The practice of occupational Health and Safety strives to keep employees safe at work.
Most of the time, this focus is on the physical workplace environment. We apply hazard recognition, risk assessment and control strategies for reducing and eliminating the number material or tactile incidents that cause harm to our colleagues and co-workers. As Human Resources professionals, it is our legal and moral obligation to ensure that preventative measures are in place to make people feel and be safe from harm when doing their jobs.
How do we apply this same level of care and control to psycho-social hazards, such as bullying, backbiting and gossiping in the workplace?
Glen Rolfsen explores a practical approach to dealing with toxic culture that comes from the very real practice of workplace bullying in this TedTalk.
As Rolfsen states, backbiting, or the spreading of gossip, is a form of bullying. People have been doing it for centuries. Why? Our basic self-interests come into play as gossiping about others seems to elevate ourselves and makes us appear more interesting to others. This may be true, but the negative impact on those others as a result of this type workplace bullying is as tangible as any type of physical workplace hazard.
Following a sound Health and Safety model, Rolfsen provides us with a three pronged tool for controlling the hazard of negative backbiting in the workplace. Before articulating negative gossip about others, he encourages us to apply the triple filter test and ask the questions: Is it true? Is it good? Is it useful? If the answer to any of these three questions is no, the solution is easy – stop talking. Stop spreading rumours, untruths and negative commentary about others.
What is the impact when workplaces stop bullying, backbiting and gossiping? There are positive, tangible results as evidenced by reduced absenteeism and increased productivity. All of these lead to the creation of a healthy workplace where employees can enjoy the feeling of both physical and psychosocial safety.
Rolfsen reminds us, as adults, to be role models for others. He asks us to make a conscious commitment and apply the triple filter test in our daily lives.
The question is there for us to respond in a positive way.
Let’s say yes, for a change.
- When was the last time you gossiped about someone? What was the context?
- How does it feel knowing that you are the target of backbiting and gossip?
- For the next twenty-four hours, practice applying the three filter approach to your own words when commenting about others.
- What would your workplace feel like if there was no backbiting, bullying or gossip?