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Gossiping at work

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Question: I work part time in a clinic setting. A co-worker (I will call her Katie) has really made a name for herself as a constant gossip.

Katie also is in charge of scheduling for the non-technical staff. She shares private information with everyone in the office about why you called in sick, who you are dating or what you did on the weekend. It upsets me that she shares everyone’s medical problems, not to mention the errors they’ve made on the job. Does this violate some ethical standing?

I'm not sure how to approach the topic with Katie and/or the office manager. I have a good standing with the office manager but since I only work part time, I don’t feel that I have much say in day-to-day operations.

A few co-workers have attempted to talk to the office manager about Katie but nothing has been done about it. Any suggestions?  -- Lori


Speak to the office manager, naming no names, but indicate that personal medical information on you has gotten out and you are very disturbed about it. It's a violation of law, actually, since some of the federal privacy acts have been legislated. Ask her what the company is doing to stop such leaks. As to sick leave, we no longer have sick leave and/or vacation, we simply have PTO (Personal Time Off) so no explanation is necessary. In fact, we've been instructed to call in as early as possible and leave a voicemail message that you are sick and will not be in. They don't want to know about your illnesses and all the details. It's none of their business, unless it has a direct impact on your ability to work. As to your social life, keep your mouth shut! And if you confide personal details to a friend at work and Katie starts talking about them, just ask her "How did you hear about this?" Calling gossips on their behavior, politely but firmly, in front of others, is the only way to stop this kind of thing.

The bottom line is Katie is not only gossiping but she is also potentially violating HIPPA laws. She is a liability when it comes to confidentiality. I would hope that giving the office manager a heads up would be more important to her than whether or not you are full-time. Since you have a good relationship with her, communicate it in such a way that she feels you have her back rather than you are just complaining about Katie.

Since it seems to be common knowledge that she's quite the gossip, stop telling her anything other than the bare minimum. If everyone did this, maybe she'd get a clue.

Katie is breaking the law. Your office manager can be held liable so it is essential that she put a stop to it immediately. If nothing else, Katie should be written up and copies added to her personnel file. Hopefully this will stop her but, if not, the office manager is aware.

As a business owner I agree with those above. The office manager has a ethical and legal responsibility to stop the gossip.

Your gossip is violating HIPPA laws if she is disclosing medical information. The Office Manager, if she is not aware of it needs to be informed, even if you are only part-time. Part-time does not mean you don't have a voice in the company, it means you work part-time.

Add me to the list of commenters who would say that she is violating HIPPA.

But beyond that, we had issues with people sharing confidential information about our customers and co-workers. We wrote this confidentiality pledge that all employees, directors, attorney's, and accountant's are required to sign. I adjusted the wording to remove references to our business name, so if some of the wording seems odd, that is the reason. Violations of it would result in suspension or firing.

Note item #5. We added that specifically to address issues like you were talking about.


Following is a reproduction of a Pledge of Confidentiality to be signed by all directors, staff members, and agents.

As a representative or agent of the (employer name deleted by me) I ledge to keep customer, employee, director, and committee member information confidential. Included in this confidentiality pledge is the following:

1. I will not talk about specific customers, accounts, loans, etc., with anyone other than fellow representatives or agents.

2. Information about a customer that is obtained in the course of business will not be used against that member in any private or employment-related situations.

3. (I deleted this section due to the confidentiality of our business.)

4. I will do whatever I can to maintain the confidentiality of the members of the (business name).

5. Information that is learned about employees, directors, or committee members, where it would be reasonable to assume the person involved would not want others to know this information, is not to be discussed with anyone other than business representatives or agents (and even then, it should only be on a NEED to know basis), unless directed to do so by the President, Executive Committee, or Supervisory Committee.



Circle One: Employee
Committee Member
Agent (circle one) Attorney Accountant


HUMAN RESOURCES. They should correct the issue immediately.

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