Gossip in the Workplace: Should We Have a Zero-Tolerance Policy?

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“Of course we don’t tolerate gossip.” Is that what your company would tell me? If you have people working for you, you probably have gossip, at least in small degrees. Some companies, knowing how damaging gossip can be, decide to have a “zero-tolerance” policy about it. In other words, you get caught gossiping, you are out. For others, it leads to disciplinary action. Others still turn a blind eye.

A zero-tolerance policy has its pros and cons, so when you are considering how to handle gossip in your workplace, keep in mind the following.

Reasons to have a Zero Tolerance Policy

It sets a company-wide standard, especially if enforced. Your team will soon realize that they will be held to a high standard of contact and outsiders will tend to respect that.

It protects teammates. If gossip begins, teammates feel empowered to use the policy to protect themselves from getting sucked into a damaging conversation.

It uplifts the idea of team. If there is no tolerance for tearing down the team, you can build a sense of loyalty and pride.

It retrains individuals. When teammates know they can’t gossip to each other, and must instead go through proper channels (make sure such paths are easy to follow!) teammates will learn over time how to handle difficulties.

It will clean out your staff. Either the violators will have to be let go, or they will quit. Newcomers will know the expectations from the beginning.

A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much. Proverbs 20:19 NIV

Reasons not to have a Zero Tolerance Policy

It is difficult to define. Gossip takes different forms and defining it can be muddy. For example, if an employee gets advice from a co-worker about handling another difficult relationship, is that considered gossip because some negative things were said about another?

It can be a challenge to enforce. If you can’t make a firm definition of gossip, you’ll have a hard time enforcing the “You’re out” rule on a case-by-case basis and still seeming fair to all employees.

It may instill unhealthy fear. For some personalities, this type of policy will only make them suppress legitimate thoughts and problems that should be dealt with for fear that they will be considered gossips.

It can lead to a false sense of teamwork. Your teammates may simply smile and keep their mouth shut and put on a false front of teamwork to avoid any conflict that may endanger their jobs.

It can be unrealistic. If you have a zero tolerance for gossip, what other behaviors do you also not tolerate? Could gossip be a cause for dismissal while laziness is only a cause for disciplinary action? Both can affect the team.

Is there a middle ground?

It depends. Every company culture is different and made up of complex factors. Ask yourself some of these questions as you think about what policy is best for your situation:

  • What is the current temperature of our team?
  • Do we deal with gossip on a regular basis already?
  • Has gossip caused up problems with our clients?
  • Are most of our team members dedicated and people of high character who make only occasional mistakes?
  • Do our teammates already feel loyal to each other and the company?
  • Do we communicate well with our team? (Communication is one key to fighting gossip in the first place.)
  • Are leaders a good example of how we feel about gossip?
  • Could we lose otherwise good people for one or two incidences of unwise gossip?
  • Would this standard instill fear, or inspire conviction, in our team?

In the end, each organization needs to establish the healthiest policy for their workplace. Gossip needs to be dealt with…make sure you deal with it in an effective way for your situation.

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Coffee Break Bible Study: Colossians 3-5; 1 Thessalonians 1-2 #bgbg2

Colossians 3-23

Read Colossians 2.

What did Paul delight in? (verse 5.)

Write out verses 6-7, applying them personally to you.

Read Colossians 3.

How can you set your minds on “things above” today?

What are some characteristics of God’s “chosen people”?

Read Colossians 4.

What are some exhortations in this chapter that apply most to you right now?

What do you learn of Paul through his greetings at the end of epistles?

Read 1 Thessalonians 1.

How can your faith be a light to others around you today?

What type of people do the Thessalonians appear to be?

Read 1 Thessalonians 2.

What does Paul share about he and the other leaders?

How did the Thessalonians respond to the Gospel?

 

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Gossip in the Workplace: What Can We Do About It?

