What Would Shawn Do: Don’t Stir the Soup

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Q:

We have a problem with constant gossiping and backbiting in our office. It has gotten to the point where my job is no longer enjoyable. Why does this go on and what can I do to end it?

A:

This type of behavior is so irritating! Why do people participate in it? Typically, it’s caused by insecurity; whether the insecurity is a facet of the gossiper’s personality or is created by lack of solid communication from the management team.

Gossips enjoy the power they accrue from being the source of information. Their self-esteem gets a boost from being the go-to person for the inside scoop. If the gossiper attempts to draw you in, be very direct in telling him or her that you aren’t interested in conversations that could be harmful to other people.

As a manager, if the gossiper brings you information about work issues, ask for specifics: When did this happen? Who was involved? What were the exact circumstances?  Take notes. You’ll need to verify and take appropriate action. The gossiper will be hesitant to repeat a story (even it if has a kernel of truth) if it’s obvious that you are going to note and check the details.

Many times gossip flies when management hasn’t shared appropriately with staff. Of course, some things are necessarily kept private, but when it has an impact on the workers or the work they do, good communication will keep the truth at the forefront and the interpretations to a minimum. Your hospital should always share:

  • A clear vision
  • Core values that are clearly expressed and used for running the business
  • Solid processes that are documented
  • An accountability chart that’s complete and up-to-date
  • A system for evaluating each individual’s performance

If management has developed good systems and shared all this information, there is really no soup for the gossip to stir up!

Good luck!

2 thoughts on “What Would Shawn Do: Don’t Stir the Soup

  1. I came out of the finance and MD world – it is amazing how successful practices don’t seem to understand that toxic individuals should not be enabled. This is a conversation that seems to come up in every management peer group I’ve been involved in since becoming a Veterinary Practice Manager. Our hospital is relatively large and growing – the owner had a small successful practice and hired me when he decided to expand and determined the need for someone with both a strong business educational and work background. Sean – even after 30 years in management, veterinary medical practices are a challenge. I do have a great owner, but it has taken quite a lot for him to realize he can’t just dismiss inappropriate behaviors and that as a practice grows the culture of the business does change (must change) and the vision may need to be tweaked a bit. I enjoyed meeting you at Western this year and will be at your seminar in California in October. I find your perspectives more in line with mine – might have something to do with my having degrees in business and clinical psychology … however, I will tell you that sometimes I feel like I’m am running and observing an experiment on lab rats and behavior patterns of an unique species call Veterinary Technicians. Thanks again for being a bright light in this interesting cultural experiment.

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