Is Protecting Your Image at Work a Full-Time Job? Here's a Radical Office Rethink

Developmental Psychologist
Over a year ago

Managing your professional image at work shouldn't be a full-time job. And if it is, you're either not getting paid for working two jobs, or your company is losing a lot of productivity. According to Robert Kegan, adult developmental psychologist at Harvard University, and author of An Everyone Culture: Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization, much of image management comes down to combatting office gossip.

Just about everyone engages in office gossip, or at least entertains those who do. Yet we all recognize gossiping as unprofessional behavior. In fact, part of managing your perception at the office may be allowing gossip to occur (lest you be seen as overly righteous). Kegan says there's a radical solution to so much wasted time and effort, not to mention negative emotion.

Imagine if every room in your workplace had a tape recorder, and that each time a person's name was mentioned, they would receive an email if they were not present for the conversation. Not a transcript, just a notification that they were brought up, and because they weren't present, didn't have a chance to respond.

That's probably giving you an uncomfortable feeling, but companies that do implement this kind of radical transparency see positive returns, says Kegan.