I’m glad I work for myself because I literally do not understand how people handle office politics.

But it wasn’t so long ago that I did have to deal with overzealous co-workers intent on drawing me in. It didn’t matter where I was employed, the dynamics were the same. Someone was always the scapegoat, another the salacious one, a third the lazy one; there was the suck-up and so on.

Once, I’d had enough of the office suck up and let them have it right in the middle of the department floor. Another time, I argued so vehemently to fire a toxic co-worker who actually made people cry, that a manager’s client could hear my shrill tone. That manager was in a neighboring office AND he was talking to his client ON THE PHONE! I guess I’ve always been a bit of a crusader!

So, don’t do what I did in either of these situations. Instead, test drive one of these comebacks:

Negative comment (awaiting your opinion): “Can you believe Jessica is texting at her desk again?”


  1. Change the subject: “I hadn’t noticed. Hey, how did your meeting go this morning?”
  2. Time-crunched: “Sorry, no. But, I’m really behind. We’ll talk soon.”
  3. Compassion: “I hope everything’s okay. Maybe we should ask her if she needs anything?”
  4. Uninformed: “I don’t know her story, so I can’t comment.”
  5. Stop the cycle: “I’m working on not gossiping, sooo… can’t help you.”
  6. Not my lane: “If you’re so concerned, maybe you should talk to her supervisor?”
  7. Positivity: “She’s a good person. I’m sure she’s got it under control.”
  8. Call them out: “Is this really our business?”
  9. The flip: “No idea about her. I sure hope no one talks about me like that!” (or “you like that!”)
  10. Let’s grow up: “Come on, we’re not five.”And of course, use any variation you need to defuse the gossiper. But know, this is a long-term commitment you’re entering into.I let the climate of previous office environments really roast me and it resulted in my blowups (and consequences), but you don’t have to cave to primitive reactions. Because you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. And as I told myself in the years following those two incidents, “Whoever is grinding your gears doesn’t deserve your power.” The fail-proof questions I posed internally came down to: is this person worth the loss of respect in your superior’s eyes? Is this situation worth career stagnation? Is my contributing to this cesspool more important than my ability to bring home a check?You are not going to like everyone you work with, but this is not a requirement of your job. You are mandated to complete and handle your responsibilities regardless of your emotions, and refusing to sabotage yourself is the best way to get the job done.Please hear me when I say that standing your ground a la Switzerland is not tantamount to allowing abuse to happen. You have every right to tell someone that either unkind behavior and talk directed at you will not be tolerated. If you can’t find the words and you are too angry and sputtering to remain calm, try this. It’s one of my favorites:

    “You are not allowed to talk to me like that.” or “Don’t talk like that about Mary. Thank you.”

    Simple, to the point. But I have found knowing your plan and options and being armed before a sticky sitch hits is far more effective at defusing viral vitriol than flying blind (and brash.)

Original article published in the “The Good Men Project”

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