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Four Negative, WorkPlace Gossip Topics to Avoid

(Haiku Science Academy) The following information is helpful for anyone to be aware of in virtually all jobs. It is being offered here as part of the Haiku Science Academy, Developing English as an Additional Language Certification Course (HSA DLC).

Understanding and applying what you learn here will increase your chances of

  • earning more money;
  • maintaining your job or, renewing your contract;
  • being promoted to more desireable positions;
  • opening up better job opportunities and;
  • job satifaction, well-being and piece of mind.
What is Gossip?

Gossip is defined as the absence of the 3rd party from the conversation whom is being discussed (Bessnier 1989; Hannerz 1967). In this case the 3rd party would be your employer or, the organization that hired you to do a job.

I realize that not all gossip is damaging. It could be bringing praise about something remarkable concerning the absent 3rd party.¹ Obviously, that is not what is being addressed here.

Negative Gossip

I have universally encountered the same exact negative complaints and gossip, and witnessed their negative consequences frequently enough to place great importance on raising awareness about it.

By bringing this specific understanding to your conscious awareness, you will have the perspective from which to make the decision to opt out of the negative gossip club.

Negative workplace gossip and complaining is something that I began to be concerned about more than 10 years ago (ca. 2005) in the United States of America.

I noticed it because it was odd to me that people gathered around to waste precious time with this toxic gossip. I chose instead to say things like “Everything will work out“, “It can only get better from here“, “Sorry to hear that, but that’s not my experience” or, “I’m not going to talk about this with you“.

I worked with one fitness company for 9 years, resigned my position to travel and learn more about running my own business for a year, and then worked a security job.

The same exact gossip was being passed around at the security gig and also at the yoga studio where I worked in operations after that over a year later.

This information would not be included here if it were not for the fact that when I arrived in China, foreigner teachers from every country were having the same morale-breaking, discouraging, unproductive conversations.

Going Viral

The main problem with this type of gossip is that as soon as a new employee or team member arrives, the people who are already in place somehow feel it is very important to immediately share the negativity.

All too often the newbie listens to and incorporates this into their perspective about the workplace, maybe out of a desire to be accepted or, because they are already “infected”.

It’s like some sort of zombie-virus. Once infected, the new zombie-gossiper would then be primed to spread the disease to the next unsuspecting victim.

At this point, I want to make sure to differentiate this report on gossip from the workplace gossip you may have heard about before, where co-workers are talking about each-other’s sometimes embarrassing, intimate details.

The type of gossip I am referring to are complaints focused on spreading ideas about how bad the experience of working for the particular company is, in 4 distinct categories. This is often profoundly discouraging to new hires entering the workplace community.

Regardless of the type, all negative gossip must be avoided. Negative gossip in all forms affects the way people feel, the way they think, and the things that they do.²

Four Negative WorkPlace Gossip Topics to Avoid

Following are the four workplace gossip topics that concern me most, particularly because they have apparently travelled the world.

  1. Gossiping that the hours are unfair, too many, too little, inconvenient.
  2. Gossiping that the pay is too low, not often enough, inadequate.
  3. Gossiping that the immediate supervisors or, management are intolerable, incompetent, too strict.
  4. Gossiping that the company is too corporate, too greedy, doesn’t care, is not viable.

Hours – Pay – Supervisors – Company / Organization

My simple solution to having ever been subjected to conditions under which I have thought or felt any of the the ways I just described was to leave. Any one or more of these things could be true, but sticking around to participate in the gossip parade is no solution.

Costs of Negative Gossip & the Benefits of Avoiding It.

Next I will list some of the costs of negative workplace gossip, then I will give you some personal examples of the benefits of NOT participating in this type of gossip.

The Cost of Workplace Gossip
  1. Lost productivity and wasted time.
  2. Morale and trust are eroded.
  3. Gossipers jeopardize chances for their own advancement.
  4. Good employees leave due to an unhealthy atmosphere.³
Personal Benefits of Avoiding Gossip
  1. I was paid more money in various ways and for various reasons.
  2. Co-workers and subordinates appeared to respect me and often trusted me for guidance.
  3. Increased overall effectiveness and a healthier workspace.
  4. Employers left an open invitation for me to be rehired after I quit just in case things didn’t work out in the new job!

Predictably, when you refuse to gossip, do your job well and generally operate beyond the norms, you are likely to become the subject of gossip¹ as I’ve personally experienced.

Some Ways to Avoid Negative Gossiping and Gossipers

Sometimes you can avoid gossipers by not being in the same physical space. If you have the convenience to, then don’t have meals and breaks in the same places.

You can use a personal headseat and listen to educational audios or music. Let others know you need time to study or just need quiet time for your meals and breaks.

If people complain about hours, tell them you are fine with yours. When they complain about money, let them know you do just fine with your pay.

When they complain about the supervisor just say “She’s doing the best that she can” or, “I think she’s doing a great job”.

When they complain about the company you might say “My research hasn’t revealed that to me” or, “I really like the company, that’s why I work here”.

Be Blunt

These are all things I have politely said.

“If you don’t like the hours/pay, why are you telling me? That’s a discussion you should have with the boss”.

“Let’s focus on getting some work done right now”.

“I don’t want to talk about this with you, please don’t bring it up to me again. Thanks”.

“Too bad you feel that way, I don’t”.

“If it’s so bad, why don’t you just leave?”.


The point of this is for you to realize is that by avoiding workplace gossip and refusing to participate, you will have a much better overall experience.

You can decide for yourself whether or not your hours, pay, supervisors or, the company is right for you. There is a saying “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” 

This is much better than getting mixed up in gossip that most likely is just the negative experience of one person infecting everyone else and may not even be true.

Interestingly enough, even when the negative information proved to be true in some cases, I still received the positive benefits by refusing to join the fault-finding chorus.


¹ Sandy V. Chua; Kristine J.C; Anatomy of Workplace Gossip; American Journal of Management [pdf download]

² Long-Zheng Wu, Thomas A. Birtch, Flora F.T. Chiang, Haina Zhang; Perceptions of Negative Workplace Gossip: A Self Consistency Framework — [pdf download]

³ Kit Hennessy; Workplace Gossip; University of Virginia; [pdf download]

Additional reading:

Erik K. Foster; Research on Gossip: Taxonomy, Methods, and Future Directions; Review of General Psychology 2004, Vol 8, No. 2, 78-99 pdf.Foster.gossipreview-download