Don’t Become a Gossip Girl at Work

August 18, 2016

gossip blog 1

We have all been victims or participants of gossip at work, and sadly, this is no different in an early childhood education setting. Maybe it’s something you overheard in the hallway about a co-worker’s romantic relationship or what a parent has confided about her child not wanting to sleep on his own bed at night, an issue with potential repercussions on her child’s behavior. Another common example of gossip in an early education setting is when a co-worker tells you all about a child in her classroom who has been nothing but trouble, and how you can be prepared when you have him/her next.

The next thing you know, this information is being broadcasted among your fellow co-workers.

We’ve all been there, out on the playground or at a staff meeting, people just have to share the dirt on what they know or have heard. How do you react under these circumstances? Do you stand by and listen, walk away, or say something? The answer depends on how you wish to portray your character in front of your peers. Perhaps you may feel that excusing yourself or confronting the issue may alienate you from the group. If you don’t plan to further share the information anyway, what’s the harm in just listening? What’s the big deal? Well, it can be a big deal indeed if you idly stand by and say nothing, since this can be viewed as you being in agreement with what is being discussed, especially if the information is about a child under your care.

Every child deserves the benefit of the doubt. The new, receiving educator’s expectations getting that “heads up” on a child don’t need to be poisoned by the verbal carryover from his/her previous teacher. A child who may have had a tough time last year will not necessarily have an instant replay if he/she is given a level playing field with his/her classmates.

gossip blog 2

Take time to consider that the “trouble” a teacher is reporting may have been more about a temperament or personality clash than anything else. With different expectations, some patience, and a new approach, the child may very well flourish. Our commitment to our profession as early educators should allow us to recognize that we can all individually observe and assist in a child’s developmental needs.

We are members of a profession that bases its practice on the NAEYC Code of Ethics. We have a responsibility to children and their families, co-workers, and our community to care diligently for those under our care. Carelessly sharing confidential information is hurtful, damaging, and self-serving, and it must not be tolerated in any child care environment.

Every time you listen to gossip, you are sending a strong negative message to that staff member:
• You are saying that her behavior is accepted and welcomed.
• You are implying you and everyone else listening have no regard for the Code of Ethics or for the people who may be exploited by the information being shared. In other words, you are essentially separating yourself from the early childhood profession.

Don’t be a tag-along in these situations. Respect yourself and what you do enough to step away and disengage. Better yet, remind the gossiper and those who are listening about what is happening and why it’s wrong. If you don’t, you might later be associated with what was said, which can portray you in a negative light in front of your co-workers.

There will undoubtedly be one of two reactions if you do decide to say something:
• The group will have an open mind, see your point of view, and realize their error.
• They will resent your interference and separate from you.

If you get the first reaction, good for you. A child, a family, and a commitment to professionalism has been preserved. If you get the second reaction, still, good for you! You may need to rethink your work environment and if your ethics and those of your co-workers coincide. This may become a situation that is intolerable, which can be discussed with your administrator if needed. If, for any reason, your administrator is unable to make acceptable changes, then at least you’ve done your part and voiced your professional opinion on the issue.

The bottom line is not to compromise your own philosophy and stand your ground when it comes to refusing to participate in unprofessional behavior. Staying in a program where everyone around you is compromising their ethics is not acceptable or even logical. Early educators who are conflicted, distracted, and unhappy in their workplace are not capable of doing their professional best for young children, regardless of whether they believe it or not. Remember that it always takes one person to start making a difference and maintain the high level of professionalism within the early education environment.

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