This is a question in hilchos lashon hara in the workplace. Here is the scenario:
Employee A works for a company as an account manager responsible for a set of clients, and keeping them happy and satisfied with the services of the company. He has been working with the company for 2.5 years, and has strengths, but also a specific weakness, which is a pattern of behavior that is causing the loss of clients to the company. All in all, relative to his peers, Employee A’s record in terms of keeping clients is nonetheless, even with this negative pattern, one of the best in the company. But the employer is frustrated with the ongoing specific negative behavior, dropping the ball on certain clients, and has brought it up in annual reviews and other conversations, demanding improvement.
Here is the question:
Employer shares this weakness and negative pattern about Employee A, with Employee B. The reason is because Employee B works closely with Employee A, on the same team, and could help Employee A succeed to overcome this negative pattern of behavior. Employee A and employer have spoken about using Employee B to help out, and Employee A followed up and shared specific cases where Employee B could help him, and let Employer know that Employee B is now helping. Employer then has a conversation with Employee B sharing negative about Employee A without the knowledge of Employee A. When there is a client complaint, Employer shares with Employee B not only the issue of the specific case, but also the larger picture and problem with Employee A. Employee A finds this hurtful and embarrassing. Employee A has engaged Employee B for help as per discussion with Employer, but in a case-specific manner. Is this allowed for empolyer to share with Employee B even though hurtful to Employee A as maybe ultimately it is for the potential good of Employee A, and maybe this is only intent of Employer to save Employee A’s job, or is it lashon hara?
(I, the questioner, am Employee A. Employer is a frum, ben-Torah, who is sincere and strives to do things kadas vekadin).
Thank you so very much for the guidance.
It appears that under the circumstances, Employer is acting within his rights in his consultations and conversations with Employee B.
Although I understand the sensitive nature of the issue, it seems from the question that the intention of Employer is specifically for the benefit of Employer A, which of course is also the benefit of the company as a whole (dealing with the issue will benefit Employer A in his annual reviews, in his stability, salary, and so on). It also seems that Employer and Employee B are not gossiping unnecessarily, but only speaking about the work-related issue as required. Although this might go further than the specific case, it remains relevant to cases in general.
Because there is no negative intention, and because the conversations are important in furthering the good of Employer A, it seems that they do not fall under the Lashon Hara prohibition. Moreover, Employer is generally within his rights to ensure that he is aware of all that goes on at the employee level, so that he can take the required action.
At the same time, care should be taken to minimize the scope of the conversation to that which is necessary and required.
Best wishes and good luck.