Speech at work

Truthfulness can be a casualty of the working environment. I have heard of one secretary who quit her job because she couldn’t bear lying to cover for her boss. There is often pressure to exaggerate good news and withhold bad news in reporting results. In providing references for an employee one wishes to see gone, it is tempting to answer questions evasively. Sometimes the difference between keeping positive and becoming delusional shrinks. Just telling the truth is a most useful guideline.

If you work with others, there is also the danger of divisive speech. It seems an ordinary sport to gossip and cause divisions among people if we speak without care. Over time, I’ve learned to catch myself (at least some of the time) when remarking on the shortcomings of others. Usually, either nothing needs to be said, or the thought can be gently rephrased. Mistakes can be put into the context of all the things that were done right. It could be noted that the specific strengths of a particular person are not well suited to the task at hand.

Harsh speech is acceptable in some workplaces, but on the whole I’d say it is not welcome and casts a negative pall over the surroundings. We can refrain from harsh, loud, or abrasive speech ourselves and can speak up when others use unacceptable language in our presence. I think it is particularly important, if sometimes awkward, to respond to racial or ethnic denegrations by saying something like, “I’m not comfortable with that sort of talk”, or “I don’t appreciate your talking about other people like that”.

Useless, frivolous speech is allowed in most workplaces. It may even act as a catalyst for better working relationships. However, it would be wise to watch for where casual speech crosses comfortable boundaries, wandering into the too-personal or too speculative areas. Fortunately, you can usually either change the subject to something work related or just get back to work yourself.

It is noteworthy that gentle and kind speech can cast a positive glow onto any workplace. I’ve been a slow learner on this myself, but there a a few friends who always have an encouraging word for others, and guess what? Everyone likes them!

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
This entry was posted in Livelihood, Speech. Bookmark the permalink.

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