Any salesman can tell you from experience that people are very uncomfortable saying “no.” They will come up with all types of ingenious excuses in order to avoid a flat refusal because they associate some sort of guilt with an outright negative response. If this is true when rejecting a product, it is surely the case when rejecting someone’s candidacy for a position.
The Chofetz Chaim cautions us that when this tendency is manifest after committee meetings, where the fate of an employee, teacher, or new vendor has been decided, the results can be destructive.
When the committee meeting results in a rejection of a potential employee and certainly of an existing employee, the natural human reaction of each member is to shift the blame and avoid taking any responsibility for the rejection. One short sentence accomplishes this:
“I really wanted you, but what could I do— I was outvoted!”
Such a statement is a most dangerous form of loshon hora. Because such meetings may very well decide a person’s future, blaming someone for the decision may, quite possibly, plant the seeds of strife.
Another case in point is when a committee has to judge a dispute, as in a salary disagreement or a din Torah. The desire to avoid being blamed for a negative decision might prompt one to say: “Actually, I wanted to go easy on you, but Mr. Cohen controlled the meeting and he pushed it through.” Or without mentioning names one might say, “Well, I voted for you.” Such statements are forbidden.
It makes no difference, says the Chofetz Chaim, whether the meeting was “closed” or “open”; it is forbidden to disclose information concerning the voting. Even if the person who was rejected were to insult you, and even if you actually voted for him, it is forbidden to reveal anything. Even if the person pressures you intensely, merely to find out who voted in his favor, it is forbidden to reveal anything, because he will learn who voted against him by deduction.
The laws of loshon hora are Hashem’s blueprint for human interaction. By following them faithfully, one will remove the potential for strife, hatred and anger in his or her life. A committee meeting to decide the future of a person’s employment is an atmosphere charged with tension and ripe for strife. Sometimes hurtful decisions need to be made, but if the committee takes a unified stand so that no one is blamed for the decision, then the fallout of these meetings will be kept to a minimum.