Wednesday, April 21, 2010

What To Do About a Co-Worker's Gossip

Dear Jocelyn,
I recently found out that a co-worker has been gossiping about me to our subordinates. None of it is true, and while I've cleared things up with everyone I know of who is involved, I'm nervous that the gossip may have already spread farther to people I don't know as well. When confronted, the co-worker was totally remorseless and hostile toward me.My two questions are 1) Why would someone do this to me? It seems so bizarre to falsely accuse someone behind their back. 2) How do I continue to work with this person? I'm paranoid now that this will happen again.
-Angry at Work

Dear Angry,
It's difficult to contain gossip - unfortunately, you might never know who else has heard this false information about you. Fortunately, I saw a few things in your letter that indicate a positive outcome. First, these rumors were spread to your subordinates. While no one wants bad things said about them, it's better that it was said to them, and not your boss (i.e. the person who decides your raises...). Two, you were able to clear things up with those involved. That means that the people you work with obviously are more inclined to believe what you say, than what he says. Now, to answer your questions:1) To know why someone would do this to you requires being inside of that person's mind. Since I do not know this person, I cannot answer that. However, you might be able to get some clues from the gossip. Was it about your personal life? About your work? He might be vying for a promotion or raise, and trying to lessen your chances of getting it (although why he wouldn't spread the rumors to your boss, I don't know...). He might just be a mean person. You said that when you confronted him, he was remorseless. He obviously won't tell you the reason, so just chalk this up to the fact that some people are mean.2) Work with this person in a way that confirms to everybody that you are the better person. Smile when you pass him, be polite, and if someone comes to you with mis-information that your co-worker has spread, simply set them straight and say something like, "So-and-so must have been mistaken when he said this." If it hasn't already become obvious, it soon will be clear that HE is the one with the problem, not you.

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