I was talking to a friend the other day regarding the challenges he faces in his business. He shared some stories on internal arguments and working against one another. We've all been there..."he said/she said," "getting caught in the gossip," talking behind people's back...."
And it almost always comes back to bite the person who started the chain of events. It's called Triangulation.
Triangulation is most commonly used to express a situation in which one family member will not communicate directly with another family member, but will communicate with a third family member, forcing the third family member to then be part of the triangle. The concept originated in the study of dysfunctional family systems, but can describe behaviors in other systems as well, including work.
Triangulation can also be used as a label for a form of "splitting" in which one person plays the third family member against one that he or she is upset about. This is playing the two people against each other, but usually the person doing the splitting, will also engage in character assassination, only with both parties.
This can be a significant challenge for organizations. As leaders (and I do not just mean people in management positions), you need to set the example or watch is spread like wildfire...with staff, physicians (if in a healthcare setting) and even customers with staff. Most people would say they want to be told any concerns directly. In turn, we must be gracious and professional in how we accept and receive this true gift of feedback.
All too often the person receiving the negative information about the 3rd party may think the person delivering the news is showing "loyalty." The reality is that these same people will typically speak poorly about everyone so loyalty is not truly existent.
Can you spot these people? Are you one of them? Simple solution if you are...stop, don't get caught up in this when it comes your way and refer the person to go directly to the person they are concerned about. Certainly you could join the conversation if you are asked to support or serve as a neutral party.
As organizations focus on delivering their services in this ever changing, complex and competitive world, they will have enough challenges without having to worry about internal snipers.