Nursing Jobs and Gossip in the Workplace » Nursing Jobs Blog – Nurses Insights at Nursing Jobs.org

Nursing Jobs and Gossip in the Workplace

May 3rd, 2009  |  The Blog

I’ve received a letter from one of my readers this week. I’m sure that every nurse can relate to her problem. This is what she said:

I’m a new graduate nurse working in a busy medical surgical unit in a large city in the Midwest. I really love my job except for one thing. I hate the gossip. I’m just plain sick and tired of the workplace gossip that I hear on an almost nightly basis. Not only is it just plain ignorant, but it can also be very hurtful. I have seen people who appear to be good friends, talk about each other behind their backs. It’s so cruel and unprofessional. What bugs me is if they are saying those things about their friends, I wonder what they are saying about me. It’s making me really upset. Do you have any advise?

Sincerely, Newbie Nurse.

I’ve worked in a community hospital as well as in a major trauma center in a large metropolitan city, and gossip is a common denominator in every health care setting. Since we can’t suture people’s mouths shut, nurses must forge ahead and do everything that we can do to curtail the demeaning effects that gossip creates in the workplace.

Gossip not only eats up time that should be devoted to patients, it’s a form of workplace violence. According to relationship coach Peter G. Vajda, Ph.D, gossip is any language that would cause another harm, pain, or confusion that is used outside of presence of another for whom it is intended. I’ve seen so many excellent nurses driven out of clinical settings because of gossip. Nurses generally feel powerless in their workplace environment, so they frequently engage in passive aggressive activities with each other. Hence, the rumor mill thrives at the nurses station.

Gossip is poison. It’s not harmless and in certain circumstances, it can lead to serious legal litigation for the employee and for the employer. If one employee is defaming another, in most states there is a potential claim if the employer does not try to change the false story that is circulating around the nurses station. Some companies are now creating gossip free work zones. That means you will be fired for gossiping about your coworkers.

Do you want to stop gossiping in its tracks? Here are a few tips that can help you break the cycle of gossiping in the workplace:

When someone comes up to you and says, “Did you hear about Dr. X and Nurse Y?” Respond with, “No, I didn’t. Let’s go ask him or her about that and find out if that is true.” You can also say, “I’m not comfortable talking about that,” or say, “I don’t like talking about other people because I don’t like them talking about me.”

When someone tries to gossip with you, walk away or change the subject.

Go to others when they are gossiping about you. Tell them what you heard, and ask them to come to you in the future about their questions or concerns. (Trust me on this one. I use this one a lot and it works.)

Don’t gossip yourself. What goes around comes around. Don’t set yourself up for trouble by backstabbing others.

Do you have any advise about how to break the gossip cycle at work? Come to Nursing Voices and tell us about it. We’re waiting to hear from you.

Terri Polick
About Terri Polick
Terri Polick has been a nurse for thirty years, and is a published author living in Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. She is currently working as a freelance writer, and is a frequent contributor to Nursing Spectrum Magazine. Terri works at a local community hospital as a psychiatric nurse.

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