How To Stop Nasty Office Rumors - URBANETTE: Lifestyle Magazine & Blog


How To Stop Nasty Office Rumors

Don’t add injury to insult. Find out how to fight back, and save your dignity.


In my first internship, a woman named Jennifer overheard me talking to my boyfriend about my not-so-innocent friendship with another guy. Extrapolating from what she heard, she proceeded to tell the entire office that I was not only cheating on my boyfriend, but also sleeping with several of the men in the office, including my boss. Now, this wasn’t true, but even if it had been, there were ways that I could have dealt with it. Instead, when I noticed her whispering and looking at me, I decided to call her out and get into a screaming match in the middle of a team meeting. Needless to say, I was quickly fired.

How To Stop Nasty Office Rumors

Dealing with a mountain-load of paperwork at the office is stressful enough. Having to think about what your colleagues are saying about you is just about enough to push any overloaded woman over the edge. But the talk is there. And it doesn’t look like you can completely stop people from chattering. On the upside, there ARE ways to prevent the smoke from transforming into full-blown fires and to control the chatter behind your back.

Don’t add injury to insult. Find out how to fight back, and save your dignity.

Office rumors will always be a part of your work life, whether you like or not; and if you’re careless, you could be the center of all the discussion without your knowing. If you don’t nip the problem in the bud, you’ll likely hear all sorts of outrageous stories that are galaxies away from the truth. Some will be 100% fabricated. That said, how do you prevent the talk from ballooning and what can you do to kill a fire that has already started?

Here’s how you help stop nasty office chatter from spreading, whether it’s about you or someone else:

Handling Reputational Warfare Peacefully

Learn to know the difference between simple office talk and destructive vendettas disguised under “concerned comments” so you can stop the discussion in its tracks and prevent it from spreading without outwardly telling the messenger off. Quelling a potential rumor is tricky because you might get accused of being a total spoilsport or a bitch if you do it too directly.

You can stop this problem from growing by (subtly) forcing the other person to be specific and direct about his or her comments.

If you sense that gossip about a certain colleague has the qualities of being destructive when fanned, one good and peaceful way to stop it is to change the subject or to say something nice about the person. For example, a coworker might say “I heard that the boss has been giving Ana more break hours than the rest of us,” You could respond by saying “She’s been working so hard in the past weeks, so I guess she deserves the break.”

Another potential office rumor can come in the form of a sarcastic remark. You can stop this problem from growing by (subtly) forcing the other person to be specific and direct about his or her comments. For example, your coworker might snidely say “Yeah, I heard Mike is a real professional.” You could respond by saying “What do you mean? Did Mike say something brilliant at this morning’s assembly?” Forcing the possible rumor-monger to be outright with his or her comments will usually result in a retraction. Bear in mind that a rumor is a rumor because nothing is said out in the open (and because perpetrators enjoy hiding under a cloak).

Be In-The-Know

How To Stop Nasty Office Rumors

Being in the know doesn’t mean being in on every rumor spreading circle in the office. It means knowing the facts. When you hear a story, find out for yourself if there is any truth to them. While the cliche “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” holds true most of the time, find out the root of the tale so you can better respond to the stories when they do reach you. If there’s a management rumor going around the office and all the rank and filers are abuzz, you can verify the rumor by asking someone from management if there is any truth to it, subtly, of course. You don’t want to be the office’s resident tattletale, so tread carefully.

Knowing the facts will allow you to correct wrong stories from spreading and stopping more incorrect information to pile onto the already incorrect tales. When you hear an incorrect story, take the responsibility of straightening it out right away so it doesn’t grow.

Commenting on a rumor or fanning the flame creates the risk of you getting quoted to other listeners in the future.

Don’t Add Insult to Injury

When you’re at the listening end of an office rumor, you can stop it from spreading by shutting up and keeping it to yourself. While listening, do not make any comments, or add your own opinions to the tale so that nobody can quote you for saying anything ever in the future. Simply listen, nod your head, absorb the info and keep it to yourself. If the stories are too disconcerting and destructive, you can try the other tactics above; but if the plot is still too thin, then it’s smartest to let it end with you. Commenting on the matter or fanning the flame creates the risk of you getting quoted to other listeners in the future, until, as the tale grows via the grapevine, you become a principal player in the spread.

