Sticks and Stones

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Being nurses opens us up to a HIGH stress career. When the stakes get high, tongues have a tendency to flap. Gossip in the workplace has the power to break down even the strongest of teamwork and trust. If left untended, our negative words have the capability of breaking down units into shattered pieces of call-outs, transfers to other areas and leaving an organization entirely. And guess what? It’s our fault. We are often at the center of our own demise.

Specializes in Med/Surg, Onc., Palliative/Hospice, CPU. Has 3 years experience.

Sticks and Stones

I am not sure about other places, but at least where I've worked in the past, gossip is a rhino in a china store on a rampage with only one intent: to destroy. I believe that stress breeds an ugliness that starts in the back of our minds when our ego is going wild and we realize that our grasp on work situations are out of our control. Funnily enough, we will never be in control of a situation's outcome because it's just not our call. That is left to a higher power (if you will). When stress hits it's peak we all get desperate. It seems as though desperation is the catalyst to our tongues flapping in the wind. Personally, and in full recognition of my own shortcomings, I get wordy when I get worried. But my words are a double-edged sword that has the power to destruct and destroy. Just like that rhino in the china shop, I too have the power to wreak havoc in a place that already has enough issues of its own.

I have been on the delivering and receiving end of gossip at work. I realized my problem one day when I was fuming over something that wasn't in my power, and yet I lashed out (in a desperate attempt for control) by choosing to gossip about something menial. My energy level at work started to plummet and I felt like I was falling apart. Why? Because what you put out there is returned to you. Gossip, in general, is cruel, but gossip at work is dangerous. Why? Well, let me tell you...

There was a situation at work one time that was calling into question a nurse and their integrity, there was actually a law-suit situation going on and it was very touchy around the unit. The nurse in question had decided to pinpoint who they deemed initiated this investigation and reported them. This nurse traveled around the unit one-by-one picking anyone who had an ear to listen and then openly slandered their fellow co-worker. This news spread around the entire hospital. When this poor individual returned from vacation, they found out people had been slamming them while they were gone. Defenseless and upset, this person left the unit for good, and never looked back.

Now, this is an absolute extreme case but think of the power our words have. Think of the power of our actions. Then, think about how we can weave and create whatever we want to slander someone. Whether there is truth or not to our accusations, whatever we say can filter to multitudes of people in our organization. Or worse... To patients and their families.

I am not saying that if there is an issue going on that needs addressing, you ignore it. We all know that if there is a major problem that needs attention, we need to move up the chain of command.

What I am asking, is that we stop tearing each other apart. Our work lives as nurses are hard enough. To add in gossip and its ability to sabotage relationships is all we "need" to bring our units down. We can be the catalysts in our own failure to act as a team. If we chose to lift each other up, rather than tear down, teamwork would take a turn that could positively influence our care, our energy when approaching work and work situations, as well as help us endure the long stretches of high-stress situations with a security blanket.

We all know that there are times when issues need to be addressed. But, turning to your neighbor while charting and gossiping doesn't make for a good work relationship for anyone, nor does it fix the issue at hand. Trust cannot be built on a faulty foundation and more often than not, we allow it and welcome it with open arms in the workplace.

If you need to blow off steam (and I know I do, daily) crack open a journal, talk to a removed person who does not contribute to your work atmosphere. We are human, and we all need to let our frustrations go. But tearing up a coworker to your fellow co-worker only allows that cycle to get started.

Our focus needs to be to lift each other up, make it through what is (what I believe) one of the most trying jobs (but rewarding jobs) on the market, and furthermore find ways to help each other through our slumps. No matter how hard we try, home comes into work with us, and work has the potential to follow us home.

Let's make a great effort to look out for one another. I know that I'd rather be focused on my patients instead of fuming over some gossip that had returned to me rattled off behind my back. The toxicity of negative words can and will ruin our will power where power and will need to be in full supply.

Mutual respect will keep that machine well-oiled and running true. Are you up for the task? I know I am.

Molded and formed by a drive to live up to her own expectations, Jacquie ultimately thrives on creativity. Dreams, testing her limits, and traveling all fuel the fire, thus leading to adventures of the past and yet to be: http://misadventuresofanurse.blogspot.com/

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10 Comment(s)

Julie Reyes, DNP, RN

Specializes in pediatrics, occupational health. Has 6 years experience.

