Q: I have a problem with my colleagues. Individually they are nice, but together all they do is gossip, which I find distracting and demoralising, and they are reluctant to help me out. Luckily, I often work out of the office. I've felt I wanted to talk to the worst of the bunch about her attitude, but fear it would just cause an atmosphere. And I'm not sure talking about it with my manager is necessarily the right approach either, as I'd feel like a snitch. What do you recommend?
A: The risk you run is that a sort of silent barrier builds up between you and your colleagues. Offices can be almost as rife as schools with little gangs and factions - and once a tight little group has marked someone down as an outsider, it's extremely difficult to repair.
Even though you've resisted the temptation to have it out with the worst offender, or talk things through with your manager, you've almost certainly exuded mute disapproval. I'm not blaming you for this - it's entirely understandable - but the others will probably see it as you being a bit superior. At school, they used to call it being stuck-up.
I believe that without in any way pretending to be as cliquey and gossipy as them - nothing's more embarrassing or less convincing than pretending to be one of the girls when you're not - you could well discover ways in which you can lessen the tension.
Do your best not to roll your eyes and generate silent exasperation. Put to one side all thought of talking them out of their chattering ways; it won't work. Build on the useful fact that, individually, you like them. Suggest having a drink or a coffee after work one evening.
Position yourself not as one of the gang - because you're not and never will be - but as an approachable, non-judgmental individual who just happens to be a bit of a loner because that's the way you like to work.
They should soon begin to accept you as easily as you accept them - and be a lot more willing to help you out than they have been.
But don't expect too much. I bet you'll always find their twittering tiresome.