Why bitching in the workplace should be taken more seriously

Unfortunately, whilst we were led to believe as we grew up childish behaviour such as talking behind people’s backs would get less and less and whilst we also believed that it certainly wouldn’t happen, let alone be tolerated, in the workplace – we were wrong!

However, I don’t believe we should have been wrong. Talking behind people’s backs in a negative manner or ‘bitching’ is, in my opinion, one of the most unprofessional things you can do – it proves immaturity, an inability to face up to difficult situations (important in many businesses), a lack of backbone or morals, and an inability to work with others (important in all businesses), as well as proving yourself to be untrustworthy.

Now, I don’t just mean your standard vent “ugh, Mr X said he’d get something to me by 3pm and it’s now 5pm and he’s still not done it.” We all get the pressures of tight deadlines and those little roadblocks that get in our way. That is likely to cause frustration and understandable to have a minute to vent. However, saying “Ugh, Mr X said he’d get something to me by 3pm and it’s now 5pm and he’s still not done it – he’s a lazy worker and rarely completes any project on time.” That is a line crossed.

Why? Because you’ve moved away from the base issue, Mr X has failed to meet an agreed deadline and caused undue stress, and moved towards personal and professional slander “he’s a lazy worker” “he rarely completes any project on time”.

If you feel that a worker is proving to be lazy, consistently missing deadlines, or doesn’t work well with you these things should be addressed to either

  • your line manager for them to bring up in a more official manner
  • their line manager for them to address
  • Or it could well be conversation between you and Mr X to find out why he missed the deadline.

However, it should never be a conversation with anyone else and should be 100% confidential, otherwise we do move towards slander.

Slander (or, defamation) is the action or crime of making a false, spoken statement that can be damaging to a person’s reputation (not to be confused with libel, which is a written statement).

Unfortunately, here is where the issue lays – the word ‘false’. The problem with bitching is that it is very difficult to prove, firstly, that it has even been said and can become a case of ‘he said, she said’ so to prove truthfulness is difficult. Secondly, in its context here, what they’re saying must be false and it can be very difficult to prove that it is not true when it comes to personal opinions. It is easier to disprove statements made in the media such as “Mr X stabbed and murdered Mrs X” when actually, the Court has ruled he did not. But to disprove ‘“Mr X is a lazy worker” says Colleague 1’ is much harder. So, unfortunately, it is understandable why, often, cases of workplace bitching go unpunished.

However, in cases where people have admitted wrong doing or where clear evidence can be given then there is, I believe, no reason that this should not be a serious offence where disciplinary action can be taken. As I mentioned above it shows many negative traits that are not desirable among your employees, however what it also does is put someone’s personal and professional reputation into disrepute. By stating to colleagues that Mr X is ‘lazy’ it creates a reputation for him among others, whether conscious or not, that next time he misses a deadline, rather than speaking to Mr X and getting to the route of the problem, as should be expected, they will make an assumption that it is because he is lazy, because that’s what Colleague 1 said.


photo credit to Keep Calm o’ Matic

This is a problem not just for Mr X and his personal and professional reputation but also for the colleague that made the assumption and for the business because it means that if Mr X is, for instance, struggling with his workload, having personal problems that are affecting his work life or is poorly trained, these issues are not being found out and addressed so they continue. Mr X’s reputation can then begin to precede him to the point it is likely he will move on from the job, therefore the business loses a possibly very valuable employee and incurs costs for recruitment, or he will remain unhappy, demotivated and disenfranchised.

This can also end up with negative effects on the business as it is likely Mr X will begin to dislike his job and complain about it externally, or even internally, and thus we begin a vicious cycle of bitching that can lead to business reputation damage.

So, this brings me to why there is a clear case for it to be considered for disciplinary action. Not only has this person committed slander, professionally and personally, not only have they proven themselves to be an untrustworthy employee who doesn’t work well with others or solve difficult situations, they have also put the business in danger of reputational damage. As this article from The Telegraph states, gross misconduct, which is a sackable offence, is “conduct which brings or is likely to bring the business into disrepute.”

Conduct, such as slanderous behaviour, as I have shown, can well bring the business into disrepute. I believe we should begin to amend this to ‘conduct which brings or is likely to bring the business, its colleagues, associates or third parties into disrepute’ – because at the end of the day those we work with, for and beside reflect on a businesses reputation as much as the business itself and it is time we reflect that in our misconduct policies.

