Two co-workers of mine talk about a 3rd co-worker behind her back. They feel she gets away with things that other employees do not and management doesn't do anything about it. For example, her position allows her to work from home 2 days a week. But some weeks, she works more than 2 days at home and these co-workers feel she gets to do anything she wants. As it turns out, the 3rd co-worker has a medical condition that management knows about that causes her to be out of the office sometimes more days than in office. The two co-workers say she's faking the condition and management did not allow them any leeway with their medical conditions. You should hear them. They just go on and on about this woman like they hate her. Then when she does come into the office, they are as sweet as pie to her face. Very hypocritical behavior in my opinion.

One co-worker even went so far as to send a Teams message to the Manager stating that the 3rd co-worker's behavior is unprofessional.

I don't engage in the gossip. I find these 2 co-workers are too invested in the 3rd co-worker's every move. If she's in the office or at home, if I need to get in touch with her to get the work done, I just send her a Teams message. I really don't care where she is. I'm not her Manager, so I don't need to police her schedule. But the 2 co-workers feel the need to do so.

Another example is that one co-worker talks to me about the 3rd co-worker and wants me to agree with her. We had bad weather one day - icy rain the night before. The 1st co-worker said how she got up so early to salt her driveway and still came into the office. The 3rd co-worker decided to work from home due to the weather. The 1st co-worker feels the 3rd co-worker should have come into the office because everyone has an icy driveway and she feels the rules are different for different people. The 1st co-worker said how this is a business and everyone can't be out of the office. Everything I say to defend the 3rd co-worker, the 1st co-worker shoots it down and keeps harping that this co-worker does what she wants. Talking to the 1st co-worker about this is draining. I don't want to say anything bad about anyone. How do I politely tell the 1st co-worker to worry about herself and not the 3rd co-worker so much and that I really don't care what the 3rd co-worker does and I don't like talking about her behind her back and I'm not going to agree with you? This co-worker has been on the job for a long time and I often go to her with questions. I don't want to jeopardize our working relationship. Meaning I'd still like to be able to ask her things. But I also don't want to engage or agree with her about malicious gossip.

  • 1
    Yes it does. Thank you. I'm sure I will have plenty opportunity to try it out. Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 6:52
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    Gossiping when you are paid to work isn’t exactly professional.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 13:08
  • It's a boundary skill.
    – Jonast92
    Commented Jan 23, 2023 at 16:03

4 Answers 4


"I have no opinion on this topic. I'm really not interested. It's making me uncomfortable. Can we talk about something else, please?"

It's an interpersonal skill, not just a workplace skill.

  • Thank you for your response. I like the phrase "I have no opinion on this topic". Saying that, I can stay neutral. Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 3:25
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    Nice. I definitely would be beyond tempted to ask them sternly and directly: why do you keep dissing her? Detest that type of behaviour. Probably not the best approach, like yours better
    – Chris
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 4:56

The next time one or both colleagues begin criticising 3rd coworker (behind her back) interrupt them and say:

I don't want to engage in this conversation any more. It is unproductive and doesn't solve anything. The fact that management knows you are unhappy with 3rd coworker's performance but have not fired her, must mean they value her contribution more than you realise.

If they persist in the character assassination, immediately apologise and tell them you have some important work to attend to. Repeat this as often as necessary until they finally learn you will not be recruited as an ally.


Here's how you stay out of Gossip...

You stay out of Gossip.

The moment they start up - you leave. Or if you are in a situation like a meeting where you can't leave - you simply say:

"This kind of talk about a Co-Worker is unprofessional - please stop immediately"

And if it continues - raise it to HR - Toxic work environment, office bullying - whatever fits your companies HR Policy.

  • 1
    Your quote sounds like something that will end the speaker on their "gossip about and hate" list. If one wants to take sides, fair enough, but it will not be a "neutral" position. If you wanted to stay out of it, something more neutral and less insulting, like "This is not the topic of the meeting, can we continue with the topic, so I can go back to work as soon as possible?" might be less confrontational.
    – nvoigt
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 8:54
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    That is confrontational and far beyond what's needed at a first step. You can still ask them to stop, in a neutral, firm and polite way. No need to be rude. This advice is the best way to make ennemies quickly without improving anything. Do that in front of management and see what happens sometimes...
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Jan 22, 2023 at 12:28

"Stop gossiping, you're acting like teenagers, it's massively unprofessional and I don't want to hear any more of it."

Be direct and to the point.

Honestly, I don't think being uninvolved is enough in a professional environment, you should be actively rebuking such behaviour to try and improve the culture of the workplace.

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