What Do They Say?

I haven’t written in this blog for almost three years, even though there has been plenty to write about (and then some)! I struggled to find a way to move it forward, but have recently been inspired by some great blogs and podcasts, by awesome people on Twitter, and by a respected colleague who is moving forward in her own blog journey.

I also recently made a public commitment to write two blog posts per month, so hopefully that will help. If you’re reading this blog and you notice that it’s been more than two weeks between posts, please feel free to leave me a comment and hold me to it!

Something I’ve been thinking about lately is how people talk about one another and what it says about organizational culture. First, I count my lucky stars that I’m in an organization that immediately stood out as a place where respectful language is the norm. Regardless of to whom I’m talking, there is an underlying current of professional respect and regard, which influences all conversations.

sketch-3042584_1920But how do you know? If you are in a meeting with others, and the following people are mentioned, what is the tone? Positive, negative, or neutral? What if there is frustration about an action or direction that’s been taken by the person? Do staff engage in shared, public complaining or can they discuss the issue but maintain respectful language when discussing a situation– even though the person is not in the room?

  • Organization leaders
  • Lateral colleagues
  • Others in the organization

The healthiest organizations are those in which people speak respectfully of others even when it’s unlikely that the person would ever know what was said. This type of organizational culture fosters an atmosphere of trust because, as our mothers always said, “Anyone who talks behind someone’s back would do the same to you.”

Supposedly, negative gossip can serve as a form of social glue. We’ve all experienced that phenomenon, but I would argue that respectful language is even more bonding because you can feel confident that just as people are speaking respectfully about others, so they will likely speak about you. 

What can you do to foster this level of professional respect in your own organization? Choose to always speak about others in a respectful manner. You may be just one person, but you can help turn the tide and steer the ship towards the light.



4 thoughts on “What Do They Say?

  1. education468190867

    As a member of your work community, I’m so glad that you feel that respectful is our norm! I agree — and am always amazed to know that it isn’t like that everywhere. And good for you for getting your blog going again — I will be an eager reader!

    1. aliciaduell

      It’s a funny thing, but I’m glad that I’ve had different experiences. It makes the positive really stand out, and serves as a good reminder that creating healthy workplace environments is worth the effort! Thanks for the comment!

  2. Andrew

    Hey Alicia,

    I enjoyed reading this post. It is good, in a way, to have a few negative experiences with workplace gossip or just simply working alongside negative people. I have to say that I have been terrified of ending up like some of the toxic people I have worked with in the past, and this made me catch myself whenever I started to go down the road of complaining or negativity. At the same time, I had (and have) an enormous amount of respect for some of the positive and energetic veterans who were my seniors.

    For me, participating in or even listening to gossip is like eating junk food. It might feel good in the moment but it’s never healthy to do long term. And even though this sort of thing is toxic enough that admin should deal with it, the foot soldiers at the ground level can also do their part. So everyone is responsible.

    Good luck and keep posting!

    1. aliciaduell

      Hi Andrew,
      Thank you so much for the very thoughtful comment! I completely agree with and relate to your observations. It can feel good to be included in gossip, like you said it’s kind of like junk food, but too much of it leaves me with an empty feeling. I agree also that it’s helpful to have had a negative experience with this kind of thing. When I was going through it, I started realizing that almost everyone had negative things to say about everyone else… which made me finally realize that they were probably talking about me, too! So it really feels good to just let that stuff wash over me now, and not engage. Taking the high road feels pretty good :). Thanks again for reading and commenting!

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