Written Up For Gossip-Now Coworker Apologizes

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctor about being reported for gossip:

I was written up for gossip and given the person’s name who reported it. I was told the person called my supervisor directly and unsolicited. Later I received an email (unsolicited) from that person that stated they did not say that, they thought highly of me, and found the term harsh. What should I do?

Signed, Confused

Dear Confused:

This is certainly is a reminder that many people will sit and listen to speculation, comments, critiques and rumors, but they also have part of their brain saying it’s wrong to gossip. So, they encourage it on one hand and report it on the other.  I would bet the co-worker did say something to your manager, although maybe she did not use the word gossip. If you really think your manager lied about it, you can push back and ask your co-worker to support you in a grievance–but I doubt the co-worker would want to do that.

It may be that your coworker brought up an issue or concern with the supervisor and said you were the source. She may have even griped a bit about hearing it from you or may have said you often want to talk about such things. The supervisor felt you were gossiping and gave you a warning or reprimand about it. Or, perhaps another co-worker told your co-worker that you had talked about someone or something and the co-worker was frustrated and complained to a manager

After that happened, the coworker may have felt badly about causing you to be written up for gossip or may not have wanted to have her name made known, so she tried to apologize or at least to smooth things over. One way for her to apologize would be to say that even though she may have talked to the supervisor, she didn’t use the word “gossip” specifically, in relation to you.

 

You also need to consider the coworker and her personality and status. If she has less tenure than you, she may still be learning how to deal with things. If she has more tenure, she may have been bitten in the past about trying to be honest with coworkers, so she went to the supervisor instead of talking to you directly.

If she is quiet by nature, she may regret ever getting involved with this. If she is boisterous and talks a lot herself, she may wish she had not repeated what she heard. I would guess you wish you had not said whatever it was that led to this. So, there is plenty of regret and responsibility to go around.

Remember that it’s not the supervisor’s fault for taking action about something that was brought to her attention. It’s not even the coworker’s fault for giving your name when talking about it to the supervisor. You will feel better if you use this to help you avoid a habit that is universally problematic in offices. A large majority of our mail is about the harm caused by gossip. Most ask, “Why won’t the supervisor do something about it?” This is one time when the supervisor did.

The bottom line is this: If you know that you did make the statements you were written up for gossip about, you may as well accept all of this as a tough learning experience and accept that whether your coworker is being honest or not, you will still be working there with her. Accept her outreach, if you think she is genuine in wanting to be a work friend. You can talk to her or write to her and just say, “This was a hard lesson and I feel badly about it. I plan to keep going and put this behind me as quickly as possible. Thank you for your note.”  When you interact with her, be cordial and focus on work. You can reinforce the respect of your supervisor and coworkers by acknowledging that you would do things differently if you had it to do over again. Then, let your actions show that this was an isolated incident that won’t happen again.

Best wishes to you as you move forward from this.

Tina Lewis Rowe