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When there's more whispering than winning remarks coming your way, you may just be the target of office gossip. Gossip spread by a co-worker can be damaging to your career; it may have you moving out of your department or -- even further -- your company. But even when you move, your former co-worker's deviant behavior may follow you to interviews or your new position. The good news is you can combat malicious gossip by confronting it head on.
Confront the Person
Gossip breeds resentment and stops effective communication. But the problem is that the gossip tarnishes your reputation while the gossiper assumes no blame. Revealing your feelings to the gossiper increases the chances of it stopping. In a professional manner, confront the gossiping behavior, not the person. For example, refrain from calling the gossiper a jealous jerk, and instead state that you are concerned about the gossiping and it needs to stop. By handling it this way, you'll gain respect from everyone else.
Refuse to Reciprocate
Stop yourself from dishing about your former co-worker, even though the gosspier isn't around. It might leave doubters unsure of who to believe. And, while it is extremely tempting to go asking around about what people have heard about you, don't do it. This only keeps the fire -- and people's ears -- burning. Instead, refrain from commenting on the situation with co-workers who are not directly in charge of your destiny. If another co-worker brings it to your attention, let the co-worker know you are fully aware of the situation, but don't give any details or additional information.
Talk to Your Superiors
Separate fact from fiction and lead the damage-control initiative. This is especially important if you are interviewing in a small industry or you need to set the record straight with your current bosses or clients. Try to figure out what the real issue was with your former co-worker and discuss it with the people who might have valuable and helpful insight into the situation. Focus on the real issues and come up with ideas and solutions for cleaning up the misconceptions and lies spread about you. This will get co-workers back on track; it also takes away any urges to further the gossip.
Put Your Best Work Forward
It's crucial at this time that you show a strong work ethic and your ability to focus under stress. Expand your job scope, shift priorities and delve into projects that you otherwise might not take; join a team of people who you don't know well. Keep a to-do list and stay on task so that people can feel your loyalty and work ethic working toward the company. Publicly defend others, complain quietly and keep a positive attitude. If you stay busy with work you are proud of, it will slowly drown out any negative or leftover feelings people have against you because of the gossip.
Based in Los Angeles, Lisa Finn has been writing professionally for 20 years. Her print and online articles appear in magazines and websites such as "Spa Magazine," "L.A. Parent," "Business," the Famous Footwear blog and many others. She also ghostwrites for mompreneurs and business owners who appear regularly on shows such as Ricki Lake, HGTV, Carson Daly and The Today Show.
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