One Printing Company’s Creative Solution to Office Gossip

Yesterday at , Harvey MacKay posted his comment about whether an article of office gossip was worth spreading. He invoked a standard in fact held by Socrates: if a rumour was neither Truthful, Good nor Useful, it failed the ‘Triple Filter’ Test, and ought not be spread. Socrates’ applied this standard when somebody wished to tell him something – it helped determine what possible worth a story might have, or if its value were wholly negative. Harvey MacKay, meanwhile, wonders what the consequences would be for offices that applied the ‘Triple Filter,’ arguing the results could only be positive.

Whether persons could be convinced to hold themselves to the ‘Triple Filter’ voluntarily is doubtful. Over at blog A Printing Office, Pat Henry calls office rumours ‘as much an aspect of working life as job descriptions or performance evaluations.’ For many persons then, rumours are addictive, regardless of the negative consequences for themselves and colleagues. They are part and parcel of office etiquette.

Perhaps recognising this, but seeking nonetheless to reap the benefits of the ‘Triple Filter,’ one printing company in Montana has developed a ‘zero gossip’ policy. Speaking to The New York Times on November 14th, Shayla McKnight of spoke of the company’s zero-tolerance attitude to rumour, in fact included in her employee contact. McKnight’s response on hearing of this policy for the first time is notable: she recalls thinking ‘Really? How is that possible?’ But her experience in fact buoys out the firm’s policy, and its advantages: people are encouraged to ‘confront one another,’ resolving conflicts quickly.

The business even goes so far as to employ a colour-coded ‘communications assessment,’ whereby people are informed of someone’s ‘dominant communications style’ by the colour assigned. McKnight states that a ‘red’ person appreciates directness, whereas a ‘yellow’ colleague is spontaneous and enjoys a personal connection. This has obvious benefits for companies of all stripes. For small businesses, it promotes harmony in a tightly-knit environment. For corporate entities, it helps colleagues who don’t necessarily know each other to work together. By giving access to someone’s personality, the code system promotes compassion.

McKnight in no way suggests the printing industry benefits especially from the colour-coding assessment. If anything, the decision of to introduce a ‘zero gossip’ policy suggests the industry is archetypal of other offices. As Patrick Henry writes at A Printing Office, gossip is an accepted workplace trope – in this case, a printing company has simply pioneered an initiative that may benefit firms in other industries. McKnight’s story is an appeal for good office etiquette, where you can ‘count on everyone being above board.’