Thursday Troubleshooter: How can team member stop malicious gossip?
This team member is shocked at the unending gossip she encounters in the practice from people who should know better, including the dentist!
QUESTION: Is it unethical for office staff, including the dentist, to talk about current and former employees? I would think so. I work in an office where the office manager and head assistant are related. They talk about staff all the time. This is usually done when the particular person isn't there, so I know they talk about me when I’m not there. This is not a fun situation. The office manager, assistant, and dentist are all in their 60s. He has been a dentist for over 30 years. One would think these people would be mature by now and realize that trash talking others isn't acceptable! How can this be addressed, or can it? Gossip is prevalent everywhere, including dental offices. Thank you for your help.
ANSWER FROM LISA MARIE SPRADLEY,The “Front Desk Lady” of TCB Dental Consulting:
Gossip is one of the most destructive forces in any business environment, and it’s worse in a dental office because we’re not just employees at a job, we’re members of a team. Teams are held to higher standards and should work together to accomplish their goals. We cannot do this if we’re busy speaking ill about one another.
Gossip exists in many forms. Betraying confidences, spreading rumors, and angry rants are just a few examples. How do we stop others, and more importantly, how do we stop ourselves from being part of this cruel and hurtful nonsense? The most important step is to realize that gossip happens not because of what someone has done, but because of how their actions make us feel. We live in a world that’s all about “me,” and everything that’s said or done is taken as a personal offense. In order to stop this, we must put others first and quit taking everything so personally.
Once we’ve removed ourselves as the center of the universe, then we can look at the situation in a different perspective, one that allows us to create a positive energy of truth and respect for our fellow team members. If we “reflect what we expect” with our team, we’ll see a change in those around us. If you’re willing to talk to your doctor, and then pull the team together to let them know that this behavior must change, they will follow your example. If you’re committed to see this through, you can make a difference.
Choose not to become involved in trash talk, and when you hear it, put it to an end. Nicely remind the gossipers that if they don’t have anything nice to say about someone, not to say anything at all. Repeat this as often as necessary, and say something nice about someone every time you hear something negative. These steps will yield great progress on your journey to a gossip-free environment. All the best to you and your team as you make the move to put others first.
ANSWER FROM JUDY KAY MAUSOLF, Founder of Practice Solutions Inc:
The dictionary defines unethical behavior as an action that falls outside of what is considered morally right or proper for a person, a profession, or an industry. It’s sad to say that many people consider gossip to be acceptable, even as toxic as it can be for a team. Gossip is allowed to happen because the leaders fail to realize the detrimental effects it has on the team, patients, and practice.
Haven’t we all walked by and heard someone gossiping about us? How much did you trust and respect those people? Did you want to communicate and work with them again? Not likely. I coach dental teams and audiences nationwide about the tremendous cost of allowing gossip to be a part of their work culture. Gossip is toxic and deteriorates trust, respect, communication, team performance and morale, patient service, and the bottom line.
I would suggest meeting with your doctor in private and respectfully sharing your concerns about the effect gossip has on the team, practice, and patients. Talk to the dentist from a place of support, not judgment and criticism. Offer your help in creating and supporting a no-gossip culture. Oftentimes people are confused about what constitutes gossip and how to stop it, so discuss ideas on how to stop gossip.
I teach my clients a three-step process to nurture a no-gossip culture.
1: Define what gossip is in your practice. I teach that gossip is sharing anything negative or private about another person that the person does not want others to know.
2: Set the standard by defining actions to stop gossip. Instead of talking to someone else, go directly to the person and address the concern. If you’re uncomfortable approaching the person, ask whoever is responsible for conflict resolution in your practice to facilitate the meeting.
If someone starts gossiping about another team member to you, ask them to stop the conversation immediately and go directly to the person they’re talking about, and remind each other nicely that you agreed to go directly to the source and not talk about each other. Some practices I’ve coached have found it helpful to hold up a peace sign as a cue to stop gossiping.
3: Make the commitment to stop gossip a priority. Ask everyone on the team to agree to support a no-gossip standard in front of the entire team, continue to maintain the standard as a team, and hold each other accountable to stop gossip.
A no-gossip culture is achievable and sustainable with commitment from the entire team. Implement a no-gossip standard, and you will raise team morale and performance, patient service, and the bottom line!
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