Q: One of my co-workers is always gossiping about other team members or other teams. It makes me uncomfortable. What is the best way to handle it?
A: That sounds like a difficult situation. I don’t know if I have a best way since every situation is different, so let me give you a couple ideas. First, you can excuse yourself from the situation. If you are uncomfortable and you aren’t required to be at the break room or wherever this gossip is happening, excuse yourself in some way from the situation and leave.
If you are somewhere that doesn’t lend itself to you leaving the situation, change the subject. Find a pause in the conversation and make a subject change. If you feel comfortable, maybe offer an alternative to the gossip – if the story is making assumptions maybe offer an alternative story that could be equally true.
Lastly, you could politely ask that he/she not continue talking about people that are not in the room. You can tell them it makes you feel uncomfortable, or just say it is something new you are trying and you would really appreciate their help in maintaining an environment where you don’t talk about people that aren’t there.