One of the things I have tried to do in all the companies I work for, is don’t talk about people not present. When I teached .NET I gave a lot of examples, sometimes examples of how things were done in a bad way at a previous client. When I gave these examples I made sure I never mentioned the company that wrote the spaghetti code.(or whatever problems I was talking about.)
I can give you as many examples about bad bosses as the next guy. I try to make sure I never mention their names nor their company names.
In fact I try to do the opposite, praise in public and give critic in private. The people I think screwed up one way or another, I tell them in private. When I like what they are doing I tell everybody about it, sometimes even blog about it. (If they like that)
One of the rules in gestalt groups is not to talk about people but directly to people. This not only means when the people are not presents (which is a rule everyone finds normal behavior, although is pretty hard to do) but also when we talk about a situation, we don’t talk to group leader but directly to the person we are talking about. If possible we also talk about a situation as it is happening now, instead of something that happens in the past. I’m not sure about all the reasons behind. One of the reasons is that it brings up the emotions much quicker and more intense. Thus helping to resolve quicker.
When I am doing consultancy with multiple clients it’s pretty hard not to talk about what is going wrong at the other client. (As they always know the other names.)And people always ask how things are going at the other client. I try to bring back the talk to their own problems. Not easy, but I notice that clients in the long run appreciate this.