I’ve never lost sleep over soccer. I’m also not a fan of Suarez, the famous Uruguay footballer. But, his infamous “bite” in the 2014 soccer world cup will be itched in peoples mind for years.
Yes, it was hard to ignore Suarez’s bite as much as it is to ignore the Backbite at the workplace!
In the roles I juggle in life, it reminds me of the backbiting that takes place at work. Aha…I can clearly see the smile on your faces. We must acknowledge that no one is a saint. We have, at one point or another, indulged (and will continue to) in backbiting our colleagues in their absence for a host of reasons. Backbiting as a term is defined as “an unsporting attack from the rear from the blood sport of bearbaiting.” But then, do you really need a definition? We know what it is and how it works.
I used to view the habit of backbiting as a sign of inferiority complex. When you bite behind the scenes, it can never be called brave, for obvious reasons! There are times, however, that it could be an emotional moment of expression rather than planned intent. But today, I have realized that many of episodes of backbiting are nothing but an outpour of something we carry deep in our mind about our peers or friends or relatives. When I see my daughters and their friends enacting the “behind-the-scenes” talking, its huge entertainment value for me. I get this feeling that we must be picking up this habit from a very young age and it never leaves us. All said, in my view, the benefits of backbiting are limited beyond that of feeding the sadistic side of our personality!
Don’t get me wrong as I’m no stranger any more than you are to backbiting. Once, a long time ago, I recall telling my boss (in a closed-door meeting) about a few of my peers. I got so bitchy about my IT Head that I called him incompetent in frustration. Maybe I lost sight of a more politically correct word to explain his “incompetence”. I don’t know what my boss shared with the IT Head but all I knew for sure was that I never got the best in terms of IT system and support till the IT Head left the organisation. I’m sure, however, of either one of these two – he either knew the exact verbatim I had used on him or that I didn’t “love” him much.
All our interactions from that fateful day had a needle in them. I didn’t benefit anything from the attack I carried out on him. All I got was some anxious interactions with him as whenever we spoke, I felt he knew what I thought of him
Leaders and Bitching
It’s inevitable to hear a lot of these unhealthy conversations when I lead teams. There is always somebody talking about the other in a negative light. Sometimes it happens when I solicit feedback but most often than not, the worst scathing attack comes when I haven’t asked for it. Some even have a sophisticated way of packaging it by saying “Boss, I’m going to tell you something below the belt”. I have gotten used to it so much that when I meet some of my colleagues I’m prepared for 30% of the time to be wasted on talking rubbish about other colleagues. Some of them do that just to deflect attention from their own poor performances.
Some of us believe that by having access to the boss we can influence thoughts by feeding negativity about our peers. Little do we realise that the person sitting opposite us is also judging us when we let loose our negative side. In my view, backbiting is not a “one-time” episode – it’s a chronic disease. It never leaves us once we know that we have the boss’s ears. One of my bosses had this unique habit of favouring the first person who complains about the other. So we always used to ‘Q’ up to him to ensure our side of the complaint reached him first. It was a nice “divide and rule” trap which he laid and we suffered till he left the company.
So next time you want to back-bite your colleague/peer, think twice. He or she will also have similar opportunities and it doesn’t take long for karma to bite you back. Remember, the world behind us is so powerful. We don’t have enough presence or power to influence it in our absence. Good luck to you if Backbiting is your second nature!