Coworker Gossiping to Get Me Fired

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about coworker gossip:

A co-worker started a rumor that I got a job elsewhere and I want to leave 3 months after I started working here. The management has responded to this by trying to label me as a bad employee and they have always wanted me out anyway. Now, management is playing dirty to try to fire me before I quit for my “new job”.

Every mid-month and month end I get harassed by at least one co-worker and the management as they think it is on these days that I am likely to leave for my new job. Since this gossiper is someone who has been around for a long time and has ties with management, people tend to listen to him and every month end/mid-month he unleashes one co-worker for me and now I practically have no one to speak to or trust.

Consequently, the relationship between me and the harasser(s) after such an incident is never the same and now I practically have no one to speak to at the workplace. The co-worker tried to bully me in the beginning but was met with resistance so instead he resorted to using gossip and manipulating the management to get rid of me. This has happened for 20 months. How do I get rid of this problem? My immediate boss is close to this gossiper and with the head of division they are even closer. The CEO is very close with the head of division and my immediate boss. I feel like talking to the authorities about it is a waste of my time. HR here is useless.

Signed, Feeling Pushed Out

DearĀ Feeling Pushed Out:

I wish there were something quick and easy we could suggest for helping you with this problem. But, if this has been going on for almost two years, it’s gone far past any easy solution. We are not there and don’t know the totality of the situation, but experience indicates there is probably much more going on than a rumor about you getting another job and quitting your current one. Really, that is a pretty mild rumor, so its not like a rumor that you’re stealing or lying or not working when you should be working.

After a short amount of time, it would be obvious that you’re not quitting and the person starting the rumor would be shown to be wrong. It sounds as though you have almost no friends or supporters and your managers are not trying to find out the truth about whether or not you’re leaving or trying to talk you into not quitting. In fact, it is just the opposite. Consider talking to your supervisor and asking for an honest conversation about how you are viewed by your supervisor, managers and coworkers. Discuss your work output, the quality and quantity of your work as well as your behavior and demeanor. If you have information that might change your supervisor’s views about your work, have the evidence ready to present. If your performance evaluations have been good, point that out and ask where the problem is, if you have gotten such good evaluations. While you’re at it, let your supervisor know your feelings of frustration over a rumor that you can’t control on your own. Ask for suggestions. One good way to get to the truth is to ask your supervisor if your job is in jeopardy right now and if so, how you can keep from losing it. Sometimes that type of tough question forces a supervisor to have a discussion, even if he or she does not want to do it. If that doesn’t help or if you are absolutely certain it won’t be effective, you’ll need to decide whether you think you can hang on longer or if you are in jeopardy of losing your job and should try to leave while you can do it voluntarily. If you have worked other places and done very well, you can at least know you have a history of success and can move beyond this one problem situation. You may also be able to get references from those places, which will be beneficial for you as you seek a job where you can be more successful than you’ve been able to be at your current workplace. Or, if you think you can keep your job, even though you are being talked about negatively, you may be able to stay and focus on the fact that it at least provides you with a paycheck. If you don’t think you can find other work and you can’t afford even a short interruption in your salary (and few of us can), you may have to try to stay and do all in your power to become so valuable that even rumors can’t hurt your job stability. It will certainly help if you can find a few people at work who can at least be congenial coworkers, even if they are not friends.

Over time, if you show yourself willing to be friendly, show that you really, really want to add to the workplace, and show that you do high quantities of high quality work, you will be able to overcome rumors and negative people. It might not be an easy or quick answer, but it may be worth trying. Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what you decide to do and what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe