‘POISONING the WELL’, A Business Situation Needing Immediate Resolution


  A Business Situation Needing Immediate Resolution

 By Michael Marshall, PhD  (www.AskTheBusinessDoctor.com)

 June 2011

‘Poisoning the Well’ refers to when a person tells others bad things about another person or the business to discredit others and cause poor feelings towards others or the business.

When such happens even if there is mistaken information and wrongful accusations, others may seek out things and observations to reinforce and substantiate such comments and feelings.

This is referred to as ‘selective perception’.

An example of selective perception is when you are considering purchasing a specific auto and then you start noticing them on the road far more often when before you did not notice them.

 ‘Poisoning the Well’ business situation is counter productive for all people including the business or company, fellow employees and staff, the recipient of the poison and the person or individuals doing the poisoning.

This is bad mental health, social health and business health.

‘Poisoning the well’ can happen when management, employees or staff have a disagreement to the extent of causing poor feelings, frustrations and possibly anger. 

Either one or both can start telling others about how bad the other is.

This can happen for many reasons;  to cause a bad image of others for spite, cause harm to others with a possible loss of job,  to ‘blow off steam’, express frustration and poor feelings, to help gain sympathy from others, or to help gain understanding and support for their view and side of things.

No matter what the reason or situation is, this is not a professional or mature approach by the employees, staff or management.

It is counter productive to the morale of everyone and can reduce productivity.

Those participating in such behavior of ‘poisoning the well’ need additional training to help understand the negative aspects of this and how to manage such situations better.

Proactive training for all employees and management is of course the best approach but businesses often do not have adequate budgets to cover their training needs.

A formal process established proactively to resolve personal matters is also effective.

When ‘poisoning the well’ situation occurs, it is important for senior management to acknowledge it and act quickly to resolve the situation and diffuse it.  If this approach does not help, then termination of all active participants in this may need to be seriously considered.

Even when individuals doing the ‘poisoning of the well’ or participating in saying bad things about others, have been removed, dismissed or have moved on; many bad feelings, doubts and insecurities may remain within the business employees.  These things are often referred to as ‘land mines’ because the new staff or new management will encounter them and will need to resolve the issues further.

I suggest that when senior management discovers ‘poisoning the well’ situations that they act quickly to resolve all issues.

A professional outside business consultant can assist you with this challenge and proactively establishing a formal process to resolve personal matters to avoid ‘poisoning of the well’ situations.

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