[This is Travis Dotson’s “Ground Truths” column that appeared in the 2021 Spring Issue of Two More Chains.]
By Travis Dotson
Have you recently been part of a who’s gonna get that job discussion? It amazes me how much we love this particular prattle. We spend many minutes gaming out the probable outcome of various vacancies and the double secret down-low that everyone knows.
Of course, this seemingly innocent info exchange often leads right into a full-on rumor rodeo. More than a few of us have polished this practice into spectacular performance art we use to project prominence through an unceasing supply of scuttlebutt. It’s our own little talk market made to trade dirt dollars for status and clout. Most will claim it’s harmless. But let’s at least call it what it is: Gossip.
Yepper. No two ways about it. All that who’s-whoing is just a hearsay party. You can dress it up with all the chew spit and profanity you want. It’s still gossip.
I am aware that the informal information network is an inevitable outcome of humans in herds. I also know there are times it is indeed just information sharing. But it often slips right past the info stage into the cheap seats chatter with a simple raise of an eyebrow—and the facts disappear real quick.
Guess who always shows up to the dirty laundry session in full party mode? Assumptions.
Certainty does exist, but it’s rare. We are pretty good at acknowledging our lack of certainty when predicting fire behavior and estimating acreage. But we tend to embellish our level of certainty when deciphering the motives and intentions of others.
We often don’t hesitate to emphatically declare “they think . . .” or “they are trying to . . .” This is often just conjecture fueled by hurt feelings and fear—acrid assumptions. This practice will destroy relationships. And guess what our collective success is built on?
Making up stories about the motives of others will eat teams of any size—squad, crew, district, IMT, region, agency, nation . . . This self-inflicted wound will fester and completely erode effectiveness. You may be nodding your head while thinking about someone else. But this is about you.
Every so often we all need somebody to give it to us straight to help reveal a blind spot.
Have you ever had a performance eval that wasn’t so great? I have had more than a few. I needed every one of them. It is not an enjoyable experience, but when the feedback has even an ounce of accuracy, it can be the greatest gift you never wanted but always needed.
Ready for some next level stuff? You can give that gift to yourself, but only if you are willing to do some honest accounting.
We all know there is always more work, you know: Two More Chains. But sometimes the work is not “out there”. It’s more of an “inside job”. Taking on that kind of work requires a deep dive to evaluate areas you haven’t put much thought into—like gossip and assumptions.
Maybe those are not the specific areas you need to work on, but I guarantee you have some “inside” work to whittle on.
Try self-righteousness, negativity, or ill will. Once you find it, you know what to do.
We find the work and we get started swinging because, you know: Two More Chains.
Swing on, Toolswingers.