Wherever humans gather or work in groups, gossip rears its ugly head — and that can include your dental practice. Dentists, hygienists and front desk staff may all be involved in gossip — about each other or even about patients. In a small office, gossip can cause real problems, including:
- Destroys trust among coworkers
- Makes a negative impression on patients
- Takes valuable staff time away from important work
- Damages staff morale
Gossip can even drive patients away. Think I’m exaggerating? I once switched doctors because I was tired of hearing the front desk staff complain about other patients as soon as the patients left the office. I couldn't help wondering what they were saying about me when I wasn’t around! Even if patients don’t switch dentists, they may post negative online reviews of your practice.
How can you prevent or curb gossip in your dental practice? Here’s a five-step plan.
- Create a no-gossip policy. Hold a team meeting to discuss the issue. Explain what constitutes gossip, and why it is so damaging. Share some examples and create a definition of gossip that works for your practice. For example: "Gossip is anything another person wouldn’t want you to share."
- Get the entire team’s buy-in on the importance of stopping gossip. Ask employees to remind each other about the policy when they overhear gossip or when someone tries to involve them in it. (Remember, listening to gossip is as bad as spouting it!) Encourage employees to talk directly to other team members if they have a problem, rather than going behind the person's back to express their dissatisfaction.
- Enforce consequences for gossip. As with any other behavior you want to discourage in your practice, it’s important to follow through and show employees there are consequences for their actions. Gossip may warrant consequences ranging from warnings for a few early offenses up to and including dismissal for gossip that leads to serious morale problems or conflicts. Enforcing your gossip policies communicates to the team that you are serious about eliminating gossip from your workplace.
- Target the source. If one individual in your dental practice is behind most of the gossip, you may need to start by holding a one-on-one meeting with him or her to discuss the issue. Otherwise, the gossiper may not recognize that an all-hands discussion of gossip is really about him. Confront the individual directly before you involve the rest of the staff in your anti-gossip plan.
- Communicate clearly and openly. Employees often gossip when they are curious about something or hear a rumor and want to get the facts. For example, if there’s a rumor your practice may be laying people off, employees may gossip in an effort to find out the truth. Prevent this type of gossip by communicating information your employees need to know in a timely fashion. If you know your staff is worried about possible layoffs, give them the facts: “It’s true that our practice is experiencing a slowdown in business right now. However, we are focusing on cutting costs and increasing revenue before we take any drastic steps such as layoffs. We will keep you posted if things change.”
By following these steps, you can keep your dental office gossip-free...and your entire team happier.