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Gossip. It’s everywhere. It’s harmful, yet nearly everyone participates in it at some time or another.

A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.Proverbs 16:28

Gossip can be defined as idle talk,* or talking negatively behind someone’s back, to someone who is not part of the problem or solution, or with no desire to improve the situation. Gossip is a damaging cancer on your team, and must be dealt with effectively. Here are some suggestions.

Create a positive culture. See to it that positive team players are recognized and rewarded appropriately. Be careful not to overdo as this can create temptation for people to “play games” to be noticed. Watch for sincere teamwork and praise accordingly, sometimes privately.

Provide appropriate information. Gossip sometimes prevails when employees are left in the dark. Share what information you can, even if it is disappointing. Exercise discretion when you have to, particularly with personnel matters, but don’t hide information that can help your team know what is coming, what obstacles need to be overcome, or what were the real facts behind a rumor.

Don’t brand someone a “gossip.” Remember that just because a person may occasionally gossip, does not mean they are a bad team player overall. Even the best people can get sucked into gossip during a time of fatigue, confusion or frustration. Yes, there are some who struggle with this habitually. But while some may struggle with gossip, others may struggle with laziness or fear. All can affect productivity and team play…so be careful not to elevate one team “sin” over another.

Be aware of the gossips. Now I’m going to appear to contradict what I just said. While you should avoid labeling people, you can be attuned to tendencies in individuals. You will quickly figure out the talkers on your team. Develop a strategy to help them grow.

Get to the bottom of it. When you become aware of gossip, gently confront the individuals involved. For example, let’s say you are picking up on negative conversation about Susie, particularly from Jay and Melissa. Pull Jay and Melissa aside with a question like, “I’m sensing that you have some concerns about Susie. I’d like to get to the bottom of the issue so tell me the top two things you struggle with.” Notice that I suggest asking a specific question so that puts the gossips on the spot. Don’t make it easy for them to say, “No, we don’t have any problem with her.”

Accompany people. If someone comes to you with a complaint, offer to go with them to the individual involved. This will either stop them from complaining to you, or give them the courage to deal with the problem.

Ask questions. If someone gossips to you, ask, “Why are you telling ME this? Would you like me to go with you to that person?” “What do you think would be a good way to solve this?” “How do you think Susie may see this?”

Create an open environment. As you work with your team and develop trust, encourage them to share how they feel about certain situations and be able to give/receive constructive feedback. If team members feel they can talk out their issues with each other, they will find less need to gossip behind someone’s back.

Some companies have a “zero-tolerance” for gossip, with employees knowing they could be fired for participating. This may be appropriate in some cultures. At the very least, use the suggestions above to root out this destructive element in your workplace.

*gossip. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc.http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gossip (accessed: August 15, 2014).

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Coffee Break Bible Study: Philippians 1-4; Colossians 1 #bgbg2

Philippians

Read Philippians 1.

Consider verse 3. Is there someone in your life that you would thank God for whenever you remember them? Thank them today.

What is Paul’s outlook on his struggles? (verse 12)

Read Philippians 2.

What causes Paul joy? (verse 2)

How should our attitude parallel that of Christ?

Read Philippians 3.

What does Paul tell us to do in verse 1?

How do verses 12-14 encourage you?

Read Philippians 4.

Paul is concerned about a situation, revealed in verse 2. How important is unity among believers?

In what area of life or work do you need to learn to be more content?

Read Colossians 1.

Write out verse 11 in relation to a situation in your life.

Review verse 15-20 and renew your outlook on Christ and His power.

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Gossip in the Workplace: Why Does it Exist?

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“Did you hear about Ryan’s performance review?” Sally whispered to Dan.

“No,” Dan replied, curious. “What about it?”

“Well, I heard that…”

And there is the beginning of gossip.

