I am attending and speaking at one of my favorite diversity conferences this week, and on the trip here I overheard a conversation in the airport among 3 co-workers who were taking one of their peers to task, I mean they are letting her have it! Unfortunately for her, and for the organization that these 4 people work for, she was not present and is not likely going to get any of this feedback. Intelligent, competent, educated adults who are talking about each other rather than to each other.
I get to do some hands on work with teams, groups, committees, boards that need or want to produce different kinds of outcomes, and I commonly come across the same kinds of behavior. There are big and ongoing conversations that never see the light of day, that never make it into the pubic conversation. I am increasingly coming to see this pattern of behavior as one of the most telling aspects of organizational culture.
The first responsibility is on the organization, with special emphasis on management for making it safe to speak up, for making it safe to surface contradictions, ask questions and challenge decisions as long as it is done respectfully. But there also has to be responsibility on the part of employees, to talk to each other, not about each other.
I am the boss of absolutely nothing, but I think that if I were the boss of something I might make talking about an employee behind their back a fireable offense, it is that damaging of a behavior.
If you work in HR or supervise people, the next time that someone comes to talk to you to complain about someone else, kick their ass out of your office and tell them to go talk to that person. Adults should be able to work out the vast majority of their issues and you should create those expectations. If they are not able to do so, then there should be additional resources available to them.
We make it far too easy for competent adults to walk away from each other, and in doing so we just invite more drama.
Are you hiring for, and evaluating for the willingness and ability to have honest, direct communication with each other? Are you supporting, developing and rewarding these competencies? If not, you likely have an unnecessarily high amount of interpersonal drama.
Be good to each other.
To read the original post on The Value of Difference blog, please click here.
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