While we’re all long past our high school days, we may sometimes feel like our workplaces resemble those old stomping grounds—especially when it comes to rumors. Like a game of telephone gone wrong, false stories (or unsavory true tales) about the boss, a company decision, your co-workers, or even you can spread fast and create a toxic environment.
If you find yourself on the receiving end of office side-eyes and hushed whispers. be sure to take these tips from people management expert Colleen Cassel, who specialized in coaching business leaders and organizations, and you’ll sail through the situation with your head held high.
If you absolutely know that the gossip is false and your team is chatting, confront them—and the gossip—with laughter. Be light about it by acknowledging it and making a joke of how foolish the gossip is. The laughter will make the gossiper feel foolish for spreading something that is so clearly false.
When the gossip or rumor is a personal offense, never put the gossiper on the defense. Confront the person who is gossiping in an easy, open way. Don’t take the rumors to heart and communicate the absolute truth on the matter so any gossip can be put to rest immediately.
Approach the gossiper and others who may be spreading the gossip and ask for their help in squashing the rumors. Make these people your allies—give them the opportunity to help spread the truth and put rumors to rest.
If you are in a management position, remind the team that gossiping is counterintuitive to everyone’s success. In order for your department to be successful, open and honest communication is the key—not spreading rumors. Remind your colleagues and subordinates that gossip is useless chatter and they’ll be less apt to engage in it—against you and others.
Practice what you preach. When a manager or company holds up their end of the bargain and openly communicates with the team, there is less room for gossip as there is nothing to gossip about. By keeping the lines of communication open, you won’t give would-be rumor-starters the ammunition they need.
This article originally appeared on Levo and is reprinted with permission.