Case Study: Office Gossip. Do You Act on Rumor or Respect Privacy?

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“Office Gossip. Do you act on rumor or respect privacy?” It was easy for me to make a choice in between the two cases. Gossip is much more palpitating for me, especially gossip about somebody’s private life. It is maybe due to my female nature or maybe due to different attitude towards this matter in my ex Soviet Union culture. After reading the case I felt myself completely in the same shoes with a manager. I respect his hesitation and the “softness” of his leadership style. I know I would feel the same way: totally confused. The particularly relevant details of the case, in my opinion, are pretty simple and, from the first glance, are quite obvious: rumors about one of the key salesperson’s love affair with a client, this person’s feelings and right to privacy together with her right to happiness, and other team members’ attitude towards this issue. I am not sure that the fact that there is no proof for the affair is relevant. There is no smoke without fire. The whole mess and noise around the matter reminds me a lot how this kind of issues were handled in the Soviet Union. People felt obliged to report about immoral behavior to the Communist Party Committee. Than it was a team meeting called to revile publicly “the victim” for such a “bad behavior”. I never believed that this kind of public “execution” had anything to do with intent of improving human nature. Was the intention of it to support the morale or to limit our privacy? I think it just was giving the participants a sense of rightness and satisfying their desire to touch somebody else’s “covert” life. Human nature can’t be changed. There are always moments of weakness and temptation out there as well as reasons justifying our actions in eyes of ourselves and people capable to forgive. But on the other hand, the quantity of divorces sharply increased since unfaithfulness stopped being publicly rebuked. It is not as easy to uncover the real conflict here because there are a lot of different issues involved and all of them are so bundled. The first thing that popped up was how much the company we work for owns us: our urine/blood sample, our emotional life? Does our private life have a real impact on company’s reputation or it is just a form of sanctimony? Do we have to sacrifice our right to be happy in order to be a decent person in eyes of our colleagues, children, and religion? Do we have to follow our own desires or we have to comply with public expectations? The manager is happened to be in the line of fire. He is attacked by “a victim”, by his boss, and by the hostile resentment of the rest of the team. He raises the same question after each conversation with “the troublemaker”: why she haven’t ever denied or confirmed the rumor’s truthfulness. Does he feel that if she denies he will be relieved? Or if she confirms he will be granted to exercise judgment? Who has a right to judge? Everything and everybody seem to be affected by Lilly’s conduct: first of all Lilly herself, company as a whole, and its management, colleagues, her family, even religion views, church in particular. Is it true that your right for happiness is over when it crosses the line behind which the happiness of others you committed to is called into question? “(Do) you become responsible forever, for what you have tamed?” Are team’s intransigence and resentment justifiable? Was ethical principal – the do no harm – broken? What are the intentions of the team? Why all of them want to punish her so bad? Doesn’t it smell like fire for the witch is getting ready? From the consequentilist’s point of view “consequences of one's conduct are the ultimate basis for any judgment about the rightness of that conduct. Thus, a morally right act (or omission) is one that will produce a good outcome or consequence”. What are the possible outcomes from this situation? Lilly can lose her job, and so does her boss. Lilly’s family will break up. Company can...
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