Some define gossip as only spreading untruths about others. But the dictionary defines it also as “idle talk, especially about the affairs of others.”*  Some consider gossip talking about a person negatively with someone who is not part of the problem or the solution.  Whatever your definition, in the example above, what purpose does the conversation have? It doesn’t look like it’s headed in a productive direction, whether what is shared is true or not. The tone also doesn’t sound like the person is speaking to Dan to get wise input about solving a problem.

Gossip can be a rampant problem in organizations. Some organizations have a very strong policy against it, to the point of someone being  fired if caught participating. It can be a cancer that will ruin your team, but even the best people can get caught up in it. Why?

There are a few reasons why participating in gossip is the “easier choice” for people, even if, should you ask them if it is acceptable, they would say, “Of course not!”

Need for acceptance. It’s perhaps counter intuitive that gossip can cause someone to feel accepted, because after all, gossip by nature alienates another person. But for those doing the gossiping, there is some satisfaction in knowing that someone else sees a situation or another person the same way or has experienced the same problems with them.

In the illustration above, if several coworkers have problems getting along with Ryan, they may unite in the gossip about his review.

Desire for information. Gossip can arise when there are holes in communication or a feeling of “We’re not being told the whole truth.” People will start to fill in holes by brainstorming possibilities, and we all know where that can lead. False conclusions or imaginary scenarios become “fact” as more people hear about them.  

“Ryan sure looked troubled when he left Mr. Supervisor’s office. I’m sure the company must be considering layoffs, and Ryan is the first.”

The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts. Proverbs 18:8

Feeling of inadequacy. Though we don’t like to admit it, deep down many of us are fully aware of what we believe are inadequacies or weaknesses. When we hear about the alleged behavior of someone, we feel a little better when we think, “I would never have done that!” If someone concurs by mentioning the same thing, we feel particularly validated in our own sense of right and wrong. 

“I hope they brought up his frequent lateness. I would never clock in 30 minutes late every day.”

The reasons given above do not justify gossip, nor am I suggesting you should simply tolerate it. However, it is wise to consider the “why” behind behavior. What is going on in people’s minds and hearts that leads them to speak ill of co-workers or the organization? This can be a first step in helping you develop a more effective way to deal with the behavior.

*gossip. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc.http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/gossip (accessed: August 15, 2014).

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Coffee Break Bible Study: Ephesians 2-6 #bgbg2

Ephesians 2-8-9

Read Ephesians 2.

Write out verse 10, substituting your name.

Look at verse 19. Consider the “fellow citizens” you share life with. How can you bless them today?

Read Ephesians 3.

Look through Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians in verse 14-19. Is this how you pray for your friends? Consider praying for their spiritual growth through trials, not just a specific outcome you all want.

How does verse 20 bring you hope?

Read Ephesians 4.

How can verse 2 apply to your actions in the workplace today?

According to verse 12, what are spirtual leaders (i.e. pastors, ministry leaders) to do?

Read Ephesians 5.

In verse one we are to be __________ of God. Verse 2 gives us a “how.” What is it?

Ponder verse 15.

Read Ephesians 6.

What does Paul have to say about various family relationships?
Take your time reading verse 10-18. What pieces of armor do you need to concentrate on today?

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Seven Considerations When Booking a Speaker

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At any given time during the year, you may be involved in planning an event ranging from a lunch meeting to a full-on weekend retreat. Many organizations plan 6-12 months ahead for such events, so if you find yourself on a committee tasked with finding a speaker, keep these questions in mind, specifically in regard to speaker selection and expenses.

1. What is the purpose of the event?

Be very clear on the objective. Make sure you have a stated purpose for the event so the speaker can adjust his or her presentation accordingly. For example, I recently spoke to an organization for the professional development of administrative staff. They wanted me to speak on the topic of organization. My approach to teaching a time management workshop for them may have a different flavor than the same presentation given at a faith-based retreat. (Similar principles, different methodology.) The compensation you offer is part of the way you pay for this preparation and customization.

