All that "Talk" is taking a Financial Toll
Innuendo, lies, rumors, and gossip - ah yes the political campaigns are in full swing. If only such nastiness were relegated exclusively to the election circuit. Unfortunately, it's as much a part of the professional landscape as it is the political landscape. As personal and financial stress has increased over the last few years, it appears that the degree of malicious gossip in the workplace has been turned up more than a notch or two as well.
It is not uncommon for employees to spread rumors and misinformation among themselves, especially if they don't feel that they are informed about important issues. Human nature is such that when information is lacking we fill in the blanks with what we perceive to be true - hence our perceptions become our reality. When sudden change occurs in the office, such as cutting back hours or laying off or firing employees, if the doctor does not immediately address the matter with the remaining staff s/he will lose control of practice communication on virtually every front - among employees, between employees and patients, and among patients and non-patients. Managing the message isn't just for the campaign strategists. It is imperative that you establish a clear channel of communication among your team.
Some doctors will reason that they tell employees what they need to know, and if it doesn't affect them personally, they don't need to know. In reality, every major decision that a practice owner makes affects the employees to some degree, because it has an impact on the total workplace environment.
In other cases, it is lack of accountability among the employees that creates an atmosphere in which the gossip, backbiting, and undercutting of one another is part of the practice “culture.” Oftentimes, it’s one or two employees who are running the show, the “queen bee” and her “apprentice.” A new employee comes on board and the queen may feel threatened. The new employee doesn’t fall into step or pay appropriate homage to the queen, so she and her apprentice slowly begin to make the new employee uncomfortable. They might make comments about the new person’s personal life, question her/his professional capabilities in front of patients, or suggest that s/he has an inappropriate relationship with the doctor or another staff member. They feign concern for the co-worker as they whisper the latest “news” to one another. Sadly, the possibilities for character assassination are endless.
This type of gossip is like the car accident you happen upon - you don't want to look, but you can't stop staring. Each juicy little morsel is a distraction that takes the focus away from work that needs to be done, systems that must be managed, and patients that require the team's undivided attention. Left unchecked, it can be profoundly devastating to the effectiveness of individuals and the team as a whole. But the most troubling aspect of gossip is that it can put the practice in the crosshairs of legal action. Thus, it is essential to establish a practice culture in which gossip, rumor, and innuendo simply are not tolerated. Keep a lid on rumors in your practice by following these strategies:
Put your expectations in writing. A clear code of conduct should be an established part of every dental office policy manual. The code may comprise many facets, including an ethics and professionalism policy that outlines appropriate office behavior and makes it clear that all employees are expected to treat patients as well as each other with dignity and respect. Inform your employees that gossip and personal attacks will not be tolerated. Institute performance evaluation systems that measure the effectiveness of employee communication skills.
Encourage employees to take a stand against gossip and hold each other accountable. Employees that engage in spreading gossip should be confronted and warned that their behavior is damaging to the practice and will not be tolerated.
Co-workers can let the gossiper know that they do not care to engage in this type of conversation. They don't have to be combative or negative, just honest about the fact that it makes them uncomfortable to talk about another person in this way. Although taking such action can feel rather intimidating, each time an employee stands up to the gossiper, they not only become more comfortable doing so, they give power to others in the group to take the same steps. Although instituting a policy to eliminate gossip is virtually impossible, creating a practice culture that doesn't tolerate it is not only possible but highly effective.
For more information on this topic and for additional Dental Practice Management info, visit my blog: The Lighter Side.
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