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"Even in the most positive environments, gossip at work can sneak in when stress is high or work availability is low," writes business coach Mary Ylisela at Levo League. "When it comes to gossip, prevention is the best tactic to take."
So how can you prevent smack talk?
1. Let people speak their mind -- within reason.
If you're a manager, you're in a unique position to encourage productive discussion. By allocating certain times and places for constructive conversation, you can channel your reports' energy into solving the problem, instead of making it worse.
2. Be honest.
Nothing counteracts lies like the truth. If you're in a leadership position, address rumors before they get out of hand. If you're not a manager, don't share unverified stories.
3. Don't be part of the problem.
Don't spread malicious gossip, fill in gaps by guessing at "the real story," or provide an ear for folks who want to engage in creative storytelling. Stick with what you know, rather than trying to sift through the scuttlebutt to find information.
4. Be positive.
No one's saying you have to be Pollyanna, but trying to look on the bright side of things will make your office a happier place to work -- and might even make you feel better.
5. Catch people doing the right thing -- and reward them for it.
Even if you're not the boss, you can encourage positive behavior by being supportive when you find it. Be generous with praise when people deserve it. People are more likely to remember negative events than positive ones, so be sure to comment on the good stuff when it happens.
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