Martin Kelly raises an important issue on Quaker Ranter and I'm willing to help it go viral (even though he's not asking :)). Here it is:
"Ethnographic Study Looks at Gossip in the Workplace" in the NYTimes:
The earlier studies found that once someone made a negative comment about a person who wasn’t there, the conversation would get meaner unless someone immediately defended the target. Otherwise, among both adults and teenagers, the insults would keep coming because there was so much social pressure to agree with the others.
Some interesting here. They say gossip usually spirals down until someone intervenes to defend or deflect. In one school, gossip set up rival camps; teachers eventually left and student test scores fell.
Friends (and Christians more generally) are officially against gossip, though of course we're not immune and I've seen it act as almost a kind of currency in some settings. But what are the classic Quaker tools for deflecting this natural human tendency and keeping our communities from the downward spirals of camp building? "
Factionalism, favoritism, in-groups and gossip do immense, and I would say, often unacknowledged, damage to Quaker institutions and meetings, as well as in the wider world. I've seen the "mischief making" and I've seen people more often than I'd like to have leave meetings because of it. Mostly, they don't care about the quarrel, whatever it may be, but they do care about the way people act and they are appalled at what they see. As Quakers, as upholders of the community and equality testimonies, we should be fighting gossip and factions (which are patterns for destroying community and equality) at every turn. They are against our core beliefs of how we live out God's word in the world. What do you think causes the problem, and as Martin says, how can we deflect it? What do you think of people stepping forward to protest as soon as it starts? What if you come into a situation where this behavior --and the "in-groups"--are already entrenched?