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The 6 Toxic Traits of Workplace Gossips People who have nothing nice to say seldom leave it unsaid. Understanding their miserable motives is key to dealing with them effectively.

By Sherrie Campbell Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


Gossip is poison to any environment, but it is especially deadly to the work environment. Gossip creates disruption and is specifically designed for the demise of others. Gossip comes from the individual who has the largest, yet most fragile, ego and who feels the greatest threat to their job security, self-esteem, popularity or status. Workplace gossips gain success by undermining significant people they admire or fear. A pesky gossip is aware that reputation is everything in business and that a reputation tarnished is nearly impossible to recover. They strategize to ruin those they view as better than themselves or otherwise in their way.

1. Immaturity.

Gossips are desperate and immature people. They need drama, love conflict and are so deeply unconfident they feel compelled to tell and spread false accusations and stories about others in order to feel a sense of superiority, or to be able to play the ultimate role of the victim. Immature people cannot hold onto themselves without reacting when feeling insecure. They act out like 2-year-olds.

Immaturity is synonymous with poor mental health. You are not likely to meet a mentally healthy individual who is immature. The first thing to understand when dealing with a gossip is you are not dealing with a person who is mentally or emotionally sound no matter how together they may appear. For this reason, tell them very little about yourself or your role at work beyond what they need to know or what directly impacts them.

2. Embellishment.

Gossip is synonymous with fabrication or embellishment. The stories they tell are make-believe histrionics designed to grab attention and to set a team of people against another or others. The root cause of gossip is almost always, without fail, jealousy. The more successful you are, the more attractive, the more kind, the more self-assured, the more people will gossip. They do it to try and bring you down. They do it to try and build themselves up.

If you are the target of a gossip do your best not to let it get under your skin. Gossip is never a sign that you are doing something wrong or that something is lacking from within you. If you are the target you can be sure you are doing something right. Envy, coming from anyone, is a sign that you are achieving, succeeding and creating a path to success the gossip has been unable to achieve on their own; hence you become their target. Never shrink under the guise of a rumor and nor should you jump in and urgently try and right the wrong that has been generated. Stay calm, ignore the rumor, shut your mouth, and let your success do the talking.

Related: Have You Heard? Office Gossip May Actually Be a Good Thing.

3. Emotionally violent.

Envy is the most violent of all the emotions. Why? People seek to destroy what they envy. Jealousy has the greatest potential to absolutely destroy relationships. If you are around a gossip the first thing to realize is they are harmful people, and they will eventually be harmful to you. Never believe when you hear a person gossiping about someone else in the workplace they won't eventually turn on you as well. They will.

Gossips are not loyal to anyone but themselves. They will do all they can to get you involved in their drama to at some later point use your own words for blackmail when they see fit to mend fences with their original target. Gossips use gossip as a bargaining tool for their success. Sadly, there are many who climb the latter of success in this way. If you can stay back and not involve yourself you will see their success is short lived. They will lie and deny all of their wrongdoing scapegoating any and all in their wake. Keep your sensors up and never trust anyone whom you see constantly talking about others good or bad.

Related: Is Your Organization Playing the 'Gossip Game?'

4. Seductive.

It is human nature to talk about others, to analyze and to be curious, so catching onto a destructive gossiper can be difficult to discern. You all talk about and hold opinions of others in the workplace. For this reason, a person who is a pathological gossiper will smile to your face while scheming to suck you in for the purpose of eventually exploiting your trust.

Be aware of any individual who seems to share too much too soon about themselves and who seems to have rigid opinions about others. Gossip, for you, will only feel good temporarily until you catch on to the fact that the person you are gossiping with will turn on you in a nanosecond. This person can now share any information you told them in confidence. Learn to manage yourself and your relationships in the workplace doing what you can to keep them more professional and less personal.

5. Insecure.

At their core gossips are tragically insecure. Everyone, including you, is a threat to their sense-of-Self. Gossips have poor ego development and tend to be emotionally labile. They are quick to blame and short on responsibility. They prefer to do the least amount for the most gain, believing any and all extra work or responsibility required of them is unfair and unjust. They view others as having an intention to make them fail, causing the gossip to live on the defensive. They feel justified to take down anyone they see as a threat.

Never put effort into trying to build the ego of an insecure person. Developing security is an inside job. If you try and help, you will be used and taken advantage of. They will let you "row the boat," do all the work and then blame you when things don't turn out how they expected. Do your job and only your job.

Related: What a 'Best Butt' Award Says About Bad Corporate Culture

6. Parasitic.

A gossip may appear to care about you, to be interested in what you have to say and to be a person you can trust. They will easily garner your confidence and milk you for business and personal information; assuring you they can be trusted. In essence they are determining ways to manipulate you, live off of you, covertly bully you, and suck you of your emotional well-being and success. These types of people thrive on emotional reaction and attention.

Gossips live off of the emotions and fears of others, just as a leach thrives on sucking the blood from its source. Gossips are parasitic. They suck off of you and destroy you in an effort to build themselves. The best thing to do is detach as soon as you're aware they are after your attention, information or emotional reaction. At the end of the day, you will be their scapegoat.

Get as far away from these people as possible, they have nothing real to say, nothing of value for you to think about and are only using you to be recruited onto their team. Gossips never work alone because they aren't powerful alone, they are in need of a team of lieutenants to help them create their storm. The ironic thing about these types is when their karma comes back around, they actually feel slighted. They create the storm and then complain because it's raining, yet they cannot feel themselves in the absence of drama. Free yourself through ignoring them. Ignoring a gossip deprives them of the fuel they are looking for and eventually they will move on to prey upon someone else. In the workplace, if you ever want to know the truth; ask the scapegoat.

Sherrie Campbell

Psychologist, Author, Speaker

Sherrie Campbell is a psychologist in Yorba Linda, Calif., with two decades of clinical training and experience in providing counseling and psychotherapy services. She is the author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person. Her new book, Success Equations: A Path to an Emotionally Wealthy Life, is available for pre-order.

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