How To Stop Nasty Office Rumors

If You’re the Topic

Others say that ignoring the rumor and letting it die a natural death is healthy and will certainly prevent you from possibly getting into a word-war or catfight with a colleague. While rumors do die, especially when there’s a new object of talk, pretending a problem does not exist is not really solving the problem at all. However, some people, especially those who are non-confrontational, would prefer this route, keep their heads down and just concentrate on their jobs.

Remember, “Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about people.”

If people are talking about YOU, you may deal with the situation two ways: you can either confront the source of the story or let it pass, depending on your conflict response mechanisms. Certain schools of thought say confrontation is the best way to quell a rumor by telling the source off outright and placing him or her in a position where he or she has to declare the factual basis of the stories spread about you. This can be a very embarrassing event for the rumor-monger, because most likely 60 per cent of it is made up.

Rumors Are Part of Office Culture

Office rumors are naturally part of the work environment because humans are innately inquisitive. Quite destructively, there will always be that person who uses real or fictional “information” to gain social standing with his or her peers. There are rumors that are funny and quirky, while there are those that are destructive and hurtful. While we’re not saying that you should just accept the presence of rumors as part of life, you can contribute to making sure that the office tales stay below the radar and mild by not participating. Remember, “Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about people.”

Originally from Denver and now living in NYC, Angie has been writing since she was small. She lives in the Flatiron district with her partner Tanya and their mutt Sparky (always adopt!) In her spare time she loves to paint (mostly abstract) and talk to random people on the street to find out what’s interesting to them.

Reader Discussion: 16 Comments

  1. Vicki

    I work with a female who displays a small mind. Clueless of her inability to refrain from gossiping, she shares the private business of others, but says nothing of her own. Did I mention she claims to be a Christian?

  2. Sarah Woodstock

    Rumors are office drama, they are habits of some people who have very low self esteem, or are jealous of colleagues’ talents and skills. It may be hard to ignore at times, but that’s the best response. Just focus on your office responsibilities!

  3. My personal belief is that “rumors are to be ignored”… and laughed at… LOL!

  4. Do not mind office rumors and for sure, they will cease 😉

  5. I definitely LOVE this part: "Great minds talk about ideas. Average minds talk about events. And small minds talk about people." Very, very true. Rumors in the work place is a natural thing. I believe this is because colleagues who have NO or LITTLE idea of who you are, make you become of what they think.

  6. Jen Garcia

    I personally believe that office rumors exist because you are an “achiever” in your workplace! For me, it’s more of the “crab mentality” that most of your colleagues have. The most important thing is always be professional and continue fulfilling and achieving your responsibilities… no matter what you hear.

  7. Working in magazines, the stereotypical place for this kind of nastiness, I’ve realized that you just have to ignore it and if someone brings it up, just say “oh, you heard that, did you?” or “I’m sorry you feel that way.” Both shut it down.

  8. Paula Lowe

    I often hear some people I know complaining about rumors, misunderstandings, and all these types of things. Sometimes I hear my mom talking about her problems at work and it brings me back to my High School days – sometimes we grow old but that whole fabrication or exaggeration of things will follow you. We can’t really avoid them 100% – we just need to learn how to deal with them in a manner that won’t make you look bad.

  9. Office Rumors are ridiculous but sometimes unavoidable in the office. I like the idea of being positive and treating others the way you want to be treated. By being courteous, you will be respected in your work place 🙂

  10. Hannah Mayers

    Office rumors… One of the unavoidable things in the workplace. I believe office rumors are caused by envy, jealousy, misjudgment and because you’re being TRUE. Most of the time, it’s very easy to judge others, but it’s very hard to commend them. I believe office rumors can make or break a career (although most of the time, rumors break). If you take these office rumors as challenges to strive better (and prove these rumors wrong) each day, then for sure, your boss will notice and give you credit for your hard work. But if you take these rumors negatively, for sure, your job will be lost.

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