“Did you hear that our department is going to suffer a huge budget cutback?”

“Guess what our beloved boss has decided to do next.”

“Sure seems like Marvin is getting plenty of phone calls that aren’t from his wife.”

Yes, these comments represent one of the most sinister threats to your career. If you choose to participate in listening to and spreading company gossip, you have started a downward spiral. Consider these five reasons gossip threatens your reputation—and long range standing with your corporation.

ONE: Gossip brands you as a negative person.As the originator or spreader of bad news, you appear toxic. You poison the workplace atmosphere. Eventually, some of your colleagues will drift away from you at mealtime and coffee breaks.

Worse still, your negative outlook will keep you near the bottom of the organizational chart. Why? Companies want leaders who are supportive, cheerful, and looking for the best in others.

TWO: Frequently gossip is not true.Usually gossip does not equate to “gospel truth.” Gossipers enjoy circulating rumors based on suppositions and suspicion. So when you get involved with what might not be factual, you are supporting dishonest dialogue. That’s disastrous for your image.

THREE: Gossip is not necessarily confidential.A co-worker tells us, “Now you can be sure this is just between you and me, OK?” No, that is not OK, because the person who is telling you this has probably said the same thing to a half dozen other team members.

Be aware also that when the gossiper talks to someone else, he or she is very likely to quote what you said—despite the promise of secrecy.

FOUR: The person who gossips with you will gossip about you.What guarantees that you are immune from becoming the victim of gossip when you have listened to the office naysayer and shared your comments? Nothing. Once you give that person your ear and your words, you can become the next target.

FIVE: Gossip destroys group moraleAnd when morale takes a nose dive, the CEO will start asking questions until she identifies the employees who spread rumors, accusations, assumptions, and character assassination. That could lead to a reprimand—or worse, to a dismissal.

TWO WAYS TO KILL GOSSIPThere are two simple ways to kill gossip and thereby protect your career.

First, when your workplace's caustic critic launches into a barrage of nasty statements about a colleague, simply say: “Please don’t say any more about Jim. He is a team member I respect greatly. He has supported me and cooperated with me ever since the company brought me on board. I choose not to talk about him unless you have something affirmative to share now.”

Second, insist on documentation. “You are saying that Ellen has been involved in illegal handing of our accounts. Before we talk about this any further, I want you to bring me a list of specific transactions and their dates. When you do that, I will consider your evidence carefully.”

Use these two gossip killers, and you will keep your career safe from slanderous sabotage.

Author's Bio: 

Bill Lampton, Ph.D.--the "Biz Communication Guy"--taught communication at the University of Georgia. Then he spent twenty-two years in management at the vice presidential level, where he learned firsthand the destructive nature of gossip. Since 1997 he has helped companies and leaders boost their persuasion--and profits. His top-tier client list includes Gillette, Procter and Gamble, and the Ritz Carlton-Cancun. Visit his Web site to see how his services will benefit you: http:www//bizcommunicationguy.com Call him: 678-316-4300