Words Can Heal


“Watching Your Words at the Water Cooler” – Part I

Good people gossip because they don’t realize the harm their words can do. People who would never steal, stab a friend in the back, nor undermine another’s career, will repeat rumors and innuendos around the water cooler because they think that it’s innocent banter, harmless chitchat.

In fact, gossip has the lethal power of a terrorist’s bullets; gossip can ruin lives, and the person who “shoots” words of gossip has no idea how far they will travel nor where they will land. If we treated our speech with as much care as we would treat a loaded gun, so much damage would be avoided.

For example, a joke about how much Eve loves to chat with her sister in Hawaii on the office phone may not be amusing when it reaches the ears of the manager in charge of keeping overhead low.

Moreover, statements tend to get distorted as they get repeated (a la “telephone”). An off-hand remark about how Ken pilfers paper clips and envelopes from the company, by the time it reaches the boss, may metamorphose into “Ken embezzles from the company.”

WCH received the following letter from a woman we’ll call Jennifer. As you read it, pay careful attention to whom the real culprit was who sabotaged Jennifer’s career.

The Impact of Gossip on My Career

I was 23 and two years out of college and up for a promotion at work. On a firm "golf day" one of the partners – “X” – made several very public passes at me. I thought I handled the humiliation fairly graciously.

The next week in the hall several men made passing comments – comments alluding to my complicity with those advances. That same week my expected promotion was rejected.

I appealed to the managing partner and he simply told me a story of how “X” had created a similar situation in another city and the firm had transferred him to mine. I was told that I was more expendable than “X.” It was all because of the rumors that I had slept with this man! The firm wanted to be sure I wasn't sleeping my way to the top. No one bothered to ask me to confirm or deny the gossip. My salary and my career track both suffered. Though several female partners rallied around me, I left the firm in less than a year.

“X” rose to managing partner and still heads the firm 20 years later. He makes generous donations to non-profits with which I am associated, though we have never spoken since. A few words changed my entire post collegiate plan.

A Loaded Gun...

If you analyze this true story carefully, you’ll see that while “X” is the miscreant guilty of sexual harassment, Jennifer’s career was not derailed by “X” but rather by the gossip her fellow employees spoke about her and “X.”

· “It was all because of the rumors...”

· “A few words changed my entire post collegiate plan.”

What is so sad about this story — and millions like it — is that the people who spoke the gossip which sabotaged Jennifer’s promotion were probably good, decent people who liked Jennifer and meant her no harm.

Next time you’re chatting at work, and about to repeat a negative comment or joke about a fellow employee, STOP AND REMEMBER THAT YOU’RE HANDLING A LOADED GUN.

Source: Brought to you by www.verticalresponse.com Visit www.WordsCanHeal.org for more ideas on how to heal with words. And spread the word! Send this message out today -- together we can make a difference!

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