Rabbis have always taught us religious lessons, could they be teaching us business lessons too?
Those of us who attended Hebrew school may recall the immensely philosophical discourse “lashon hara, lamed hay, go to H-ll the easy way”. Some frequent Upper West Side Jewish Event Attendees may even have the coffee table foldover sign likening Lashon Hara to Smoking. Lashon Hara literally means “bad tongue”, it is loosely defined as gossip. So, what does this have to do with the Modern Jewish Professional? Plenty.
Let’s face it – work can be boring. PCs have made many processes practically brainless, not to mention sedentary, for the average Jewish Professional. With most employees spending more waking hours with coworkers than with spouses or friends, things are bound to happen. What kinds of things? Well, I’ll leave the really exciting stuff for trashy romance novels. For the rest of us who value our familial ties and ethics, a little gossip makes the day go faster, don’t you think? At the proverbial watercooler talking about the latest way Bob sucked up to the boss or Sally did something so ditsy or this company is going to hell in a handbasket makes the day fly. Hey, it’s not Dorothy Parker’s round table at the Algonquin but you have to be there to really understand.
This is where our 7th grade Rabbis oh so distant voice should come into our heads saying “blah, blah Lashon Hara blah blah” (that’s not a direct quote). Anyway, it’s a bad thing. Whether true or not, bad or good, gossip hurts. The speaker, the listener and the subject. Perhaps the non-Jewish coworkers do not grasp the effects but that is our responsibility. I once heard a good rule of thumb, you should not say anything to a coworker you would not want printed in the New York Times. I have found this simple tidbit of advice to be the most influential one of my career. Time and again, I have come across individuals at work who seem innocent enough and seem like your friends at the time but will not miss a beat before sharing information they receive. Now, I heed the advice stated here and steer clear of disclosing too much but I watch others fall into the same traps. “Oh, I didn’t think she would tell him I said that about him. I can’t $!@#$% believe it.”
To add on the modern edge, these days, internet and email add a particularly scary twist to this ages old story. It has been known to happen that emails pass from one hand to the next, and sometimes to a hand you did not want and to the whole company and their friends. To be safe, keep your writings professional and gossip free as well.
So, perhaps leaving early for Shabbos will not make you Employee of the Month, and bringing a kosher doggie bag to a fancy non kosher business lunch may make you squirm a bit but here is a chance to heed Halacha and make good business sense at the same time: Hold Your Tongue. (not literally though, that would look silly).