We often hear about friendly fire as it relates to military conflicts. Most recently in the news, we heard about the death of a National Guard member in Afghanistan, who was the mayor of a town in Utah, killed by friendly fire. You may be asking, what is friendly fire? Friendly fire is defined as the firing of weapons from one’s own forces or those of an ally especially when resulting in the accidental death or injury of one’s own personnel. In short, it means being killed or wounded by your own team.

If you have a job that is non-military or non-law enforcement job, you would think you are safe from friendly fire. Unfortunately, I have found over the years that friendly fire exists in the workplace too.

Within organizations, we often hurt each other. Does that surprise you? It should, because everyone at an organization is supposed to be on the same team, working together toward the same goals and seeking to accomplish the same thing. It should be a place where working in harmony is the norm. Unfortunately, it isn’t, because organizations are full of humans. Everyone comes to work each day bringing their own, strengths, weaknesses, egos, competitive desires and personal insecurities with them. Those human interactions all play out within the workplace. Friendly fire should always be unintentional. After all, who would ever want to hurt a teammate? While the answer should be “no one,” we often do hurt our teammates.

Over the years, the most common type of friendly fire I’ve seen within an organization is sharing rumors or stories about our co-workers: One person hears a story and chooses to share what they “heard” about another employee. Usually, it starts with, “I didn’t see this myself, but…,” and they add their own thoughts about it.

When you hear a story like this, you have the choice to tell someone else or to forget you heard it. If you reshare the story to another co-worker because you thought it was interesting or it makes you feel superior, you’ve committed friendly fire; and you certainly haven’t helped your organization. You’ve hurt the employee who the story is about, and they have no way to defend themselves because they aren’t in the conversation.

Too often in society these days, people dwell on the negative and choose to believe what they hear without fully understanding the whole story. We need to realize that rumors and stories damage lives. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve shared stories when I shouldn’t have and had stories shared about me that weren’t true. What about you?

My suggestion is, together, we all learn to follow the advice from Ephesians 4:29, Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. If we don’t have something positive to say, if what we have to say won’t build another person up, don’t say it.

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