Furthermore, it is also to be considered workplace bullying – this statement by Gov.UK is a fine example of how bitching about someone on a personal level should be considered workplace bullying.

Bullying and harassment is behaviour that makes someone feel intimidated or offended. Harassment is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010.

Examples of bullying or harassing behaviour include:

  • spreading malicious rumours
  • unfair treatment
  • picking on someone
  • regularly undermining a competent worker
  • denying someone’s training or promotion opportunities

Now, I don’t know about you, but any time I have had people speak behind my back I have felt very offended, so a massive tick there. It also makes the person bitched about feel very uncomfortable and this can lead to feel intimidated, for instance, if the person bitching is in a higher position or has been in the company longer. It can also make other colleagues feels uncomfortable, for instance those that work closely with Mr X or like him. Furthermore, spreading malicious rumours gets a big tick – rumour is defined as ‘circulating a story or report of uncertain or doubtful truth.’ therefore, going hand in hand with my slander argument.

Whilst I appreciate it can be hard to prove and there are many intricacies, I believe if someone admits to bitching in the workplace or there is clear evidence of wrongdoing there is no reason that this should not be considered a warning offence, if nothing else. We don’t tolerate it among our schools, so why our workplaces? It’s time to make a change.



23 Things I Learnt at 23: Lesson 10 – I am stronger and more determined than I realised

I am ambitious, driven, and stronger than I ever thought – this has served me well over the last year.

affirm your lifephoto credit to Affirm Your Life

I don’t even know where to start with this one. I have learnt this over and over again throughout the year, consistently seeing more and more what I am capable of dealing with and where I can go. My ambition and drive has been tested professionally through my 23rd year, and I have made myself proud by proving that I can work and work hard despite diminished motivation, I can continue to drive myself forward based on my ambition and I have been relieved in the latter part of my 23rd year to see it pay off and to then see my ambition continue to grow.

My strength has been tested both professionally and personally, I lasted a year with continued fight in a job that made me unhappy, I did not give up until there was no more to do. And I have been strong in the decisions I have made, in not bending when others have told me to, in my conviction, and in my desire to have something that I believe was meant for me, despite the many obstacles along the way. I have proven how far I have come from a year ago when I felt like the smallest thing might break me to now having dealt with one of the hardest years of my life and continuing on regardless.

Catch up with my other lessons under the ‘In My Opinion’ section.

23 Things I Learnt at 23: Lesson Nine – Mistakes are more important to make than successes

Mistakes are more important to make than successes.

phobia wikiphoto credit to Phobia Wiki

We learn more from our mistakes than we do from our success, I truly believe that and while I still struggle with the idea of making a mistake (perfectionism is definitely my downfall) every single big lesson I have learnt, or major realisation made, has been brought about by something that would be considered a mistake.

This makes me wonder, should the word mistake be redefined? It may be an error but is anything truly wrong if positives occur as a result? We all make mistakes, it is human, it’s the reason rubbers exist and the backspace button on a keyboard, it’s the reason lawyers exist, and it’s the reason anyone ever learns a darn thing. Successes are great and I’m not denying we learn from them, but no one ever had a life changing epiphany from doing something perfectly first time.

Maybe 24 will be the year I relish my mistakes now that I have seen their worth.

Catch up with the rest of my lessons in the ‘In My Opinion’ tab

23 Things I Learnt at 23 – Lesson Eight: Eating animal products in great quantity isn’t necessary

Eating animal products in great quantity is unnecessary and unethical, but I will always believe in moderation of all things.

I do not wish to offend vegans or meat-eaters, as contradicting as it may seem, I consider myself to be both. I am what I call a ‘part-time vegan’. Why? Well, force really. I have a kidney condition which means I have to avoid protein and salt, something many animal products are high in, so a few years ago I was advised by health specialists to become vegan as often as possible, whilst maintaining my general health.

the vegan societyphoto credit to The Vegan Society

This has been a huge challenge but one that has made me learn an awful lot about diet and myself. I have coped better than I ever imagined cutting out animal products, which if you knew me as a meat-eater you would be just as surprised by. I used to believe a meal was incomplete or not as tasty without meat, I now think that in a lot of cases the addition of meat is unnecessary and actually, often makes us lazy in our meal choices.

