Real Talk: My Favorite Colleague Started Bad-Mouthing Our Coworkers

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Leah Thomas866
July 19, 2024 at 12:29PM UTC

“I have a colleague who I've been friendly with and recently, she's started really criticizing others we work with,” one FGB'er wrote to the Community.

“The tone of our coffee break chitchats has gotten very negative, and I'm not sure what to do because I really am feeling uncomfortable with the negative gossip. I am not really sure what's behind the gossip since some of the people she's talking about don't really seem to be close to her. I do run across the people she talks about from time-to-time, and it’s starting to color the way I look at them. How do I tell her I'm not comfortable hearing this stuff? How do I get her to stop? I really don't care about people's personal lives in a workplace context,” the FGB’er continued.

Other FGB'ers responded offering their own experiences and advice. A few women recommended being honest with the colleague.

“Just be straight up! Tell her you’re not comfortable, and to please stop. To me, when people gossip, it's usually because they feel left out. No time for negative. You can pick and choose who to be around.” one woman wrote.

“Be wary,” another warned. “You don’t want to be identified as being part of a negative crowd. Stay friendly, but redirect the conversation.”

“I would tell her the negativity you’re not keen on,” a third wrote. “Say you are trying to reflect on more of a positive outlook on people, topics and the general day.”

Addressing the issue and the colleague in the right way is important, as you may worry she will turn on you and begin to say negative things behind your back in the workplace. It is important to be honest and express your hesitation to hear or engage in gossip, but you must do so in a way that does not seem to attack the coworker.

 One FGB woman offered her advice on how to specifically address the issue in a graceful way.

“One graceful tactic you can try is to simply question her tone in a truly authentic and empathetic way. You are curious about why she's doing this, so ask. For example, she might say: ‘Can you believe Stacy got a promotion? It's so surprising considering some people are saying she might have a drinking problem.’ And you can say: ‘Good for her. I can't imagine the difficulty in balancing a challenge like that with your professional life. Do you really think she has a drinking problem? I'd be hesitant to bring that up without any evidence... nor is it really any of my business.’”

This FGB woman offers a great way to address the issue. Offer words of positivity to combat her negativity, and then politely imply you are not comfortable with an accusation that has not been proven to be true.

Another important factor in this conversation is the reason as to why the coworker suddenly wants to engage in gossip, when it seems she didn’t have this desire before. 

One FGB’er highlighted this, saying, “You mention that your coffee break chats have changed. If you consider her a friend, you might ask her what has changed for her. Is she suddenly less satisfied at work? You could tell her you are concerned about her and support her positive exploration into what would make her feel better. Listen and make it about her.”

We agree with this Fairygodboss woman’s advice. Gossiping and negativity frequently derive from insecurity. Your workplace friend may be experiencing issues at work, or even in her own personal life, that could be affecting the way she views and talks about other people and colleagues. And even though she may be engaging in behavior that upsets you right now, it is important to check in on her and ensure she is okay.

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