Great post! I know we all might feel like shredding some scapegoat from time to time, but DON'T! One day, we could be that scapegoat!!!

Agree....great post.

This is something we need to remember not only at work but whenever and wherever we interact with people.....even online.

Sad reflection on nursing as a group that this even has to be said, but true.

Any kind of gossip is toxic. I recently had an experience of this. The issue was no one talking directly to the nurse concerned and leaving it up to management to do all of this. None of us are perfect and everyone has a responsibility to speak directly to the person concerned if we have particular issue. I learned that the hard way, but know how important it is, regardless of our role. Talking behind anyone's back is so counter-productive. Our work is not getting any easier, but everyone stepping up in this fashion will certainly contribute to more harmonious workplaces - which is something that is very needed.

NurseGirl525, ASN, RN

Specializes in ICU.

This happened to me at school at the end of the semester. In one of my classes there was a huge issue with these girls that talk the entire class and no matter how many dirty looks I give them, they wouldn't shut up. It was distracting and I couldn't hear the instructor. These girls sat behind me in every class. Other instructors have told them in class to be quiet, and they would for 5 minutes, then go back to their loud whispering. They somehow sat behind me in every class. I like to sit up front so I can see and hear the instructor. The entire class had it with these girls, but the instructors were not effectively taking care of the problem.

Everybody in the program gossiped about these girls. I admit, I chimed in to voice my displeasure also. I was hoping our student reps would mention something about it in the next meeting. They never did.

I did go and have a meeting with my instructor. She would get up in front of the class and say things very vaguely to everyone but it was specifically meant for these three girls. She told me she had to handle it that way. Apparently they were unprofessional in clinical one week. I was not in their clinical group so I only know what other people had told me. I had wanted to reassure my clinical group it wasn't us. Everyone was upset about our talking to. My group was awesome. One of the nurses commented that the hospital should just hire my clinical group now because we were great to work with.

I got pulled in the instructors office one day and I got chewed out. I couldn't understand why. Then she proceeds to list all of these things I had been saying about her. I was shocked and confused. I explained my side and told exactly what I had said. Somebody threw me under the bus big time and I was seriously upset. Then the instructor told me to move my seat to the back if they bothered me so much. Honestly, I was angry about that. Everybody in the program was upset about the distractions, the instructors were mad, but nobody handled it and I became the target. It was one of the most upsetting things ever.

I learned my lesson. I defriended and blocked them all on Facebook. I went to class the rest of the semester and kept to myself and told everyone their relationship with me was strictly professional and to not talk to me about any other classmates as I did not want to hear it. I was paying for my education and I didn't need the added stress. People were mad at me but I did not care one bit. It was kind of like, whatever I do, they are upset and gossip about me. I seriously wanted to quit the program.

My thoughts were, why would someone do what they did? Why would they outright lie about me and burn bridges with me? We are going to graduate in less than a year. I'm sure many of us will be looking for jobs in a little over a year. We should be able to use each other to network for jobs after graduation, use each other for references. The tension was so thick in our classes at the end of the semester. I was so glad for summer break. There were other reasons for the tension also, and it all just culminated for like the last month of the semester.

I honestly am not sure how I am going to handle going back in August. I have sat up front in all of my classes since I started back for my prereqs. It helped me immensely. I know I will be polite and smile, but I will not be anyone's buddy anymore. I will not be their shoulder to cry on when school has them going crazy. I have my own contacts in several areas to look at jobs when I graduate. I have actually be personally offered 3 jobs so far when I graduate based on how I performed in different clinical settings. It really just depends on where I am going to live when I graduate.

Gossiping is just bad news all around. And it really hurts the people that are targeted. I should have sat those three girls down at the beginning of the semester when it all started and told them how distracting they are, but I was hoping the instructors would take care of it. They usually got told several times in a class very politely from the instructor to pipe down. That didn't work. I was hoping they would eventually just kick them out of class, but it never happened. And going to the instructor myself instead of confronting them, backfired on me big time. I will never do that again.

Samantha Harris

Specializes in Post-Surgical, Med-Surg, Travel, Agency.