Becoming vegan has opened me up to the joys of products like vegan soft cheese, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, tahini, vegan chocolate, avocado spaghetti (which is not spaghetti made from avocado), tofu curry, and vegan mayo which is fluffy, vinegary goodness that everyone should at least give a go. It has opened me up to new ways of baking, and it has done wonders for my health, and I don’t just mean kidney’s. I get less bloated, I sleep better, my skin is clearer and I’m happier – an unexpected but great consequence.

But more than that, it has made me think about how much damage we do to the environment, to our bodies and to the poor animals sacrificed for food and the resulting waste. It makes me realise that although I began this for health reasons I do believe that ethics now come in for me. However, I would never cut it all out completely because I have also seen, when I have been a bit too ‘good’ the downsides, the tiredness, the low immune system, the sudden weight loss, the frail hair and nails – we need meat but not anywhere near the quantities we have it in. Moderation is key.

Related articles:
Medical professional must take notice of mental health during chronic illness diagnosis
Learning to live with an invisible illness: my battle with MSK
Catch up with the rest of my 23 lessons in ‘In My Opinion’ 

23 Things I Learnt at 23 – Lesson Seven: Standby your decisions

I have learnt to standby my decisions, even if they upset others – my happiness matters more than their idea of how I should be happy.

legal allsorts

photo credit to legal allsorts

Making a difficult decision is hard enough, but learning to stand by it when someone is telling you you’re wrong or making a mistake is one of the hardest things I had to do at 23. But it’s taught me to assess the decisions I make before I make them so I know I am sure, and it has taught me to be strong and confident in the decisions I make, which is useful for many parts of life and something I don’t intend to forget any time soon.

I made a point during Brexit that no matter how anyone voted as long as they remained consistently confident and sure of their decision then it would at least make everything worthwhile. The funny thing is, it wasn’t until months later I found myself taking inspiration from myself – I made a decision that many made clear they did not approve of or agree with but at the end of the day, I have to make decisions that I believe are right and which make me happy, as long as I stand by that and continue to stand by it then nothing I decide can be wrong by my own happiness and success. After all, if I let someone else make a decision for me and it goes wrong then I am the one that has to deal with it, not them.

This lesson also did another thing for me too, it highlighted the people that have my interests at heart and who truly love and trust me. Interestingly as well, those who had originally been skeptical or against my decision have changed their minds now and see that I made the right call. Worth remembering.

Read the rest:
Lesson Six: I would rather have a handful of good friends than lots of bad ones
Lesson Five: Every problem can be resolved by talking about it
Lesson Four: I cannot drink like I used to
Lesson Three: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you
Lesson Two: Don’t judge the decisions of others
Lesson One: We spend too much time at work to hate it

23 Things I Learnt at 23 – Lesson Six: I would rather have a few good friends than tonnes of bad ones

I would rather have a handful of friends I trust with my life than tonnes that I cannot

I learnt this as I believe everyone does, the hard way. And whilst I can say that 22 was the year I was forced to realise, it has been at 23 that I have begun to come to terms with it. Despite the difficulty of losing friends and those you thought you could count on, I think it made me realise the people who are really important and I think this makes the good friendships even stronger. It also makes a huge difference to confidence and happiness when you surround yourself with people who are determined to lift you up, help you grow and make you happy, than those who care more for their own ends than yours. Although it can be hard saying goodbye to people that you have known for a long time, or who you care about, it is in the end a decision that you will be glad you made.


photo credit to indiacelebrating.com

Catch up with my last five lessons my heading over to My Opinion or, read a related story below:

What do you do when a friendship breaks down

23 Things I Learnt at 23 – Lesson 5: all problems can be solved by talking

I will always believe that every problem can be fixed if calmly and rationally discussed.

I am a talker, in every sense of the word. Something I have yet to learn is in fact when to shut up (perhaps that might come next year). But I will always be the person that thinks a few drinks (whilst remembering lesson four) and an honest conversation based on rationality and empathy can fix most problems if both parties are willing. There is not one mistake I have made or one problem I have had that I do not think could still be solved if talked through.

When I say solved I don’t necessarily mean that things will be ‘happily ever after’, but closure can be achieved in almost any situation if only we could just talk it out. However, this year I am learning that when that isn’t possible I must learn to cope with it and find closure in a different way, because as much as I believe in calm and rational discussion, not everyone would agree and not every situation allows for it.


photo credit to quotesjunk.com

Read lessons 1-4 below:

Lesson Four: I can no longer drink like I used to

Lesson Three: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

Lesson Two: Don’t judge the decisions of others

Lesson One: You spend too much time at work to hate it