The difference between telling and tattling is in your intentions, entrepreneur Scott Huntington writes. At work, tattling is a form of manipulation used to draw attention to others’ faults so you look better in comparison; telling is when you’re sincerely concerned about another person’s actions negatively affecting the organization.
If you’re unhappy with a co-worker’s behavior and aren’t sure whether reporting the person would be telling or tattling, Huntington suggests you ask yourself these four questions.
- Is someone being blatantly unprofessional? That can include violating the company’s sexual harassment policy, stealing or doing something else that’s unethical or illegal. It doesn’t include forgetting to put a cup in the dishwasher or spending a few minutes discussing sports around the water cooler.
- Do you have all the facts? You shouldn’t report someone’s bad behavior if you’ve only heard about it through the grapevine. If you do witness problems first-hand, be sure to write down dates and details so you have plenty of concrete evidence before you speak up.
- Could the company’s reputation be on the line? It’s a real problem if someone is being rude to customers or failing to provide them with an appropriate level of service. If someone’s behavior could affect the company’s image, it might make sense to speak up about it.
- Is someone ruining the work environment for others? An employee demonstrating unsavory or inappropriate behaviors drains energy, creates stress and lowers productivity. It’s worthwhile to report these sorts of problems so they can be corrected to the benefit of your co-workers and the company as a whole.
— Adapted from “When Should You Tell Your Boss About a Coworker’s Inappropriate Office Behavior?” Scott Huntington, Brazen Life.