Q: How do I know if gossip has become a problem in my practice? And what's the best way to get rid of it?
"Nothing productive comes from gossip," says Marty Stanley, president of Dynamic Dialog in Kansas City, Mo. "Gossip drains energy and decreases productivity. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did a study on the impact of change on a business. And during certain periods of change, social chat and gossip increased from 1.5 hours to 3.2 hours a day—and productivity decreased from 4.8 hours to 1.2 hours a day."
Symptoms of a gossiping problem include high turnover and a decrease in the quality of work. To prevent gossip, those in leadership positions need to be role models, says Stanley. "Being critical of other staff members or clients and speaking disparagingly about them in front of your team sends a message that it's OK to gossip."
Already have a problem? The first thing you need to do is hold a staff meeting to address it. "Say, 'OK, this isn't healthy. So from now on, when you hear something that could be misinformation, go to the source and get clarification. And if someone tries to engage you in gossip, tell them you're busy and don't have time to listen,'" she says.
Unfortunately, some people just won't change, says Stanley. "Often, they'll naturally leave when you make a solid effort to stop the gossiping. If not, then remind them of your team efforts to create a healthy work environment, and tell them that if they can't participate, they need to find another place to work."