How to Deal with Petty Bullshit at Work (& Life)

workplace, gossip, work and life balance

I’ve never been that girl at work.  I’ve certainly never been that guy.  You know the type.  The one who workplace drama and just crap at work seems to be drawn to, attracted like a magnet.  It’s like they can’t get away.  Whether its work place gossip, drama, or just general petty bullshit, this person’s involvement can never escape.  That’s kind of how I’ve been feeling lately about myself.  These last two weeks have been a tough one.  Drama can’t seem to escape me, or maybe I just can’t escape the drama.  Like how many licks it takes to lick a tootsie pop, it’s really one of those answers to a question the world will really never know.  Mostly, I won’t know.  It just does.

How to Deal with Petty Bullshit at Work (& Life)

Drama in work and in life is never fun.  It causes stress on you, your co-workers, and your family.  Stress at work puts you at risk for increased heart attacks.  In fact, Europeans with high demanding jobs with stress and little autonomy to make decisions were shown to have an increased chance of heart attack by 23%.  While I personally, have more than enough decision making autonomy being self-employed, I’m thinking I might just make an extra effort for meditation especially since I’m the drama magnet as of late.  And maybe a massage. . .

A couple weeks ago my friend went ape shit.  Abruptly shutting me out after serving as her confidant for many years.  The ranting voice mails, texts, and emails are more than I can handle.  It was hard to focus on work.  Now I realize that all the drama and conflict she described among clients, co-workers, and friends stemmed from one single source, herself.  While glad to be rid of the drama, I’m hurt as I’ve lost a friend, and that is never fun.

While I’m one for creativity especially at work, work place gossip is where I draw the line.  Another friend was personally attacked but kept squarely out of the loop as people close to him invented stories, added to the gossip mill, and general nonsense while he was completely clueless as to the conversations, creative imaginations, and back-handed-ness of those involved.  I’m talking about accusations including involvement in a porn ring, a handful of felony convictions, and male prostitution.  I am stuck in the middle of this fiction-filled work drama.  Someone has a career as a fiction writer because they’ve crafted quite the story.

The problem is that people thrive on this stuff, when I just want to run away.  Shut yourself off from humans and maybe just hold up in your home office blogging, tweeting, and writing feverishly like me. I quickly realized that I must face this head on.

How to Avoid Work Place Problems

Focus.   As juicy as the tales of felony convictions and porn rings are, I am staying the course.  I’m focusing squarely on my work and removing myself from conversations or involvement in said drama.  Politely excusing myself from the conversation while keeping a clear and level head.

Perspective.  Time heals all wounds does’t it?  Your professional career is a marathon not a sprint.  Small events seem important in the present but it’s really the body of work that matters.  Look at the big picture instead of this moment, the short term especially if the gossip, rumors, and drama include you.

Create a Trusted Board of Advisors.  Or as I like to call it a personal board of directors.  Find a group of people you trust and surround yourself with.  You’ll spend a lot less time fueling the grapevine with idle chatter, wondering, and wishing you’d kept your mouth shut by going to your go to group first.

Be True To Yourself.  Gossip in a lot of ways is like breathing.  As humans, it’s really what we do.  While I prefer celebrity gossip, it’s my guilty pleasure, I think it’s important to place yourself in the shoes of other from time to time.  This is about you, your reputation, your friends, and your business.  Don’t involve yourself in unnecessary crap or drama that isn’t for you.  Quietly and kindly remove yourself from those toxic workplace situations.

Workplace Drama is Like Breathing

As long as their are humans, there will be drama and gossip at work.  I hate admitting that.  It’s a part of life.  Like breathing you can consciously control drama in most cases but only for you.  They key to dealing with petty bullshit in work and life is to remember surround yourself with family and people you love, keep your head down, and remember that your best really is enough for you.

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Jessica Miller-Merrell

Learn more about Jessica Miller-Merrell, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource, and the host of the Workology Podcast. More of her blogs can be found here.

