Gossip is something many dental practices deal with. Many of us experience it in our practice. It is important for all team members to be able to voice concerns and resolve problems. Everyone needs to be able to talk about and improve work conditions. They need to be able to get feedback on how to handle situations and brainstorm solutions.
But when people resort to gossip, it causes pain, fractures trust, and creates a toxic culture. To eliminate gossip, we must understand where it comes from and create a safe environment to resolve issues before they lead to gossip. Here are six characteristics of a healthy, gossip-free practice culture.
1. Clear Expectations and Accountability
Dentists and other practice leaders must be very clear that there should not be any gossip happening in the office. Educate the team on the best ways to get help with team members or leadership. Talk with them about ways they can communicate with each other to discuss and help find solutions to issues in a productive way.
Ask your team members to also lead the way and set those clear expectations with each other and when new people join the practice. Clear expectations and accountability will help ensure a no-gossip environment continues over the long term.
2. Vulnerability-Based Trust
Vulnerability-based trust occurs when people are comfortable sharing problems they are experiencing without fear of retaliation or losing respect. It also occurs when people feel safe discussing issues with the person causing the issue—especially as the dentist or team leader. With vulnerability-based trust, people know others will support them in finding solutions and not judge them for not being able to solve a problem on their own.
There must be vulnerability-based trust among your entire team. If issues cannot be resolved because there is no trust, that is an environment that is ripe for gossip.
3. Agreement and Commitment from the Entire Team
Make sure there's agreement and a commitment from everyone in on the team to having no gossip in the office. This is not something one leader or dentist can do on their own.
Most of the time, gossip happens outside of the dentist or team leader's presence. If the issue is about them, the gossip will occur outside of their presence. If the issue is about someone else, their conversations are generally solution-focused. That is why it is important for leaders to set expectations but get wider agreement and commitment. The team's commitment and agreement will define your long-term success when it comes to building a no-gossip environment.
4. Commitment to Discuss Issues With any Person Directly With That Person
When the team is comfortable discussing problems or challenges with the person causing it in a productive way, everyone wins. If someone needs help, that is fine. Even having somebody sit with you while you discuss something that is difficult can help keep the situation productive.
Encourage your entire team to address things head on directly with the person causing the issue. If they want help, encourage them to approach leadership with their concerns so they can get advice and direction.
5. Solutions-Based Communication
Keep lines of communication open by promoting and practicing solutions-based communication. Leaders must keep communication lines open and allow people to talk about difficult things in a productive way—especially if they need to give the leaders feedback. This avoids putting up a barrier that leaves team members confused about how to get issues solved. Because they will not know what to do they will start talking with each other and make it much more likely that the conversation will lead to gossip.
Ask team members to bring suggested solutions to conversations if they need to talk about something difficult. The solution you bring might not be the one that is adopted but it ensures the tone of the conversation is solution-focused. Let them know that it is ok if they do not have a suggestion. In those cases, ask them to be able to discuss things they considered. That will also help focus the conversation on finding solutions.
6. Real-Time Feedback
Create an environment of consistent real-time feedback—positive feedback and constructive criticism. When we constantly solicit feedback, we will create an environment that catches issues early. When somebody needs to give you constructive criticism, it can be difficult to not get emotional or upset. You can ask clarifying questions but make it a safe discussion or people will eventually resort to gossip.
We can create an environment of consistent real-time feedback by asking for feedback at the end of each shift. Ask team members what went well and where could we have done better. As time goes on, these conversations help avoid things from getting to the point where team members feel the need to gossip.
Are you building a gossip-free environment?
An environment with these six characteristics gives all team members a safe place to have their voices heard and resolve issues without needing to resort to gossip.
To learn more about building a gossip-free environment for your practice, check out the leadership track in Dental Profit Academy or join my Inner Circle the next time we open the doors for new members.
You can also join my free Dental Marketing and Profits Facebook group, where thousands of dentists and I help each other build better practices.