The Financial Express

Workplace whispering

Beware of workplace demons!

K.M. Ali | Published: November 30, 2018 20:17:27

Beware of workplace demons!

Is your workplace infested with corporate cockroaches? Let me be a little straight. Is your workplace psychologically safe from the verbal bites of some crooked creatures? Have you ever experienced any discomfort within the hierarchy, especially at the top, due to an adverse campaign being done against you by an invisible force? Or say use of unofficial power and authority by a coworker of lower rank overriding your official authority to destabilise your work plan and performance? Or say in an extreme case last time your well-deserved promotion opportunity got washed away due to negative feedback by some to the boss at the last minute?

This, of course, depends on the varying levels of intimacy with your direct boss or the super boss at the far end corner office. Let me once again enlarge the subject a little more and go into the details. There is one most talked-about living organism or virus which is pervasive in its presence across any organisation. This virus is popularly known as Kan Katha in Bangla (Whispering). Kan Katha is presented in a manner that makes it very juicy. Interestingly though, most CXO level executives and board members cannot resist the temptation of listening to a whisperer and fall easy prey to such campaigners as they receive it sandwiched with flattery. By default, the whisperers become the virtual voice and decision makers of the organisation. These whisperers work on the weak spots of the boss and deliver him or her some twisted information spicing it up in their own way to safeguard their vested interests. This drives the boss crazy in an instant flash. The whispering materials are delivered safely of course, in your absence.

In Bangladesh, the current Corporate Management Bosses are mostly descendants of their founding fathers who inherited the organisations' wealth along with their vices. Surely, one such key vice or virus as you may call it, is the prevalence of Kan Katha that has a make or break role in both the strategic and operational matters of the organisation. This Kan Katha is poured into the ears of the owners in private by the age-old and trusted survivors of the company's historical past. This is done in a manner that makes the status quo prevail at any cost regardless of its highly-negative consequences at times. As a result, any bid to introduce new ideas or fresh initiative by any falls flat prematurely to the detriment of the organisation's wellbeing, interest and growth.

Normally, what we see is the decision making authority of an organisation is passed on to the hands of the sons and daughtersof the founding fathers. In many cases, they are not so experienced, efficient or intelligent enough for which it becomes a compelling matter for them to depend on their buddies and flatterers who hang around them for most parts of the day. Even at night the reports continue to get transmitted by these invisible operators being the only trusted source. They are actually wolves in sheep's' clothing. These operators are dishonest, old-fashioned and rigid in maintaining age-old practices.

As a result, the activities of the organisation get stalled when confronted with a stiff competition in the market place. They repeat the same old and failed activity again and again with apparent disdain for realities and opportunities. If anybody dares to do anything new, he or she is silenced immediately and a plot is hatched to make sure that he or she gets thrown out of the organisation in due course. Sometimes, they anticipate a threat for which they mix facts with the fiction to damage or disgrace a potential new beginner.

Workplace whisperers are actually mental tormentors and they are described by many as cultural cockroaches. They are the organisation's pets whose daily dose of advisory support to super bosses becomes a key factor in the running of the company's affairs.

We all agree that whispering to exclude, damage or disgrace another person-whether the person himself is present or not-never has a place in the office environment. But that is just a thinking whereas the realities are just opposite. A handful of people, responsible for constant whispering, need to be tackled by the line supervisor or Human Resources Department through direct feedback and reprimand. The consequences of such whispering can lead to employees' resentment or disengagement in addition to repetitive recruitment costs.

On the other side, in cases where whispering is genuinely needed, such as to quickly inform a coworker that a button of his shirt is open, it is considered all right. Announcing someone's personal information to a group is not respectful and anyone would not appreciate a whisper about such matters.

Another form of Kan Katha is Gossip, a kind of informal conversation about others' private life which may be unkind or not true. A coworker brings a juicy piece of report about someone at work. It's too juicy to keep to yourself and the next thing you know it is sent with an excitement right throughout the office. But the inevitable condemnation that follows can only have negative consequences for the person being whispered about. And it's worth thinking about the age-old proverb: 'Who gossips to you will gossip about you.'

It is common knowledge that to talk about others is a human nature- to be curious, to analyse and to form opinions of people. Management specialists say the workplace is simply a collection of human beings, each bringing his or her own anxieties, complexes, interpersonal issues and projections into the mix with differing values, principles and backgrounds. As a result, some people may feel uncomfortable and not so confident.

People love to gossip about their company, their colleagues and their managers. Sometimes, a partial truth can be turned into a whole truth about the company's future, whether someone will get fired or what other employees are doing in their personal lives.

Managers, normally overlook employee gossip - or worse, participate. In an organisation, managers often struggle with insubordination and passive-aggressive behaviours from their direct reports or peers, especially in a new role.

Ganging Up behaviour adopted by many to tear down a colleague emotionally through unjustified accusation, humiliation, general harassment and emotional abuse is a fairly common practice. These are directed at the target under a cover of lies and justifications, those remain hidden to others and very difficult to prove.

Now the last words. Already a nickname is given to these whisperers as the Company's Informal Auditors (CIA) whose job is to fill in the information flannel by giving it enough twists and turns so eagerly sought by the bosses of the organisation. These are apparently harmless but dangerously harmful actually in the end for both the company and the person being whispered about. Here ignorance is not bliss. Rather, it is a curse which the bosses are unaware of.

The writer is currently serving as a CEO in a reputed organisation. He is one of the most experienced CEOs of the country. He occasionally writes on various aspects of corporate life in English dailies.


Share if you like