Question: I have an employee who stirs the pot. She prods one person to talk about another then behind their backs tells them both what the other said, making them uncomfortable with each other all the time when normally they get along nicely.
Answer: That’s a great question and it happens all the time. I always say it takes two to play games unless you are playing solitaire.
The real reason this is happening is twofold:
1. It works.
2. The other two are uncomfortable with conflict therefore they avoid authentic communication when a problem arises. Instead of talking to the person they need to talk to, they vent to the pot-stirring employee who is not afraid to use her power to create chaos.
You can try to control the pot stirrer, but the core of the problem still exists: The other two keep biting the hook. If they would quit, then the problem would go away. So the best solution is to have the other two make a decision that they will come to each other when they are upset rather than secretly venting to a trouble-maker.
If they can both make that commitment, it will teach them how to have an authentic conversation.
The other solution is to meet with everyone and teach them how to identify the triggers of gossip. Most of the time we do these things because we are unaware and we are reacting instead of choosing consciously.
To take responsibility means to first “recognize choice,” then to widen that gap between stimulus and response.