that they are vital to the team, but need to address these issues directly with the individual or with leadership. Remind them that the issue can only be solved if they take proper action to address it.
Our words are so powerful. We have an incredible opportunity each time we open our mouth to honor and glorify the One who gave us the ability to communicate in the first place. Don’t waste your time and words on something that will hurt another person, but encourage yourself and those around you to speak the truth in love.