The Bitter Truth About Bathroom Gossip

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I spent three years of my corporate career in the marketing department of a large children's hospital—a department of more than twenty women and two men. This one-sided dynamic made for all kinds of interesting challenges, not the least of which was navigating the sometimes treacherous waters of the ladies' room.

To note: stalls provide privacy, but they are not soundproof—and you can't tell who comes and goes while you are inside. I learned a lot about my staff in the ladies' room. And I learned a lot about myself as a manager and as a coworker. Stuff that I would never learn from the most detailed 360° evaluations. More than once I heard people who worked for me express their displeasure at an action or decision of mine. (For the uninitiated, women have a tendency to take our breaks in twos—and to talk between stalls.)

But I made my share of chatty mistakes, too.

Like entering the ladies' room with a coworker, and conversing about a third coworker. About our dislike of her tendency to avoid personal interaction and fire off bristly emails—copying our boss on the ones where she came off especially well. I'm not sure when she quietly slipped in, but as I left I spotted her Jimmy Choo shoes under the stall closest to the door. I was ashamed—and our relationship was not improved.

One of the wisest men I ever worked for had this policy: if I came in his office with an issue that involved someone else, he would not listen until he called that person to join us and hear it at the same time. Pettiness was diminished. Honesty was enforced.

Jesus said, "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no" (Matt. 5:37). And he advised his followers not to waste time "in God's office" until they had cleared up any unfinished business with their neighbor (Matt. 5:24). Integrity demands that our words should match our lives. And our words should not only be true—they should edify. How would your word of mouth measure up to anyone who might happen to be within earshot?

I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. (Matt. 5:15-16, The Message)

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