Q: A colleague comes into my office to confidentially discuss his job duties and ask for advice on handling a personnel situation. Before I realize it he gives me a ‘juicy bit of gossip’ on our mutual supervisor. I realize that this is explosive information and I would not repeat the same for it may not be true or may not be reliable. I don’t want to embarrass him, shut down the lines of communication, or lose his trust. However, I don’t want to be the repository of gossip that could compromise or danger my position. Any ideas?
A: The best way to handle this is to tell your colleague, “I don’t want to hear the details of anyone’s private life,” and politely refuse to listen – “That sounds interesting, but frankly, I’d just rather not know.” I would be frank with this person and tell him that you are happy to listen to when he has a question about his job duties or a personnel situation, but that you do not want to hear gossip or rumors that could be damaging to someone’s career or to your company.