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The Double Edged Sword of Gossip

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Linda Drevenstedt's picture
Joined: 27 Sep 2012

The Two Edged Sword of GossipGossip is not innocent. The Urban Dictionary defines it as, "Exaggeration or fabrication of a story regarding somebody other than the tale-bearer in the absence of this person who is being discussed for the malicious purpose of demeaning, slandering or tarnishing this person's reputation."   Wikipedia says, "Gossip is idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal or private affairs of others."

Gossip happens. Team members share opinions about what other team members did or failed to do. Team members are all prone to indulge in their own judgment about what others are up to. Gossip between dental team members is pandemic.

Gossip's double edged sword effects both the speaker and the receiver. When you share gossip, you give your opinion about another's actions. You tell what you saw being done or not done and why that was wrong. In that sharing, you set yourself up as better than the other person, as an expert that can judge another's actions as "OK" or "not OK." The gossiper puts herself in a superior position to the one gossiped about. You, of course, would NEVER do something that way!

Gossipers share "the dirt" so that the listener will think better of them than the other person. (PS - no one likes to admit this about gossip.) The sword actually cuts deep because most people know that gossip is not good. Gossip is an attempt to "one up" another. The truth is that no amount of putting another person down can fill up your own empty cup of self-esteem.

Sitting in judgment of another's behavior and then sharing that judgment as gossip is verbal persecution. That sounds strong but it is the way gossip works. You say things about another that you would not dare say to their face. You can think that you can hide behind a screen of anonymity as you share gossip behind the other's back. But have you ever had that backfire on you? I have and it wasn't pretty. That was when I knew I had to handle this temptation. That double edged sword cut me to the quick. You may never know, when you share gossip, where someone's allegiance lies then or where it will be in the future.

As the listener, the sword cuts you also. When you receive the gossip and perhaps add some of your own information or observation, you become the poison receptacle. You as the listener may or may not have been aware of the infraction but you now have received the negative gossip poison pill. You can either receive the bitter pill, take in a negative opinion of that other person or you may shrug it off considering the source. As the listener, if you take in the poison and then repeat the poison, soon there is a negative swarm around an individual that is never going to solve any problems.

Gossipers often share information that may not be substantiated or totally true. Often you do not know the WHOLE story, yet you assume something about another's actions and off you go to share your opinion with others as gossip.

Griping is another form of gossip. Griping about the boss, the manager, other team members, or patients is poisonous. Either go to the person to handle the situation or go to the boss or the office manager. Or, forget about it. But, do not gripe to others.

Extracting gossip out of the practice takes cooperation from everyone and leaders that are intolerant of gossip. Here are several ideas to discuss with your team to extinguish gossip:

  1. If you have a problem with me, come to me, privately to share your idea of what I should or should not be doing. I will listen to your opinion, ask questions and see if we can come to an agreement about the situation. I will control any defensive comments since I know that will spoil our ability to communicate.
  2. If I have a problem with you, I will come to you - privately.
  3. If someone comes to me with gossip about another, I will send them to the person with whom they have the problem. It is not my job to solve this for either person. Nor is it my job to tattle to the boss.
  4. If you hear me say something that bothers you, please come to me for clarification.
  5. If you have been told something in confidence, do NOT share it.
  6. Please be clear about what you want me to do, not to do or to say. Don't try to make me "get it" by hinting around.
  7. Learn courageous conversation skills so that you are neither the listener or spreader of gossip. Only with honesty can we have authentic relationships with each other.
  8. Finally, since we are neither Borgs nor mind readers, refrain from giving interpretations of other's behavior. We all have our own reasons for behaving the way we do. If you want to know why, come and ask me.

Gossip is not innocent. Working with your team to keep it at bay will improve the cooperative attitude on your team. You and your team deserve an empowered workplace that is as gossip free as possible. And never forget that the double edged sword of gossip cuts both the speaker and the listener.

Download the attached file for the complete version.

Linda Drevenstedt
Drevenstedt Consulting LLC
Ventura, CA

May2016eSSENTIALs.pdf176.83 KB
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Linda Drevenstedt
Drevenstedt Consulting LLC
Ventura, CA