How to avoid gossip on the nursing floor

iStockphoto + Scrubs

How do you know when your innocent passing of seemingly harmless information about others is gossip? I have been thinking about that a lot as of late. Here’s why: we have recently had some pretty malicious gossip that has severely impacted some of my coworkers’ lives. I am bothered by it!

So what is gossip? I love how Wikipedia defines it, “Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others. It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted.”

I think what’s so difficult about gossip it that it interests us so much—no matter if it is about a celebrity you don’t know or your co-worker whom you know too well. We all want to know what’s happening, right? I’m as curious as the next person!

When we haven’t worked with someone in a while, it seems kinda natural to ask, “How is so-and-so doing?” That always seems to come with a genuine level of concern. But it’s when we start taking other peoples private affairs—their financial situations, their relationships with others, their home lives—and start digging into them and dissecting them that we have a problem. When someone starts a conversation with, “have you heard…” I immediately brace myself for gossip and prepare my avoidance.

Speculation on what other people are doing or how they are doing is always dangerous. For example, you know that Nurse A has been hanging around an awful lot with Radiologist B. Talk on the floor is that they are friends, maybe more. Everyone is talking about it—constantly. And when Nurse A is gone from the nurses station, and Radiologist B also can’t be found, someone guesses that they are together. Before you know it, in the minds of everyone, these two people are having some sort of intimate relationship. And things snowball from there. Jobs are lost, people are hurt, friendships are damaged. Seen that happen? I have, and it stinks.

So how do YOU not get caught in the gossip snowball? I can share what’s worked for me:

1) I just don’t even ask. If I want to know how someone is doing, or what is going on with a situation, I talk directly to the person involved.
2) I never repeat gossip. I will state facts if asked—and I am not in the confidence of someone—but unproved gossip goes in one ear and stays there.
3) I ask that others stop gossiping around me or I remove myself from the situation. Really, I DO NOT want to know.
4) I confront people if there is gossip going around about them. I would want to know so I could correct things—especially if it is threatening my job.

Gossip has little place in the workplace—it is damaging and takes our attention off the patient. I’m working harder than ever to eradicate my participation in this harmful practice–look, I don’t like how I feel when I gossip or particpate in gossip! It’s not easy to stop, but it is the right thing to do.

So, how has gossip impacted you or your nurse team?

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