We have all encountered colleagues who are challenging and make it difficult to stay professional. And the temptation to talk about them behind their backs can be hard to resist, since gossiping triggers a temporary boost of oxytocin (the feel-good hormone) and sharing a secret with someone creates a powerful social bond.

Workplace gossip is nothing new and the shift to remote work has not diminished it—it has just moved it online. Now instead of gathering around the watercooler, employees use productivity tools like Slack to dish the dirt, resulting in what one CEO described as a “culture of venting.” Left unchecked, this can lead to a toxic work environment where no one trusts each other and misinformation can easily spread. 

So if you find yourself being overly critical and tempted to gossip, it may be time to take a step back and consider why that’s happening. Is your colleague’s behavior actually problematic and needs to be addressed or are you being too quick to judge? Is there a more constructive way you could express your opinion other than a snide remark? 

If you’re in a position where you are managing others, this advice also applies. As a leader, it’s critical to set the right example. Aim to always model empathy and communicate feedback to employees in a direct, clear way (a.k.a. not passive aggressively) and your team should follow suit. 

Want more specifics? This article on The Upside offers excellent guidance on how to handle those moments when you feel compelled to say something negative. Author Steve Calechman compiled tips from psychology experts to help you let those judgmental, unproductive thoughts go, refocus your energy, and move on with your day. 

Key takeaways: 

Acknowledge the Judgment, Then Pause 

When you have a judgmental reaction to someone or something, pause and take a few deep breaths, and then reassess what you really want to say and how you want it to be received. You may still feel strongly and decide to comment, but it will probably come across as more intentional vs. off-the-cuff. 

Unhook From the Idea

Use cognitive defusion to diminish the power of negative thoughts. Techniques include imagining your negative thoughts as something tangible you can throw away and writing down your thoughts and reading them out loud to yourself to understand the impact they might have on other people. 

Increase the Numbers
Try to find out if others share your perspective. If they don’t, consider why that may be. If they do, you may be able to make a compelling case to those who have the capability to do something about it. This technique also makes things less personal, since you can show that it’s not just your opinion, but something your team agrees with. 

Ultimately, we all want a work culture where everyone feels respected and heard, not judged or singled out for their views.

You can read the full article here.