More than half of veterinary team members say gossip is a problem at their practices, according to the 2009 Firstline Team Trends Study. To decrease the amount and effect of all this talk, it’s important to figure out why it’s happening. Here are three possible causes:
1. Your team isn’t talking enough
“Gossip can be a sign of a communication void,” says Dr. Carin Smith, owner of Smith Veterinary Consulting and Publishing in Peshastin, Wash., and author of Team Satisfaction Pays. “When people don’t know what is going on, they make it up.” Practicing transparent leadership and keeping employees in the loop helps fix the problem.
2. Team members feel powerless
Everyone wants to have an influence on their work environment. If team members think they can’t make a difference, they may try to gain power by forming cliques. They could also resort to gossiping or complaining among clique members to feel like they’re gaining leverage. Stop this “us versus them” mentality by giving employees some of the control they’re looking for, Dr. Smith says. Involve the whole practice in decisions, getting feedback—and listening to it—from all team members.
3. There are no guidelines
Gossip also occurs when the practice hasn’t enacted a code of courtesy. As with a conflict-resolution protocol, the entire team should work together to create a set of rules that outline acceptable behaviors, Dr. Smith says. When the team defines the expectation that gossip isn’t appropriate—and it’s articulated clearly—then conversations become more courteous.