In Snitch Culture, Redden describes activity designed to politically disrobe opponents. Snitches desperately grasp for importance, instead of bestowing this importance on other people. They run to the boss’s office with the enthusiasm of one who has just unearthed a rare gem. I wonder – would the same thing occur if the object of their derision did something stellar?
In some companies, employees are empowered to give “atta boys” or “atta girls” to fellow workers (the recipients of which receive recognition and/or monetary remuneration). If more of this behavior were encouraged, imaginary claims against coworkers might disappear.
It’s a matter of what’s promoted, what’s rewarded, and which behaviors become commonplace. If you as manager are receptive to tattle tales, “tattling” will become the activity du jour. Substitutes include helping to develop people in deficient areas, mentoring fellow colleagues, providing helpful examples, and appearing as a behavioral role model.
The satisfaction that snitches receive is overwhelmed by their revelation of dishonor. Managers who court juicy morsels undercut the connective fabric in which teams thrive, and in which workers take enjoyment in speaking with their peers. Targets feel embarrassed and betrayed. The cycle of taking time away from assigned duties to create a situation (the outcome of which is invariably negative) is dysfunctional. To thwart this vicious cycle from occurring, managers should recognize positive achievements whenever they can. Contributions should not be met with silence, or with the suspicion that someone is up to no good.
If positivity is the norm employees will follow suit. If someone subsequently shows up to complain, why not tell them to return to their office and worry about their own work? Not only will you relieve yourself of mindless intrusions, but you may improve the productivity of the department as well.