Humanity seems to have a penchant for wanting to know information that others do not know. It could be as harmless as the score in the Cubs game, outcome of a city council vote, or how did the Jones’ really afford their new Mercedes SUV.   Whatever the topic is, it seems to fuel us as we are now in the position to share this piece of information with someone who may be wanting to find out. However, the type of information we are most interested in hearing or sharing is not political, the current news, or someone’s latest blog or twitter post.  We are often interested in sharing news or feelings about someone that errs closer to the National Enquirer than the BBC – more sensational and less factual.  Teams are significantly hampered in achieving excellence together if this behaviour is allowed to permeate a culture.

It is destructive on many levels.


Great team


Take the following scenario of poor teamwork:

Patrice and Jody work on the ‘continuous improvement team’ at a growing military manufacturing facility in Worcester, Massachusetts. There are 6 other members in this team across 3 different facilities in 2 different states. During a recent meeting that is 15 minutes from completion, Jody excuses herself from the meeting.  As the meeting is wrapping up a subsequent conversation breaks out about Jody with other members of the team and why she left the meeting early. Patrice, who has yet to speak, has a decision to make. If Patrice quietly sits and listens to the conversation about Jody and the speculation as to why she left early he has become part of a culture of supporting disloyalty to the absent.

While Patrice has not demonstrated the courage to hold to the value of being respectful to the absent, he may possess enough loyalty that he will tell Jody later in the day what was said about her and the disappointment they had in her leaving early.

To make matters worse, it is not always verbal.  Technology has enabled us to be bolder, sneakier, and more destructive with our comments about other around us.

I have found in my own experience in business that all of us at times have an innate desire to share disappointing information about another person. It is a toxic mix that is sure to break down a well functioning team. The solution – adopt the value, ‘respectful of the absent’ and encourage accountability across all team members.  This will greatly enhance the building of a team orientated performance culture and passionate employee engagement.

The solution in this case for Patrice is simple.  He could have shared “instead of us speculating on why Jody left early, does anyone want to ask her directly why and encourage her future participation through to the end of meetings.”