How to Prevent Office Gossip

Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.

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Dear Bev,

We have a woman, “Grace,” on our team who seems to enjoy stirring things up. She is one of our client service managers. My partners and I have agreed to ignore her antics in favor of harmony within the team. Everyone else knows she is a troublemaker. When she talks about someone behind their back to someone else, we ignore it. I know it isn’t optimal, but it has worked in our culture.

This week she crossed a very difficult line. One of the women in our office overheard Grace telling a client about another woman on our team, “Shelly,” and how unreliable and unpredictable she is. The client was concerned because they had asked for some information and not received it. Rather than follow-up and meet the client’s needs, this colleague heard Grace say a number of unattractive things about Shelly. It is Shelly’s account, and she was out for two days quite ill. We had asked her to take time to recoup and not to check emails.

I’m not sure what to do. I have to call Grace’s behavior out, but do I also call the client? Do I let Shelly know in case the client says anything to her? I realize allowing this to go on has created a problem that was bound to bleed into client conversations. But I thought Grace had more professionalism than this.