I'm overdue for some responses to the letters addressed to "Uh, Artie?"
Why, here's one now:
I think of you as the King Of No Gossip.
I was copied on the email
below, from an administrative manager to our HR manager:
I have a gossip issue (or just an issue) I need to discuss with you next time you are in the office.
My first response was to
reply to the email by saying that I’m not interested in gossip, so
please cut me out. However, it occurs to me that it might be in
reference to a serious business or personnel issue.
Ever come across this? How’d you handle it?
— "Sit In Or Sit Out?"
In my own experience as the owner of Young Isaac, I was always the last one to know anything interesting about a co-worker. Why? I wouldn't sit for any interoffice gossip.
Heck, I wouldn't even look at anyone below the neck, fearing false accusation of natural ogling, so I might not know about a pregnancy until well into the seventh month of gestation.
I think my desire to avoid any chatter probably hurt my effectiveness as a manager. But I just didn't want to receive personal information about others. I felt it was an invasion of the subject's privacy. And I wanted to set an ethical standard for the staff.
But, here you are.
You have received a written invitation to a meeting whose explicit agenda is "gossip."
We all use the word — "gossip" — so broadly that the email message doesn't really qualify the significance and relevance of the conversation to follow. It could be, for example, a conversation about an employee who gossips too much!
I'd open the conversation with a four-question test. Perhaps these questions could be put on a wall in your conference room:
1. Is the content of the next conversation factual and accurate?
2. Is it necessary that it be discussed by everyone in the room?
3. Is it kind to hold this conversation?
4. Will the conversation add to the shareholder value of the company?
Any negative answer can get you out of that room.
If all answers are positive, go ahead and talk. If the questions raise one or two negatives, perhaps the conversation must still occur. But if the test demonstrates to everyone that this is just a discussion of someone's poor taste in shoes or lovers, we might just agree to not discuss it.
Let me know what happens. Or not.
Let's all remember: ethics aren't natural. They're learned. If you want to have me come in and train your staff on the ethics of speech, I am available for a ethically reasonable fee.