Reader Interactions


  1. Tech Instructor says

    This article hit home with myself. I work for a company that runs summer camps and have over 600 staff working for us around the country. And at a lot of our sites we see this happening with our staff. Your four points are a good foundation to build off of. It is amazing to see how all that drama can really cause a difficult work environment.

    ” They key to dealing with petty bullshit in work and life is to remember surround yourself with family and people you love, keep your head down, and remember that your best really is enough for you.”

    I couldn’t have said it better.

      • Esther says

        Hi Jessica, this is a great article you have written. I have never been the person who gossips or bullies, but when it happens, I wouldn’t know until the whole ordeal is done with. Thank you so much for this article.
        I’d also like to ask for your permission to use the “girls gossipping” picture for my blog. It would automatically link to this website of yours.

      • Natasha says

        I found this very useful not only did I have the shit stirrer at work she also lives a house away from me and anger takes over when I hear her say stuff to others going past my house but iam not the only person in the street she has done it to hopefully karma will revenge me

        • Gina says

          i also work with the shit stirrer who gets much pleasure in sharing private stuff and causing distress.. she gets a kick out of it each time.

  2. John R says

    Just know corporate and gov jobs are 2 very different breeds. I worked with various corporate companies and always exprience the same bull. Managers and directors lazy and over work their team and treat them as disposable. This is why I got away from corporate environment and worked for the government where it’s more relax. Power and money really change people’s ego and bring the worst in people.

  3. angiega says

    I really appreciate this article. I recently got involved with some very serious BS at work, where folks may be losing their jobs. I’m very maternal and folks often come to me when they are upset with their managers, specially one who is an incompetent bully, who for some reason, HR is afraid to fire. I used some of your points to prepare a statement in case I get called in to my managers office for my small involvement. sigh….

  4. shy says

    I just found out I’ve been the topic of office gossip and accusations. It’s not the first time though this involves different people. And as before, it happens when I take a day off. I have learned, however, that the people who talk the most are those who are the more insecure of the bunch. The ones that are too busy to be involved in this drama are the ones that never do this. When I look up from my desk every now and then when the noise level rises, those who are working away like the busy bees they always are, are the ones that never talk behind others back, And the ones that do? Socializing like it’s a party. I think that says something right there.

    Anyway – you are right. It doesn’t matter where one works, this is the nature of the beast in any office/work environment. I’d rather, however, work people with your type of mindset. 🙂

  5. karen says

    I work with a group of people who come to work acting like spoiled children. I have learned the only way to stay out of the gossip-loop is to become anti-social. I am the one who is known as “quiet” and self involved because I don’t participate in all the drama. They are worse than my children at home

    • Zonket says

      Amen! Nothing wrong with being introverted and going to work to work, not participate in idle chatter and gossip…

  6. crystal says

    iv tried all these things but unfortunately the people with authority feed off the drama. i get told to be more professional while other people are reporting me for stuff that never happened. iv resorted to wearing my headphones at lunch and not saying anything.

  7. Mira says

    Oh heck..I have a boss like that..and her “friend” that used to talk nothing but bad about her now sits and gossips with her about everybody in the building…since I did not want to join in I am of course the bad girl..I come here to work not bullsh&$ around..I stay to myself pretty much..thank God…

  8. Jade Lewis says

    I have. A hard time of running my mouth and being in people busines how do i stop doing that

  9. Angie says

    I have a workplace that is full of drama too., Since i’m the new girl, everything gets blamed on me, and of course when I say I didn’t do anything, I get blamed and called a liar. I’m sick and tired of it. I’ve got my earbuds in every single day and just want to come and leave and get paid. I’ve never been one for drama, I never feed it or fuel it, but god I don’t want to lose my job over this.

  10. Stephanie M says

    When a client speaks on the non verbal tension between myself n a co-worker n im trying to stay to myself n ignore the co-worker n do my job how do i stay focused on my work without dredging up what they said to others we work with?

  11. Alissa says

    I so needed this today! Managing 2 small businesses where the majority of the employees are under 30! It seems most still think they are in high school! Working with this female staff made me realize how the majority of my high school friends were guys and why I do tend to get along better with guys! Thank you for this! It was much needed!


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