I heard it through the grapevine: Gossip at work
This passage deals with a primarily dermatological condition called tzara’at (Hebrew). This affliction has often been translated as leprosy, though it likely does not reflect the modern understanding of leprosy. The condition described in these verses can be diagnosed only by a priest, and when confirmed, the afflicted person is isolated for seven days as part of an elaborate ritual to cleanse them from their malady. Much of rabbinic literature has viewed this phenomenon as divinely-inflicted and sought to discern what it signifies. Many have concluded that it is contracted as a consequence of misusing one’s power of speech in the form of slandering others or gossip-mongering. One of several biblical hints linking gossiping and leprosy was when Moses’s siblings––Miriam and Aaron––shared some comments about their brother Moses’s wife (Numbers 12:1), for which Miriam was inflicted with a bout of leprosy.
The unvarnished truth is that lending an ear to gossip can turn you into an accomplice, so walking away or changing the subject could deliver a clear message that you can’t be counted on to be party to that kind of talk. However, this tactic may come with a social cost that you may or may not be prepared to pay.
Gossip can often be traced to a key figure at work who always seems to “be in the know.” You may confront this person privately, candidly pointing out that referring disparagingly to others in their absence makes you feel uncomfortable. This tack may or may not effectively diminish this person’s predilection. In any event, you would be wise to prudently choose the coworkers with whom you spend your discretionary time.
Try this: Mind your social media posts and what you place “out there.” Messaging platforms and other social media offer boundless avenues for expression, allowing us to maintain relationships from afar but also carrying substantial risks. Cyberbullying and shaming has received much deserved derision, but other ‘innocuous’ communication can also be problematic. Messages we intend for one person in a particular situation may be forwarded by a quick click to a group (perhaps unintentionally) into domains far from your intentions. Being more deliberate and less impulsive in your online communication may sound “square” and not as much fun as being spontaneous, but it is a valuable preventive practice.
- For more Torah-Career connections, visit The Bible at Work