Gossip mongers often have little regard for fact. So, when I hear something outrageous or questionable, I push for real answers. "Oh, wow, that sounds pretty extreme. Is that a fact? Or did you hear that from someone?" You'll quickly set the expectation that you won't engage in frivolous chatter that's not based in fact. In turn, gossips will likely steer clear of you because asking for facts takes all the fun out of it for them.
Another strategy is to express helplessness. When a co-worker starts spinning the gossip yarn ("I heard the boss knows that Sam's looking for a new job — what do you think he's going to do?"), shrug and say "I can't help you with that one. Sorry." If the gossiper pushes, don't be afraid to establish your personal boundaries: "Actually, I don't like to talk office politics; it's not really any of my business." Then excuse yourself from the conversation.
3. The Drama Queens (or Kings)
These spotlight-lovers have a high need for attention, and they often drain their co-workers' time and energy by the dramatics they employ in search of the spotlight.
You know the type: This is the person whose workload is bigger than anyone else's, who has the worst flu symptoms during cold season, and whose clients are the most annoying. They thrive on chaos and will one-up any story you have. "You think that was a bad client? Last week, I had to drive two hours to a client's house just to bring him work samples!"
Sure, level-headed you would probably take the situation in stride and let the disruption roll off your back — but the drama queen believes he or she is the only one to ever experience such an event, and it's worthy of a wrath-laden rant.
One way you can nip this in the bud is to refuse to bite when the drama starts rolling. You see, since drama queens want to be the center of attention, the more you respond to their drama ("Oh my gosh, that really happened to you?"), the more you feed the beast. Instead, simply ignore the rants, and go on about your business. Your message — "I'm not interested" — will eventually be received.
Also, don't be afraid to give some honest feedback. Convey that you understand your colleague's concerns, but there's probably a better way for him or her to deal with them. For example, "Jackson, I know you have a big workload, but if you're feeling overwhelmed and overworked, you should probably talk to your manager." And when you say it, make sure to stay calm and act rationally, so that you're not adding to the drama.
4. The Chicken Littles
Just like the children's tale, with these folks, the sky is always falling. If you share a piece of good news with them ("We got the account!"), they'll respond with a pessimistic reaction that you probably didn't expect (or want): "Oh, I've heard that client is a real pain. They'll take so much time that we'll never make money."
In this situation, it's best to confront the situation head-on and give your co-worker feedback. Gently explain how his or her behavior affects the rest of the team: "Pat, when you rain on someone's good news with that kind of announcement, the new teammates find it a bit upsetting. Mind toning it down just a bit?"
I've found that most chicken littles don't realize how negative they're being and how it's affecting those around them. By gently pointing it out, you can help them make the correction and be supportive of their teammates.
5. The Victims