I Mike and Mark,

Great podcast! I will be using your recommendations here at my workplace.

And I would like to suggest one additional recommendation on stopping gossip: Teach your directs how to give their own feedback. 

By coaching your directs how to give feedback first-hand you would:

  1. be multiplying what you know
  2. stop the gossip sooner
  3. free up your time to do the job you have been paid to do



jhack's picture

The feedback model is not universal;  you have power over your directs that your directs do not have over their peers.  You cannot give feedback (according to the model in the podcast) except to your directs.  

There is a podcast on the "peer feedback model."   Teaching it to your directs may have benefits, although not to stem the tide of gossip.   Your directs should learn to ignore / remain silent / walk away from gossip.  That's their best strategy.   

John Hack

mkeithley's picture
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Mike & Mark:

I relly enjoyed your recent podcast on Gossip and do have to agree with your prediction that years from now this cast would be remembered for its discussion about Policies as it was for Gossip.  With the recent Reed Hastings Netflix slides fresh in my mind, i have been reassessing the use of policies.  Then when i heard this cast it really threw me into a tailspin because what you say makes so much sense. 

The thing that really has me thinking is why do we set policies?  And more often than not, the policies are not universally enforced or updated. Please do a cast on Manager Tools recommendations on policies - set no policy - as soon as possible.

Thanks in advance,

Michael Keithley




bffranklin's picture
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I don't want to speak for Mark and Mike, but I think the message was more to not set policies to address individual behaviors that you are responsible for and have an opportunity to correct or encourage on a regular basis.  This also necessitates that as a manager you have a good idea of what behaviors you want out of your direct.

In Information Security efforts we are legally bound to have policies written about the steps that we take to protect data.  Let's throw out the fact that it's legally mandated for sake of argument.  If I had an org full of MT managers, I'm positive I wouldn't need a policy to communicate whether or not you're allowed to email yourself a spreadsheet full of SSNs, because the waterfall of communication from the top would drill this into everyone's head as an organizational imperative.  In reality, the security domain is large and byzantine, and the rules often seem arbitrary to individuals that don't understand it.

A well written policy is a great tool for a) communicating the original source documents that necessitate this seemingly arbitrary rule (it's not me, it's HIPAA), b) in plain language communicating exactly what the desired behavior is, c) communicating who to talk to if the policy is getting in the way of a business need (never give a hard no if you're in a service role and move away from a weak form of communication to a rich form), and d) communicate exactly how this policy is going to be tracked or measured, given that it's an organizational necessity.

The key thing is starting from the behavior that you want.  Make it a procedure.  And grow it (and any related procedures) into an effective policy governing a given domain.  A good policy is an organizational playbook that lets you know where to go to find the organizationally decided effective behaviors to deal with a situation that's uncommon for your role.

Just took a look at the Reed Hastings thing you mentioned, and apparently this is pretty consistent with what's in that presentation.  I suppose based on my role, the moral has to be "make policies as effective as possible," not "don't make policies."

Anyway, hope this braindump helps to further discussion on the place of policies and how to make them work effectively.

Tuatara's picture

Two weeks too late :(

Not exactly, but this would have been useful two weeks ago when one persons' gossip had the chance to lead to some pretty serious team damage. It is interesting in hindsite to see how I could have handled it better than I did. Don't get me wrong, the outcome was OK, but just not great. I hate gossip and unfortunately started out by almost shooting the messenger by stating they were as bad as the person instigating the gossip by telling me. They had sworn they would not say who had told them.

Mark and Mike are right in not trying to find out who said what to whom and who started it. That just leads you down rabbit holes you never get out of. As it turns out, after a long discussion with the person telling me, I managed to follow most of the steps, though not in the order stated and quite frankly, more through good luck than anything else, but I'll take it :) .


Thanks guys, at least next time I'll do even better.

JGMadisonW's picture

One effective response I have for that reply (which generally comes when feedback springs from third-party hearsay) is this: 

"You may be right, but I want to be clear that this behavior is not acceptable.  If you aren't behaving this way, then I'm glad and you have nothing to worry about.  But you should know that somebody may have taken you wrong, so you should be careful in how you communicate moving forward.  I'm sure you don't want to be taken wrong."

Good cast . . . I particularly like the distinction between "the policy" and "MY policy," particularly when it comes to behaviors like communication and gossip.

Well done.

chabarang's picture

Poitn well taken. Thank you for reminding me about the peer feedback model.

asteriskrntt1's picture

Gossip, or Loshon Hora (evil speak in the old Testament) was first addressed when G*d calls Moses' sister Miriam and his brother Aaron for an impromptu O3 in the tent of meeting.  Miriam and Aaron get "feedback:" for talking about Moses alleged treatment of his wife Tsipporah (they were not consummating regularly) even though their comments were in now way meant to denigrate Moses..

Miriam was set upon with a plague/disease and had to leave the camp for a month.  Now this wasn't exactly the feedback model but Miriam was asked what she could do differently.  There are now a number of Jewish organizations that work hard to prevent people and corporations from speaking gossip or evil speak.  Those that succeed in doing so are happier and more successful in their careers and relationships.