Justice Is Doing Your Time Once: 4 Approaches to Gossip

I have a professional acquaintance, David, who spent a number of years in prison for a action he has regretted every moment since his crime. While there was a financial loss for the victims, there was fortunately no serious physical injury or loss of life involved. He never excused his one-time action (nor do I) and did not plead innocence. And he will pay for his action in a multitude of ways for the rest of his natural life. Today, he works hard and helps others make a better life. He rarely brings up his prison experience and does not want to be defined by it.

In a company I recently worked with, there is an employee, Lindsay, who models everything her manager could desire – great attitude, hard-working, team player and creative thinker. However, several years ago Jenny habitually abused alcohol and lost her previous job after an inebriated shouting match with her boss. While Alcoholics Anonymous sometimes cautions members about regrets, Lindsay has many, and she focuses today on making each moment an opportunity to do the best she can in her personal and professional life. Some of her peers still gossip about the past incidents and Lindsay’s current supervisor wonders how to address the issue.

Gossip is never killed, but a team can make sure that there is little likelihood of Lindsay having to do any more time:

  • Refuse to participate in any discussion about the incident or offense, except as the person chooses to interject it in the discussion.
  • Keep your own positive attitude and avoid the “gossip clique” at the water cooler or hangout.
  • Be direct with others – “Lindsay has paid the price and I respect her work” or “if you have a specific issue with Jenny, talk with her about it.”
  • Encourage the Lindsay’s of the world with what you see in the present tense. She did her time and she merits your support

This last point is critical, in my experience. Justice is not just something dispensed by a court of law – it is provided everyday by each of us. The more that we can help people do their time once, especially in our work environment, the more we can help each of us to find our own redemption in a decidedly imperfect world.