2. What is your budget?

Your budget should allow you to cover, as applicable, travel, lodging and food costs as well as provide a reasonable honorarium (or as was the case for one of my speaking engagements, a donation to the speaker’s selected charity.) Several speakers make part of their living through their speaking engagements and incur cost in travel, handouts, etc. so it’s always wise to discuss the honorarium arrangements up front. Some speakers will be flexible if you cannot pay an honorarium. For example, if the event is local, or will benefit a non-profit organization, or you will allow the speaker to have a table with books for sale, they may waive their honorarium expectation. Plan to discuss this topic early on in the booking negotiations.

If you are hosting a major conference with both keynote speakers and workshop leaders, you may not need to pay the workshop leaders the same amounts as the keynote speakers. However, even if you do not have a budget to pay workshop leaders, some type of gift or acknowledgement is always appropriate and it is important to clearly communicate those arrangements before an agreement is made.

3. How far will speaker have to travel?

Consider the number of hours the speaker will have to put toward traveling, particularly if they have to fly. There are often flight delays, long layovers, and headaches from cancelled flights or lost luggage. This can lead to a speaker spending the equivalent of two to three days of work for one evening’s keynote.  It may be more feasible for you to consider hiring a speaker from your home state or region.

4. How large is the audience?

The speaker will have to prepare differently for an audience/workshop of 20 than for a retreat with 200. Compensation for the speaker should also take this into consideration. The more people, the more interaction the speaker will need to be “on” for.

5. Are you charging people to attend?

For many events, you are probably going to charge a registration fee. Keep this in mind as part of the funding available for speaker costs. You may be able to adjust the fee by only $5, allowing you to meet the speaker’s typical fees. Also, for a large event, consider paying the speaker more, especially if the reason your registrations are going well is because of who you have invited to speak.

6. Will speaker be allowed to sell books, or better yet, are you pre-buying book for each audience member?  

Many speakers like to have a book table at which they can sell products or meet the audience (i.e. autographs.) Personally, I prefer not to have a table unless I speak at a local event (I have a retail license for my state.) I’d rather not deal with state to state sales tax and having to conduct business at the same time people want to interact with me. However, it’s a great blessing when an organization decides to purchase one (or more) of my books to automatically give one to each participant. When this happens, I provide a discount as a thank you. It keeps your speaker from making too much of a sales pitch and it doesn’t really cost you that much more, particularly if you include it in the registration fee. (For example, if you were going to charge $30 per person, you could get the speaker’s book and charge $35 per person and announce that each participant will receive a copy of the book. Then you’ve covered most of the book expense without dipping too much into your budget, and your participants feel even more blessed!)

7. What might be travel costs?

Travel costs can vary a lot, depending on whether a speaker has to fly, or rent a car. Also, you’ll want to provide pleasant housing for the speaker. Many prefer a private hotel room at or near the venue. Some speakers like to make their own arrangements unless the event happens to be at a hotel. Have an open dialog with your potential speaker to work out these details. If you are booking way in advance, have an agreement as to the deadline by which the speaker’s airline tickets will be purchased (whether you are buying them or reimbursing the speaker for purchasing.)

Remember that you are not simply paying for a 45 minute speech. When you see some fees, you may be amazed at how high they are for “just 45 minutes.” But remember, the 45 minute class/speech is only the core project. The speaker has likely spent many hours preparing, continuing to grow professionally and personally so they can continue to speak well, and may have a travel time (arriving and departing) of 10 hours or more involved in getting to your event. That is potential time away from their families or business.

The speaker makes part of their living through speaking. Yes, there are some speakers who speak/teach as a side thing, or may have become popular for successful classes at their church which they have done as a volunteer. However, consider speaker costs in the same way you would consider paying for a room rental or catering services. It’s all part of the professional expense for your event.

