Can’t Get A Clear Picture

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about gossip: A team mate started expressing his views about other team members i.e. developers, in how they would pressurize you to work and some other negative aspects.

I joined this software company and before a year was up, almost immediately I was put on a live project. I had to undergo training from one of the team members before I could start working. I looked at this as an opportunity to know more about project. So as I got to know about technology, the team mate started expressing his views about other team members i.e. developers, in how they would pressurize you to work and some other negative aspects.

I was sort of concerned now and formed a negative impression about the people on this project. So I made a decision to keep distance with them. Soon it was shocking to see that the team member who told me all these was himself mingling with rest of the team as if all were in good sync. I could not get out of the negative impression I formed initially and so I always felt a bit wary when relating to others.

Same thing happened with another team member, who kept complaining to me that developers (other team members) were mean to us and that they were to blame for the faults. However, he became a loyal dog to them (developers) when they asked him to do something. It was as if they were friends and had good understanding with each other. I was clearly shocked at this double-faced behavior of my co-workers. I would like to know if this type of behavior is common. Also is it me who is stupid in not being able to understand this office behavior?

Signed, Disappointed In Some People

Dear Disappointed In Some People:

Badmouthing gossip is not limited to politics. Unfortunately workplaces are too often sounding boards of discounting coworkers and managers. You ask if this is the way it is? There is no one cause for this. Rather it is both micro and macro. Micro in that some individuals are personally unhappy about their status and they feel up when they can push others down. Macro in that almost all work organizations privilege those above and those below feel put down and/or subtly or overtly join in the power struggle to be privileged.

Your observations are not uncommon; however, there are workplaces in which badmouthing, two-faced and dog-eat behavior is not evident; happy, worker friendly, coworker-supportive, and exciting.¬† As you network with others in your field, hopefully you will learn about such places of work. Until that happens, I’m sure what you have learned not to swallow the gossip of coworkers. Rather, you have observed how dysfunctional is two-faced behavior, and that you need not believe stories that discount others.Our site invites the observations of both the organizational wise and discontented. Consequently, scanning our Q&A archives is an education in organizational politics. Also my associate workplace doctor, Tina Lewis Rowe, has a site in which she opines on ways to make our jobs effective and our workplaces healthy. Click on her name to access them, such as one in which she describes such climate: Ownership, Mountain West Farm Bureau Insurance <http://tinalewisrowe.com/2011/06/09/ownership-mountain-west-farm-bureau-insurance-company-and-you/>

When I toured a wide variety of workplaces, I found his kind of spirit elsewhere.I hope you will find ways to shape a forthright, talk-straight ethic despite the instances you have encountered of the opposite. Stick to the work you are assigned. Focus on supportive communication with those you need to do your work. Ignore gossip and let those, who put down others, know your ears are shut to it. Shift the talk of those who complain to problem solving–in finding appropriate and effective ways to shape the like of work situation they want. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS; if you do that talk-down will be replaced by talk-up.

William Gorden