Dental offices are small, and talk is common. Being in an environment where there are few employees and limited space can be a recipe for conflict. It can be suffocating when everyone works so closely and communicates on an hourly and daily basis. We work with the same people every day, and some days go more smoothly than others. Some workplace expressions can be healthy (venting) and others (gossiping) may require a talk with the boss.
Venting is sometimes necessary to productively express frustration about a person or a problem—but gossiping isn’t. Gossip is spread maliciously while venting relieves pent-up frustration. Gossiping is ill-intentioned and mean-spirited and can cause destruction of a person’s humanity or reputation. Venting tends to be well-intended and results in a resolution.
Venting comes from a genuine, individual frustration and is about one’s own feelings. It can be helpful in getting a problem off the chest from a personal perspective so one can move on. When venting about another person, it’s about the issue at hand—not about personal affairs or to embarrass anyone.
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Venting comes from a healthy place and sticks to one topic, with no blaming, name-calling, or victimizing. When venting, one is concerned with personal accountability and is open to solutions. Venting results in a place of a settlement.1 It can be cathartic, have immediate gratification, be a tool to resolve issues, welcome different perspectives, and isn’t consumed by a lot of energy or time.
The outcome of venting creates clarity on a particular issue and helps those involved figure out how to resolve that issue by talking it out. It can relieve stress, confusion, frustration, and anger. Venting out loud to a confidante can put those whirlwind thoughts into perspective and result in solid advice.
You may think venting is complaining, but it’s not. While venting is a temporary brief release of emotion and frustration, complaining tends to manifest itself as chronic griping about the same issues, placing blame on an external factor rather than personal emotions. Venting elicits a positive outcome; complaining involves repetitive conversation without a positive outcome.1
Venting can be helpful for the entire dental team as it’s a considerate, solution-driven approach to achieving a better workplace, teamwork, and productivity.
Who should you vent to?
The best people to vent to are people you work with, because they understand the situation best and can offer sound advice. Talking with a trusted coworker is a reliable support system in which you know the discussion will stay private. If there is no one at work to vent to, then taking the issue home and confiding in a close friend may be necessary. Journaling is another avenue that can help release emotions.
Gossiping is about other people. It’s a casual or unconstrained conversation about other people involving details that may or may not be true. It usually arises from ill-intent, entertainment, and/or boredom. Its intention is to purposely hurt the person of focus out of jealousy, vengefulness, hate, or immaturity, which says more about the gossiper than the target. Gossiping can easily ruin a person’s life by altering their reputation for the worst. It may cause an underlying shame or guilt, leaving a bad taste in the mouth from things that are said in hopes they don’t get back to the target. A good rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t say it to the person directly, don’t say it.
The fallout from gossip is more problems, conflict, betrayal, and shame, leading to embarrassment and a poor work environment. Gossip can be confused with spreading rumors. Gossip tends to be hurtful, juicy, or scandalous, revealing private issues and causing humiliation. Rumors are unverified pieces of information and speculation. A story based on rumors changes the more it’s related but may not be harmful to another person.2
So why does gossip happen?
Many times, gossip comes from a place of trying to make one feel accepted or feel better about themselves. Whether conscious or not, gossipers gossip to deflect their shortcomings and put the negative focus on others to gain power, get revenge, and seek attention or popularity. Although the intent of gossipers is to highlight another person in a negative light, they are really exposing their own insecurities. In the end, the gossiper is the one who looks bad. Their character is tarnished because they may have broken promises by not keeping a secret. Their honesty comes into question, and their integrity is in doubt as they have intentionally hurt others for their own satisfaction. This creates a sense of isolation since other coworkers may avoid them, assuming they could be the next target.
How gossip affects the workplace
Gossip not only causes low morale and misery in the workplace, but it also affects productivity and creates cliques. Here are some signs that gossip is out of hand:
- Good employees quit.
- Trust and friendships are destroyed.
- Coworkers are avoiding, ignoring, and purposely not helping certain coworkers.
- Stress and anxiety cause employees to take more time off work, use more sick days, and/or dread coming to work.
- Patient care diminishes as energy is drained in dealing with negative coworkers.
- Whispering and sudden silence occurs when a coworker comes around.3
To determine if gossiping or venting is occurring in the workplace, ask yourself: “If the person talked about heard the conversation, would an apology be needed, or would solidarity be achieved to resolve an issue?” If you wouldn’t want the conversation to be had in front of the person being talked about, then you shouldn’t have it at all.
- Orloff J. (2017 September 08). The difference between venting and dumping. Psychology Today. September 8, 2017. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-empaths-survival-guide/201709/the-difference-between-venting-and-dumping
- Gordon S. Understanding the impact of rumors and gossip. Verywell Family. Updated July 18, 2020. https://www.verywellfamily.com/understanding-the-impact-of-rumors-and-gossip-460625
- Wroblewski MT. The damage of gossip in the workplace. CHRON. Updated February 12, 2021. https://smallbusiness.chron.com/damage-gossip-workplace-15218.html