In this issue

Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 14, 2008 / 9 Nissan 5768

The Snitching Supervisor

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: As a supervisor in my workplace, I often have to discuss workers' performance with other managers. If I discuss their shortcomings, am I guilty of slander?

A: Jewish tradition places a particular emphasis on careful speech and avoiding harming others or hurting their feelings through malicious or even careless speech. The prohibition of harmful speech has its source in the following verse (Leviticus 19:16): "Don't go about as a talebearer among your people; don't stand idly be the blood of your neighbor."

What is the connection between the two halves of the verse — "don't go about as a talebearer" and "don't stand idly by the blood of your brother"? We find two complementary approaches in the commentators.

Maimonides writes that "This is a grave transgression and causes the deaths of many souls of Israel; therefore it is adjacent to 'don't stand idly by the blood of your brother'". (1) According to this explanation, the two halves of the verse reinforce each other; I avoid "the blood of my neighbor" precisely by refraining from spreading gossip, which leads ultimately to enmity and bloodshed.

The Medieval commentary on the commandments, Sefer HaChinuch, takes a different approach. He writes that a person shouldn't say damaging things about others — unless the intention is to prevent damage or quiet a dispute. (2) The two halves contrast and balance — we shouldn't relate idle gossip, but we shouldn't refrain from speaking when silence would be culpable negligence toward a potential victim.

This approach was given precise boundaries by one of the great rabbinical authorities of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan of Radin, Poland. Rabbi Kagan was a renowned legal authority as well as revered for his saintly conduct; he decided that he would compose a strictly reasoned legal work defining the boundaries of this prohibition and providing binding rulings. He concluded that it is permissible to relate a damaging statement when the following conditions are fulfilled:

1. The main condition is that the statement is intended to achieve some concrete benefit. Making damaging statements is permissible only when it is needed and intended to protect someone.

2. In addition, disclosure must be necessary to attain the benefit. If the same benefit can be obtained without disclosure, for example by a talk with the wrongdoer, then there is no justification for disclosing the information.

3. You are certain of the truth of the information you relay. Stating hearsay is the essence of gossip. The information must also be related accurately, without judgment or exaggeration.

4. You must also be convinced of the negative implications. We have a general obligation to judge others favorably, we shouldn't be in a rush to spread negative information to others if we ourselves aren't convinced that it implies any potential harm to the listener.

5. There must be no undeserved damage to the subject. We will discuss this in detail in upcoming lessons, but for example a person may have misbehaved at work and deserve a report but not dismissal; a person may have acted improperly towards a neighbor and deserve a fine but not arrest. If reporting will cause undeserved damage it is impermissible. (3)

These rules apply equally to a supervisor or a co-worker, but their application is quite different. If you notice some minor deficiency in the performance of a co-worker, it will be generally be the exception that reporting it will lead to some concrete benefit. Will management really listen to you? Do they have regard for your objectivity and judgment? Is this really new information that supervisors are not aware of? So for the average observer, reporting is the exception, reserve the rule.

But if you are a supervisor, it is the essence of your job to evaluate and report on workers' performance. It is most likely that your reports are needed for some concrete benefit; otherwise you wouldn't be getting a salary to make them. For the supervisor, reporting is the rule, reserve the exception.

When despite this should even supervisors keep quiet? If management wants you to report on matters that are not really of relevance to job performance (for example, political opinions) or to report in an inequitable way (for example, to actively seek "dirt" on a particular employee), it is appropriate for you to seek clarification of the policy and the justification for it. If you are convinced the policy is unjustified and counterproductive you may have to occasionally ignore it.

Worker oversight is certainly necessary and appropriate; the Talmud tells us that someone who has inherited a lot of money and wants to lose it fast should hire workers and not supervise them. (4) However, this doesn't justify transmitting unfairly damaging information about them. In most cases, the kind of information supervisors have to pass on is necessary for a constructive purpose, but supervisors should keep alert for exceptional cases where the information is improperly used, and request a clarification of inappropriate policies.

SOURCES: (1) Maimonides Code, laws of opinions 7:1 (2) Sefer haChinuch 236 (3) Chafetz Chaim chapters I:10, II:9 (4) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 29b..


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.


You've enjoyed his columns on JWR for years. Now the Jewish Ethicist has culled his most intriguing — and controversial — offerings in book form.
Sales help fund JWR.

© 2008, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics