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Backbiting and The Triple Filter Test |

No one likes backbiting yet people engage in it all the time! What can you do about it? Take the triple filter test first!

Everyone hates backbiting, especially when you’re the one being back bitten. What is backbiting, anyway? This is coming out of a marvelous TEDx talk that someone gave. I apologize. I don’t recall the man’s name. But it was done out of a TEDx in Oslo and he defines backbiting as talking, talking negatively about a person who isn’t present.

How many of you work in environments like that where backbiting is going on? Do you like it? Even if you’re the you’re the head instigator, do you really like it? So, our speaker talks about applying the triple filter test to determine whether or not it’s something that should be said. Apparently, the test comes out of a story from Socrates where someone came to Socrates and started to tell him the story and Socrates interrupts him and goes, “do you know if it’s true?” And the teller says, “No, I don’t know if it’s true.”

“Is anything good that that you’re going to tell me that is going to come out of this?”

I can’t really tell. But I know I’ll just simply say it. I don’t think so.”

Okay, so the third question is, “Is what you are going to tell me that’s useful?”

“Nothing, in particular, is the fact of it.”

At which point, Socrates leaves because if it’s not true, there’s no way of knowing if it’s true or not, nothing good is going to come from it and no one’s going to feel good from it and there’s nothing useful, so, why bother? And that’s the story of a lot of backbiting and gossip that occurs.

Nothing useful is going to come from it. It may or may not be true. It probably isn’t and we do it anyway. You know, we do it for two basic reasons. One is we’ve seemed to be a more interesting person and we also feel good when we’re talking about others and thus puffing ourselves up because we’re not like that. So the speaker offers of a model for how to deal with backbiting in the workplace because, as we all know, backbiting is a big thing offices.

So, the first question they invariably ask a group of people who are in an office (I’m going to speak to you as a leader in an office) is “Do you believe backbiting is going on in your firm?” Invariably, everyone raises their hand that this is going on.

So, in order to eliminate backbiting you put everyone in a room and you ask them, “if you believe backbiting is going on?” Then, you define backbiting as speaking negatively about someone else that isn’t present. And then you administer “the triple filter test” which is, “Do you know if it’s true?” If it’s true, that’s okay. go ahead.

“Will anything good come out of you hearing it?” No, it is just gossip. “Is what you’re going to tell me useful?” Probably not. It’s just gossip, right?

“Wouldn’t you like to work in a place where backbiting doesn’t go on,” and, then, from there our speaker invites people to join him in a new project. “Would you like to join me in a six month project?” We will call it for now “The Gossip Project.”  For six months, everyone commits in writing, no back biting. It’s really that simple. No backbiting and you make them sign a document to that effect.

Then, once it’s been signed, and people go back and kind of go through the rest of their day, the next day, they come in to a glass framed version of what they’ve signed that goes up on the wall. Every week, you assemble everyone and ask, “how are we doing on “The Gossip Project?”

You know, it’s interesting, but he says, statistics show that when firms engaged in this absenteeism and sick leave, go down, because frankly, backbiting is like a cancer within an office. You know there are people who no longer trust one another because messages circle back and they circle back because look, you ingratiate yourself to someone else.

“Let me tell you what so and so said about you,” and, suddenly, you’ve got an interesting nugget of information.

Bring it to an end. Backbiting is a form of bullying. It really is. Backbiting is a form of bullying. Don’t play. Really. Don’t play.

Nothing good is gonna come out of it, right? You don’t know if what you’re saying is true or not . . . and it’s certainly not useful Why bother?



Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter
Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked in recruiting for what seems like one hundred years. He is the head coach for He is the host of “The No BS Coaching Advice Podcast,” and “No BS Job Search Advice.”

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