Slowing down the rumor mill

Jan 01, 2005

Dr. Dennis Cloud
News travels fast in my clinic. How can I keep information private until I'm ready to disclose it to my staff?

"Short of employing only robots, it's near impossible to shut down the rumor mill, but you can take steps to slow it down," says Dr. Dennis Cloud, an advisory board member who owns several practices in the St. Louis area. His four tips:

  • Watch your mouth. "As doctors and office administrators, we need to be really careful about what we say and where we say it," says Dr. Cloud. "More people are listening to your casual conversations than you think. And new associates, remember that being friendly with support staff members and being friends with them are different. Socializing with staff members can fuel the rumor fire and land you in a tough spot."
  • Set clear times to talk. Using staff meetings to get things out in the open cuts down on whispering later, says Dr. Cloud. "At our staff meetings, we also take minutes so that if anyone misses the meeting they can find out what actually happened instead of patching together stories from co-workers."
  • Keep 'em busy. "The rumor mill runs best during slow times," he says. "My hospital manager is known for saying, 'Clean it up!' That means, 'Stop talking inappropriately about someone or something, and get back to work.'"
  • Root out the source. When you've got a severe problem, one or two instigators usually cause it, Dr. Cloud says. "Three years ago we had a dream team—the best staff that I've had in 25 years of practice. But within a few weeks of hiring two new people, the team imploded with bickering. We traced it back to the two new hires, who complained and squabbled all the time. And within two months, we let them go—for other reasons. We weren't going to change them. It all comes down to attitude. And once their attitudes were no longer in the mix, my dream team returned."