Written by Emma Seppala and Kim Cameron.
Recently the Communications Workers of America – the union that represents T-Mobile employees — contested a T-Mobile Employee Handbook clause on maintaining a positive work environment. The clause reads as follows: “[e]mployees are expected to maintain a positive work environment by communicating in a manner that is conducive to effective working relationships with internal and external customers, clients, co-workers, and management.” Their reasoning was that – if employees are discontent – they need to be able to freely air that displeasure. The U.S. National Labor Relations Board agreed with them, ruling in favor of the union. “It’s official: employers can’t force you to be happy. Hallelujah,” cried the Guardian.
Clearly, employees in unfair working conditions need to be able to dissent, and criticism and disagreement are part of any office. However, some companies have taken this idea to extreme levels. The Wall Street Journal reports that “front-stabbing” is being embraced by managers tired of “dancing around the issue.” Val DiFebo, CEO of Deutsch’s New York office, understands such confrontation as “more big-hearted and caring … than going behind someone’s back.” Certainly a culture that involves back-stabbing is not a good option; however, front-stabbing may not be much better.
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