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Rookie Wit & Wisdom
Get a Grip on Gossiping—Part 2

It’s a wise adage: “If you don’t want something shared, don’t say it.”

As a nurse, I’ve learned that you have to assume that whatever you say is going to be shared. I’m very private regarding what personal matters I share at work. But that didn’t stop another nurse from spreading lies about me.

She was flat out lied about a work-related issue--and it was my word against hers.

At first I just ignored it and tried to move on, because it seemed there was nothing I could do to combat it. But the lies continued; I had to confront the situation.

One day, I pulled the nurse aside and asked her, “Is there a problem I’m not aware of? Have I done something to offend you? I was made aware that this is what you said, and I just needed to know where it was coming from. Maybe I did something inadvertently that was hurtful…I just want to make it right.” I tried to show that I was willing to take responsibility for my error, if I was at fault.

She was mum (a sign of her guilt? Maybe…). After the confrontation, the rumors ended. Though I wanted to hold a grudge, I tried the “kill them with kindness” tactic. After all, it’s difficult to constantly bash someone who is friendly to your face.

From that scenario, I learned that it’s best to confront a gossiper in a non-threatening way; let the other nurse know you know what’s going on. But if the rumors continue and interfere with your ability to work, then you have to involve the manager. And remember, the more people you tell, the bigger the problem balloons. Gossip is a nasty beast.

As I talked with my brother about the gossiping at work, I said, “I don’t understand. She’s a good nurse--I’ve never once said anything bad about her. And I’ve never had to report any type of safety issues where someone’s life was put in danger. I’ve only talked respectfully of her.”

He said, “It doesn’t have to do with whether they’re good or not, it’s how they feel about themselves. If they have poor self esteem, that’s one way they build themselves up in their mind--by lashing out at others.”

Something to keep in mind the next time you’re at the center of the rumor…

Anonymous, 11/22/07

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3 Responses to “Get a Grip on Gossiping—Part 2”

  1. Mr Ian Says:

    I love being subject of a gossip. It means some other poor soul is getting a break. Plus my managers know my work and, as very experienced (?enlightened) people, they take it all with a handful of salt.

    The most interesting gossipers I’ve met are people that start rumours about themselves. Poor lonely people.

    As far as I can make out gossip tends to be in the negative (no-one ever spreads rumours about how good I am?) and is most often undertaken by the same people in the same way.

    There are those who gossip personal matters who just seem to be busy bodies and like a good natter about other people. Tho this is not polite, it is generally harmless. And there are those who seem to do it maliciously and out of spite.

    It’s difficult for some staff to directly approach the “gossiper”, especially where power imbalance exists. My fundamental belief on these malicious gossipers is that they are usually someone who feels less adequate about themselves and gossip is designed to shift attention from their inadequacies to someone else’s (perceived/made-up) inadequacies – “attack is the best form of defense”.

    To counter this, I make sure the staff I work with understand my ‘inadequacy’ theory, so when they feel like gossiping or someone gossips to them, they don’t look to the subject of the gossip, but to the originator and ponder their reasons for such gossip.

    Killing off the usual routes and the intrigue behind the gossip is as effective as killing it off at source and helps keep gossipers “in their box”.

  2. steubified Says:

    In my experience, gossip and rumors are the most destructive things with which anyone can undermine you (this includes “friends”). I am a nursing student right now, but about 5 years ago I was in nursing school for the first time. I got along with everyone until my junior year, and then some people decided they didn’t like certain things about me. So they began spreading rumors. Story built upon story and soon I had lost my work/study job, security was asking me questions, and the faculty was advising I leave campus. And this was in the course of only 2-3 months. I couldn’t believe it…it was like some bad dream come to life. When it comes to he said she said, I think people tend to believe the more sensational story because it is the “dirt” that is interesting–even if it isn’t true.
    I’m glad there are some that can shrug off rumors or laugh at them. I take it seriously now, though, for the destructive power it has. I think you are definitely right in saying the best way to handle gossip is to confront the gossiper in a non-threatening way. I only say make sure you do it before it gets out of hand!

  3. Paula Says:

    I agree that you should confront the person spreading the gossip. I have found that this almost always ends it….

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