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March 2, 2018

Five Steps to Stop Gossip!

Five Steps to Stop Gossip!

This message is dedicated to learning how to stop gossip resulting in a happier, healthier and higher performing culture. Gossip is often perceived as just a normal part of life! I often hear the following statements regarding gossip: It’s a woman thing, women just have to gossip, it’s really not a big deal because everybody does it, and you can’t stop it even if you try. Gossip is either accepted, allowed or not addressed in most dental practice cultures. If we truly comprehended the negative impact gossip has on the practice culture, patient experience and bottom line it would no longer be tolerated.

It’s time to clear up a few myths regarding gossip. Gossip is not just a woman thing…men do it too they just call it venting. Gossip is toxic and is a big deal! You can stop it if you are serious about having a no gossip office culture.

I refer to gossip as The Poison Triangle of Mistrust because it often involves two people talking negatively about a third person behind their back. Once the person overhears or learns about the gossip a triangle of mistrust is formed. They no longer trust the gossiper (the giver) or gossip-ee (the receiver) of the gossip.

Gossip affects:

*           Trust

*           Communication

*           Team Performance

*          Morale

*           Patient Experience

*           Bottom Line

That’s just to name a few. Gossip is not fluff stuff. It is really big stuff! We can create a happier, healthier and higher performing culture when we choose to no longer accept or allow gossip.

I teach a five step process to stop gossip.

Step One – Start with a team meeting with the entire team including the doctors. Share with the team the impact gossip has on the team and the practice and that in the future it will no longer be tolerated. Ask everyone individually to verbally agree to support a No-Gossip Culture in the practice. For example, I agree to support a No-Gossip Culture. Once they verbally agree they can no longer say I didn’t agree. I just didn’t say anything.

Step Two – Define what gossip means in your practice. I define gossip as anything that is negative or private about another person that they do not want others to know. As a team agree on a word or phrase to use if someone starts to gossip about another team member to them. It could be something as simple as peace (as in keep the peace), please take it to the source, please stop, or remember we said we weren’t going to gossip anymore. It doesn’t really matter what word(s) you use. What is important is that everyone knows what it is and agrees to use that specific word or phrase.

Step Three – Establish consequences for gossip. I suggest the same consequences as any other behavior that sabotages instead of supports the standards of the practice. Establish consequences that you know you will be willing to carry out. It is very important that the entire team understand what the consequences will be for gossip. If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of my white pages on consequences please email me at

Step Four – It’s time to actually stop the gossip. This will take practicing many times before it becomes more comfortable. Stop talking to other people about others and instead go to the person you were going to gossip about and talk to them to resolve the concern. If you are on the receiving end of gossip you are just as responsible as the initiator. You play 50-50 role because if they have no one to tell the gossip stops. If a team member starts to gossip to you or you over hear two people gossiping about another team member say the word or phrase. Please be mindful of your tone of voice and attitude. Always speak from a place of care and concern not judgment and criticism. If they continue to gossip remind them once more by saying remember we agreed as a team we would not gossip about each other. Old habits die hard and we want to be supportive and help each other to stop the gossip. If they are gossiping to you and they refuse to stop physically remove yourself from the conversation. If they continue to gossip to another team member inform them that if they do not stop you will inform the doctor or manager (whoever handles conflict resolution in the practice).

Step Five – The doctor or manager holds the team member accountable by following through with the consequences. It is important the entire team understands the consequences for participating in gossiping. Yes you can terminate a team member for participating in gossiping. It is important to make it very clear what the consequences are for gossip and include as a part of your written communication standards. Following through with consequences is where the line is drawn in the sand. It will determine whether you succeed or fail at creating a No-Gossip Culture. Gossip is really big stuff! It affects trust, communication, team performance, morale, patient experience and your bottom line. Isn’t it time to stop gossip and end The Poison Triangle of Mistrust?

Contact Judy Kay today if you would like to learn more about how she can help you end The Poison Triangle of Mistrust in your practice!

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