Have a coworker who loves to gossip, but don’t want to get involved? Good for you for not wanting to engage. Gossip harms the workplace by eroding trust and injecting cruelty. And if this coworker is a disher, other people probably know it, and you could get a bad rap by association.
The key is to cut off Ms. Loose Lips politely but clearly. Say, “I love our chats! But I think we should try to avoid talking about other people.” You might even say that you’ve been hurt before by gossip at another job or have seen others get hurt.
People often use gossip as a way to develop a bond with another person; there’s a level of intimacy that comes from sharing secrets. If you want to maintain a close friendship with your colleague and don’t want to leave things awkward, swap stories that aren’t work-related.
Maybe you’re OK opening up about how you’re hunting for a new apartment, or about that vacation you’re planning. Exchanging these sorts of personal details shows your colleague that you value the friendship, just not at the expense of others—or your career.
Gail Saltz, MD, is a psychiatrist and television commentator in New York City who specializes in health, sex, and relationships.