Recently a client—let’s call him “George”—complained to me that his boss had not appreciated him in years. George was resentful. I asked George how many people he’d bad-mouthed his boss to over the years. “A lot,” he replied. "Have you ever shared your feelings and thoughts about not being appreciated with your boss?” I asked. “No,” George answered. Gossiping is a convenient way to avoid taking responsibility for our life circumstances. If we point the finger over there, we don’t have to own the results we’re creating from over here. I asked George for a detailed recipe to recreate the exact same scenario that he’d created with his boss. "What would I need to believe and do, or not do, to create it just the way you have?” I asked. George’s recipe:
Believe that you are entitled to appreciation. Believe that you should not have to ask for appreciation. Believe that your boss should just know what you need and want without giving him or her feedback. Withhold your thoughts and feelings from your boss about not being appreciated, particularly your sadness. Gossip to others about how he or she is wrong to numb your emotional pain about the issue. Don’t appreciate your boss. Don’t ask for what you most want. Ignore any evidence, such as pay raises, as examples of appreciation. Avoid all vulnerability with your boss around the issue. Stay in the same place and keep complaining rather than finding a new boss who appreciates you.
Yep, that would do it all right! If I followed those steps, I’d likely create the exact same results. George seemed embarrassed as he realized that this issue was all about him. He recognized that for years he has been unconsciously committed to not being appreciated. “Wow, now that I’m owning my results, the resolution seems so simple. I want to be honest about how I’ve been feeling and ask my boss what he most appreciates about me.” The result was wonderful. George got vulnerable about his feelings and asked for what he wanted. His boss was surprised; he thought the pay raises and bonuses conveyed his appreciation. George’s boss agreed to offer more verbal feedback in the future with emphasis on specific appreciations. George committed to valuing his boss and revealing himself authentically if he wasn’t experiencing the kind of appreciation he most wanted. If George can wake up to how he’s been creating a situation that he thought was beyond his control, so can you. How, you ask? Try these 4 steps:
Step 1. Consider how you might be gossiping to avoid taking responsibility. (Hint: If you share something about someone that you wouldn’t say if they were listening, then it’s gossip.)
Step 2. After you’ve identified an area where you’re gossiping, ask yourself what you can directly communicate in service of creating the outcome you want.
Step 3. Express yourself as clearly, simply and transparently as you can. Share your feelings, take responsibility for your part, and ask for what you want.
Step 4. Pause and see what happens next.
You may get what you want, and you may not. Either way, you’ll be back in integrity with yourself and the person you’ve been gossiping about. You’ll be unstuck, leaving you with a whole lot more space and freedom to create what you want. Gossip managed!