One of the jobs I held right after college was with a paining company. It was a small operation and we mostly painted apartments for students around campus. One day, a guy who had been with the company much longer than myself began to complain about the equipment and pointed out several problems with the way things were run with the company. After listening to him for a few hours, another employee said some of the same things, leading me to believe it was true. I engaged in the conversation but it was clearly the wrong choice.
At the end of the week, I went to get my paycheck and the owner of the company confronted me because he said he heard I was saying bad things about the company. I was embarrassed. I told him about the conversations on the job site and he told me if I ever wanted to know something, I could ask him myself rather than get second hand information from others. That day I realized the words I heard and repeated from a coworker caused unnecessary strife on my job.
Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. (Proverbs 26:20 NKJV)
If you are having strife when relating to or working with others on your job, find the talebearer. Talebearers are the source. A talebearer is literally someone who bears a tale. They carry stories. They share what they hear because it’s exciting to them like fire. It’s always news that’s “hot off the presses”. These are the individuals who share tidbits of information in the halls that derail your meetings. Their tales make it more difficult to trust others because tales hurt their character or degrades their image in our eyes.
To get rid of strife, neutralize the talebearer. Here are some steps to help you.
Resist second hand information. When someone begins to tell you second hand information, stop them. You don’t have to listen to them and allow them to shape your thoughts and feelings about coworkers and teammates. This will let the talebearer know their information isn’t welcomed.
Confront the talebearer. When someone brings you second hand information, ask them if they have spoken with the people they’ve named. Ask them what they did to try to help the situation. This holds the talebearer accountable for what they’ve said.
Go to the source. If you have been given second hand information, go privately to the person involved. Share what you’ve heard and ask for clarity. Be sure to also name the talebearer. In the end, it will increase the trust between yourself and the person who is the subject of the tale.
Encourage others to do the same. The more people you have resisting the talebearers in your organization, the easier it will be to get rid of strife. You will collectively create an environment where truth, honestly, integrity, and accountability flourish.
What are some other ways to neutralize talebearers?