This happened to me at school at the end of the semester. In one of my classes there was a huge issue with these girls that talk the entire class and no matter how many dirty looks I give them, they wouldn't shut up. It was distracting and I couldn't hear the instructor. These girls sat behind me in every class. Other instructors have told them in class to be quiet, and they would for 5 minutes, then go back to their loud whispering. They somehow sat behind me in every class. I like to sit up front so I can see and hear the instructor. The entire class had it with these girls, but the instructors were not effectively taking care of the problem.

Everybody in the program gossiped about these girls. I admit, I chimed in to voice my displeasure also. I was hoping our student reps would mention something about it in the next meeting. They never did.

I did go and have a meeting with my instructor...

I got pulled in the instructors office one day and I got chewed out. I couldn't understand why. Then she proceeds to list all of these things I had been saying about her. I was shocked and confused. I explained my side and told exactly what I had said. Somebody threw me under the bus big time and I was seriously upset. Then the instructor told me to move my seat to the back if they bothered me so much. Honestly, I was angry about that. Everybody in the program was upset about the distractions, the instructors were mad, but nobody handled it and I became the target. It was one of the most upsetting things ever.

I learned my lesson. I defriended and blocked them all on Facebook. I went to class the rest of the semester and kept to myself and told everyone their relationship with me was strictly professional and to not talk to me about any other classmates as I did not want to hear it.

That's a lot of passive aggressiveness in one situation. Wow.

Yes, you probably should have dealt with the girls yourself, as it was you they were bothering. Giving them dirty looks is a bit immature and obviously ineffective. Also, I believe you overreacted when you shut your entire class out. There is no need for that. Just stop gossiping and it won't backfire on you.

Be polite and congenial with your classmates. You are the one burning bridges. What happens if you need help? No one is going to be willing to help the person who blew one incident out of proportion and decided to shun the whole class. As to the motivations of whoever talked to the instructor about you, they probably were upset with you and went to the instructor rather than talk to you about it, much like you did.

However, your instructor handled that totally backwards. First, she shouldn't have listened to the gossip. Second, she should have used it as a teaching moment. Instead of getting upset and chewing you out, she should have told you what she had heard and that it was important you be careful about what you say and who you say it to.

It is a good thing this happened to you now so that you will be able to navigate the workplace without having the same thing happen again. This kind of situation is, unfortunately, fairly common.

Make sure you are up front and assertive in your communication and you shouldn't have this problem again.

I can totally relate to school gossip and drama. Sometimes it's like a chess game. Lol. I got very involved and upset with a situation in my class this past semester. It was right before finals so we were all stressed and tired and freaking out. I mentally took a step back from the drama but I still treated the person causing the drama nicely. One of the big things they teach us in school is that you never know what the patient is really going through in their life and you can't take offense to negative behavior. I try to apply that to everyone, including classmates, but it is super hard sometimes to resist the gossip monster.

BloomNurseRN, ASN, BSN, RN

Specializes in CMSRN. Has 10 years experience.

Unfortunately, things never change. I saw gossip and backbiting throughout nursing school. I was personally thrown under the bus by an unknown classmate and by an unknown hospital employee on a transport bus. I did NOT say the things I was accused of but the instructor acted in much the same way - chewed me out and acted as if I was saying terrible things. I responded by stating I was extremely apologetic if any of the things I said were taken out of context or misconstrued and that I would be careful to watch the things I said, as I would never want to embarrass myself or my program. I basically fell on my sword. My instructor thanked me for being professional and at the end of the semester stated she would be happy to give me a great reference when job hunting. When it came to my classmates, I continued to be friends with those that I considered friends, I kept my mouth shut on the hospital transport bus, and I kept my interactions professional.

As a nurse on a busy unit I find there continues to be gossip, especially when it comes to anything at all "juicy". I have to remind staff nurses regularly that gossip is not helpful and will not be tolerated. It lasts about a minute. *sigh*

Jacqueline.Damm

Specializes in Med/Surg, Onc., Palliative/Hospice, CPU. Has 3 years experience.

Gossip is a tough and dangerous animal. I am sure that everyone has been touched by it in some way. I am sorry for all of your experiences. Unfortunately for those who've had to endure gossip and the remnants of what it's left behind, make sure that you're a beacon of light in the times when gossip shows it's ugly face and wishes to destruct!

DarkEyed

Specializes in Cardiac ICU, ER, PICU, Corrections.

I HATE gossip. Best just to stay out of it. My coworkers know better by now that when the gossip starts, I go silent and keep my nose in my work.