January 28, 2009

“Don’t Tell Tales” especially at work

When I was about eight years old the girl that sat next to me at school was a cheat. When working I’d look over to see her writing out the questions, then flicking to a page at the back of the book (it was bookmarked with a pencil) and copying out the answer! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was a bit of a goody good and would never have done that – mainly because I’d be so scared of being told off, but also because I knew the difference between right and wrong. Not one to miss a beat, I immediately stood up, grabbed the book and went to line up at the teacher’s desk to tell her this girl was cheating. Upon telling the teacher she shouted “ALLISON DON’T YOU TELL TALES”. Her reaction pretty much said she’d prefer people to cheat than to ‘tell tales’ – never mind the fact that what I was saying was 100% true. I still think cheating is much worse than ‘telling tales’! I embarrassedly walked back to my desk and wondered what the hell I’d done wrong! Anyway, this girl carried on her ‘work’ and that was that.

Telling tales happens in the workplace too. I recall one case where Katrina* wanted Rebecca’s* hours. Katrina had only worked there a few weeks and Rebecca had worked there for three years. Katrina decided to tell the boss that Rebecca was slacking off, breaking rules and stealing. The boss responded by making sure he was there to oversee Rebecca’s entire shifts to make sure she was actually working. Rebecca scratched her head thinking “hmmm he hasn’t had a problem with me until now” and she quit. She was mighty peeved that the boss took some newbies word over hers after all she’d done for the place. The boss wasn’t insightful enough to see the situation for what it was – deceitful and fabricated; Katrina was trying to get what she wanted with dirty tactics.

Before supervising a previously wonderful staff member get your facts straight. Katrina had no proof anyway! What telling tales situations have you experienced in your time as the boss? How did you deal with them and how would you deal differently with them in the future? Ponder a way to make telling tales obsolete – either don’t hire liars or ensure the culture is open enough to withstand intense team discussions when issues arise.

*not their real names.

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