My dad raised my brothers and sisters and me on the phrase, “If you’ve got nothing good to say, say nothing.”
Well, in corporate America and elsewhere in our society today where face-to-face and cyberbullying is rampant… that ship has sailed.
The question is should you participate in this?
In the old days (think Seinfeld TV show era… no… not the syndicated reruns or what you pull up on your phone from YouTube) there was always the water cooler topics of the day. The show itself was a catalyst for talking about a lot of things that had formally been taboo or just not thought of, or at least never expressed that way was safe or kind of safe to talk about.
The reality is that in our more politically correct era too many topics are off the table for discussion (probably should have always been the case), and we can weigh the pros and cons to that, but the reality is that there is office dynamite – that’s office gossip and office politics (different than the politics of our government but also something highly charged if pushed too far).
The truth is that we must accept that you’re never going to totally stop the Office Gossip and Politics because we, as people, love to talk and hear ourselves talk, and there’s a part of us that likes throwing others under the bus, and that for some is human nature.
What role do we as owners have in all of this?
We must set policy and enforce it so no one feels threatened or coerced by the workplace culture we allow to grow.
I think its fair to make some ground rules about abusing people based upon:
- Sexual preference
- Political point of view
These are already protected by law, so staying on the right side of that law makes sense, but it’s more about nurturing a safer environment at your company for people to come and work and gather and feel safe and be part of a family that cares about them. After all, it was you who chose them to come and join your organization and be a part of that team.
Gossip about co-workers is bound to happen. The green-eyed jealousy monster is always nearby. The only suggestion I have is when you, the owner or manager, hear it, you need to get your staff redirected to focus on their career at the company and not their compatriots. It should not be an environment where they feel, “I can’t win if the other person wins.”
Understand why they may feel that way if you’re guilty of favoritism, which in short is “the rules don’t apply to all and aren’t enforced equally either.” Whether it’s true or not, the perception that this is the case is all that matters while giving fuel to the fire that sparks the Office Gossip and Politics fire.
One major topic is who got a raise in pay and who didn’t. Don’t kid yourselves. It’s not private at all as to what you pay everyone. They talk. In my case, my employees used to stand outside my office window and compare their paychecks!
It was just one reason that I made what and how you got paid and what you had to do to earn a raise all transparent. I created the Salary Levels that were tied to objective benchmarks which were tied to the Org Chart. Which of the boxes you were filling today and which box you could qualify for in the future and what that would pay…made all the difference.
A lot of the noise on the subject went away.
To be clear, I’m all in favor of healthy competition and many of the top-level management positions on the Org Chart I use with clients is a position that requires people to:
- And then train
None of these top-level positions are owned; they are rented, and that just means that if the person who’s risen to the next rung on the corporate ladder is failing, it’s your obligation to help them successfully fill that box. Or, you need to move them back down with no harm or no foul so you can restart the competition for someone else to fill that box successfully.
Today, the human resource component to running a business continues to grow because of the increase in never-ending rules and regulation coming from federal, state, and local jurisdictions weighing in regularly as well as the proclivity of people (including your own staff) to sue. Not surprising that people are suing as they are encouraged by the constant bombardment with commercials from lawyers on TV, radio, and billboards promoting themselves as the protectors of the offended… whether or not you really were driving your car drunk and asleep… but I digress.
I counsel my clients, no matter how big their company is, that you can’t hire a magic person who will be fully up to date with all the rules and regulations when it comes to sane protection from human resource issues. As the owner, your obligation is to determine what issues can be handled safely internally and to know when it’s time to bring in the right expert.
But a necessary evil these days.
The advice I share with clients: “Anyone can sue you for anything. That said, the best you can do is to have policies and procedures in place that you can prove you practice, thus minimizing the occurrence and the impact when the stuff hits the fan.”