The Case of the Shameless Gossip
Malicious talk undermines relationships and trust. As nurses, we can do better!
Kathy is at a staff meeting, sitting in the back of the room next to her coworker, Miguel. Their manager, Jackie, is going on about what everyone needs to do to improve the unit’s patient satisfaction scores.
After the meeting, Miguel turns to Kathy and whispers, “Did you hear that Jackie and her husband don’t sleep in the same bedroom? I heard he’s cheating on her. Maybe it’s because she’s gained so much weight. Do you see how tight that skirt is?”
There’s no doubt about it: Miguel is a shameless gossip.The question is, what should Kathy do about it?
Whenever you work with the same group of people for a period of time, it’s natural that the conversation will sometimes turn to personal matters. When those conversations are positive or supportive, they can be a boon to team-building and morale. Gossip, on the other hand, is malicious.
What Is Gossip?
Gossip is a form of social attack: sharing negative information in order to hurt or malign someone’s character, personal attributes or social standing. It is often passive-aggressive, saying surreptitiously what the gossiper would never say directly to the target. Gossip typically involves one or more of the following:
- Spreading rumors
- Sharing false information or exaggerating the facts
- Sharing private, sensitive or personal information
- Making hurtful judgments
- Being a tattle-tale about petty matters.
The defining characteristic of gossip is that the comments are in some way hurtful to their subject. Telling Jane you heard a rumor Marisol may be fired for repeatedly coming in late is gossip. Asking Hector to sign a sympathy card for a coworker whose mother recently died is not.
Recently, while doing some consulting at a hospital, I was standing in line for the coffee cart behind two hospital employees who were talking about the person who does their schedule. They first complained that she gives the best schedules to the nurses she likes while everyone else gets “the leftovers.” Next, they criticized her makeup, remarking that someone should bring her “into the 21st century.”