For Scripture says, “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,”[a] and “The worker deserves his wages.”[b] 1 Timothy 5:18

To make things as simple as possible for my potential clients, I offer speaking topics and packages, with suggested honorarium ranges fully disclosed. This information is on my speaking page. I always try to work with the organization to meet their objectives. If you know of an upcoming event that is looking for a speaker, contact me!

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Coffee Break Bible Study: Galatians 3-6; Ephesians 1 #bgbg2

Galatians 5-13

Read Galatians 3.

What does Paul have to say about the law?

 

How does this chapter influence your thoughts about rule-following or keeping a list of Christian “to-do’s?”

 

Read Galatians 4.

 

What “rights” do we have because of Christ?

 

How do you feel about being an adopted son or daughter of God?

 

Read Galatians 5.

 

Write out verse 1 as many times as you need to let it sink into you.

 

How do you sometimes get distracted from your “good race?”

 

Read Galatians 6.

How should we treat a fellow Christian who is struggling with sin?

 

Why is it important to have a right perspective about making good impressions? (verse 12)

 

Read Ephesians 1.

What are some spiritual blessings that you have experienced?

 

Why is Paul thankful for the Ephesians?

 

Four Questions to Ask When You Notice Problems on Your Team

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Every manager faces it–those times when your team is not behaving like a well-oiled machine and you finally have to step in to do something about it–or him, or her, or the situation. Before you make any decisions, get away from the noise and ask yourself a few questions, like these.

Is this a short term problem?

In some cases, an individual may start behaving in a less than effective way, but only for a short time. This can be due to personal issues of all kinds, or a short term health issue, etc. If the person is usually cooperative, and you know of extenuating circumstances, you might try to be extra gracious during that window of time when their normal patience and kindness is not as evident (i.e. while their husband/son is deployed, while they get elderly parents into assisted living, while their child is ill, etc.)

Is it time to step in? 

Although sometimes you can wait (see first point), often it is better to deal with problems in their early stages. Approach the offending team member with questions, privately. Draw them out to find out what may be motivating their recent behavior. This is easier if you’ve already established regular meeting times with this individual so an issue can be addressed as part of the normal course of reviewing their work, for example. Keeping “short accounts” can protect situations from becoming very harsh and more difficult to work around.

Do I need to involve others? 

A team leader needs to be observant and a good listener, so he/she can consider whether a problem is happening with more than one member of the team. For example, if you start having several people coming to you individually about the same individual, you may need to ask each person the same set of questions, write down notes, and see if there are any consistencies with the complaints. In other cases, you may not need to involve anyone else, but instead prepare to meet with the person based on your own observation.

Do some self-examination to assess if you are going through a difficult time and taking it out on your team. Get the help you need for everyone’s sake.

Ask yourself these questions when facing a team problem so you can take the appropriate steps to mitigate it quickly. I offer team building consultations…let me know if I can help!

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. Psalm 78:72 NIV
 Psalm 78:72

Coffee Break Bible Study: 2 Corinthians 11-13, Galatians 1-2 #bgbg2

gal 2-20

Read 2 Corinthians 11.

What is a “godly jealousy?”

What type of suffering did Paul endure? How does that strengthen you in your suffering today?

Read 2 Corinthians 12.

Write out verse 9.

We don’t know what Paul’s “thorn” was, however it was probably a repetitive issue for him. Do you have an issue that causes you repeated frustration? Take some time to pray about that and thank God that it can remind you of your daily need for His grace.

Read 2 Corinthians 13.
Why do you think Paul said a matter required testimony of more than one witness? (Note that Paul may have had certain situations in mind, but the principle has truth to it.)

In verse 11 Paul says to “aim for perfection.” How does aiming differ from striving?

Read Galatians 1.
What surprised Paul about the Galatians?

Are you tempted to add anything to the simple Gospel (i.e. good works, a church tradition, etc.) as required for salvation?

Read Galatians 2.

What does verse 6 remind you of?

Paul and Peter had a falling out. What do you learn from this?