Resources to Combat Office Gossip

(This came to me anonymously from an HR Manager - Steve)

Can you suggest a book or resource material on handling office/watercooler gossip? I pulled toolkits from the SHRM website but I am open to other suggestions. It's a real issue here and I'd like to see what others have done to try and combat/eliminate this.


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  • Hello,

    The fabulous water cooler - if it only ever just kept us hydrated.   Keeping a presence in that area is key, and making sure that if you or other management personnel hear these conversations you step in and discuss them - in a positive manner, not a negative or disciplinary way. In a few instances in my organization I have stopped and just mentioned one of our core values that the 'discussers' may not be adhering to.  Such as, 'Hi, and good morning, couldn't help but overhear - remember, SOS Cares - we need to make sure that we are using compassion or respect for our co-workers.  Want to stop over and we can talk privately about what is happening?"  While not sure the situation of what is happening in your business - but I had many employees pop in to talk - some because they don't know how to stop being sucked into the vortex.  I help empower them and my supervisory team to speak up every time.  It helps with a culture shift to a more positive workforce where the negative gossip doesn't become the 'norm' and accepted.   A couple of books, not specific to water coolers - but to communication that have helped me, How to Communicate with Confidence, Mike Bechtle and Difficult Conversations, Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen.   

  • I agree with Cheryl's comments.  I would also perhaps think about doing some workplace civility or professionalism training in conjunction with your anti-discrimination/anti-harassment training.  It will help to reinforce those core values and to empower both supervisors and co-workers to step in to say something if they over a negative conversation or gossip (rather than run to HR).  :-) 

  • Might be worth investing in some Emotional Intelligence training for those participating.  LinkedIn Learning has a good one. Also, the Harvard business review has a series. My favorites in the series are Self Awareness and dealing with Difficult People. 

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