This common scenario presents itself every single day in the workplace:
Jackie: Did you hear about how Jennifer screwed up that big deal?
Thomas: No I didn’t.
Jackie: Well, yeah, I knew she wasn’t cut out for this position because there were plenty more people who were more dedicated and talented than she was. I guess she got what she deserves.
Thomas: Yeah, I guess you’re right. You see the way she dresses? She looks so slutty.
Jackie: Watch out, here she comes.
Thomas: Good morning, Jennifer. How are you?
Jackie: Hi, Jennifer, how was your vacation? It’s good to have you back.
In the workplace or in life in general, people talk behind other people’s backs usually out of jealousy or because they want to make themselves appear better than the person they are talking about.
Astute people catch on quickly and are able to distinguish the fact that a person who talks about someone else is probably talking about them, too, when they have their backs turned and they simply avoid behind-the-back talkers anyway.
However, some people unknowingly take the negative words said about someone as true and it has the potential to distort the way that co-worker feels about the person who is being disparaged unless it is promptly addressed.
A behind-the-back-talker usually has to deal with his or her own insecurities that stem from something either they missed or was not taught to them during their childhood, or something seriously gone awry in their upbringing. These aren’t necessarily bad people; often times they are simply misguided and have not learned the basic skills of being able to coexist and socialize properly with other people.
If you are reading this and you recognize the fact that you routinely talk negatively about others when they are not in your presence, understand that people who catch on quickly know the game you are playing, and, in their eyes, you are only embarrassing yourself.
To examine how this type of behavior can start, all you need to do is look at your neighborhood elementary school. How many children are bullying others on any given day? These bullies need some redirection and education on how to stop their behavior as well as how to help others who are being bullied.
Sadly, even though this has reached epidemic proportions in the United States resulting in kids committing suicide because they can’t deal with the humiliation, few parents take the time to focus on this problem even when their own son or daughter is the one committing the bullying.
There are two different approaches taken by people who bully others; the indirect approach and the direct approach.
In the indirect approach, these people tend to talk behind another person’s back by spreading rumors or other false information. Sometimes the information they spread is actually true but they do it in such a manner to belittle or degrade that particular person in the eyes of others.
In the direct approach, they will flat-out try to embarrass you right in front of your boss or coworkers by putting you down and rehashing unfavorable things that have happened to you in the past. They may do it in a nasty manner or even a playful way; regardless, it’s completely improper and you will stand for none of it!
If someone is talking behind your back indirectly, how will you know? Sometimes, your gut will tell you, “That person is talking behind my back,” and other times, you will hear it from someone who comes forward with the information.
People most susceptible to behind-the-back-talking in the workplace are those in supervisory positions for obvious reasons.
Now that you have an idea of why people are talking behind your back, in Part 2 of this installment, we will examine exactly how to handle this tactfully.