“Everyone should have the right to confront their accuser," says Ray Dalio as a central principle of ethical conduct in the workplace.
It's alarming to see today the extent to which this damaging practice is normalized. It's as though we have never heard it was wrong to talk (and plot) behind the backs of others or that bearing and spreading false witness is downright evil.
To be clear, whispering campaigns and cooler talk are no way to manage people or engage in politics.
Too often, this has become a norm—a so-called “polite” way to get things done. It’s not polite, it’s rude and cowardly, destroys trust and poisons organizational cultures and communities. Dalio calls it both unethical & ineffective.
Rather, stress test your view directly with the person. Give them an opportunity to respond to accusations leveled against them. How else could you possibly defend a person against false accusations?
On the dark side, be aware that there are very intentional reasons why folks choose to whisper and scandalize rather than confront directly. It is a form of bullying. A cheap and dirty way of targeting and unfairly undermining a person, while attempting to render them defenseless.
This reality is the very reason why civilized societies protect the innocent until proven guilty principle of justice . Any other guiding principle is, as Dalio says, unethical and unjust.