The Nosy Employee Strikes Again

The Los Angeles Times recently reported that more than two dozen UCLA Medical Center employees are in the hot seat for illegally accessing Britney Spears’ medical records. The breaches reportedly occurred when Spears was admitted in January.

While the employees were unable to access the troubled pop star’s psychiatric records, they did snoop through records from her previous visits to the facility (including records from when she gave birth to one of her sons). At least 13 employees, none of whom are doctors, will be fired, while 12 others, including several doctors, will be disciplined.

It seems the nosy employee has struck again.

How to Curb the Curiosity?

There is no doubt that privacy can be hard to maintain in the workplace. Have you ever watched Jim or Dwight try to make sales calls on The Office? It seems that nobody’s personal or professional life is protected. Nosy employees love to be a part of everyone’s business, and they love to spread their knowledge down the gossip super-highway. Let’s face it, those UCLA Medical Center employees were not trying to view Spears’ medical records as a part of their continuing medical education.

Here are a few tips to curb curiosity in the workplace and increase your employees productivity.

1. Don’t Tell. Teach your employees to be close-lipped. My mom always said, if you want something to stay secret, then don’t tell…anyone. So, don’t. Also, the juvenile “I’ll tell you, but don’t tell anyone else,” never works. Bottom line, keep it to yourself.

2. Air the Laundry. If you have a secret, let it out. A nosy employee loves secrets. What fun is spreading gossip if it’s not supposed to be kept secret? This is particularly important with respect to big business announcements like promotions, demotions, and relocations. Get out in front of the potential rumor and ensure accurate information is spread.

3. Stand Up for Yourself. Have you ever watched two cowboys stare each other down? Good. Now tell your employees to do that to their nosy colleagues. Just kidding, we all know it’s better to take the high road here. Instead of staring, simply instruct your employees to reply to the Nosy Employee that the subject matter is personal and none of their business. Sure, the Nosy Employee will go elsewhere, but if the source is practicing Tip Number 1, there should be nothing to talk about.

4. Turn the Tables. Teach your employees to reply with a witty (but not juvenile or rude) response, like: “Why are you asking? What have you heard?” Then, refer to Tips Numbers 1, 2, and 3.

Privacy is an important issue for everyone. If your employees feel secure about their business, whether professional or personal, then it’s likely that they will be less distracted and more likely to, well, work.

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