3rd Job, 3rd Scandal It’s a Small World!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about scandals: I have had sex scandal after sex scandal follow me from each job.

I feel completely destroyed, violated, abused, disrespected, deceived! I could go on but what has happened is that I have had sex scandal after sex scandal follow me from each job. Somebody tells who knows somebody who knows me! The first thing that you should know is that I have only kissed 3 males in my life, at ages 16, 18-19, and 21-24. I have talked to several guys in my life, but that is it. I decided to try and have a relationship with guy 1, but it didn’t work out. He was trying to use me–he wanted sex acts performed and other things. He was abusive; so that did not work out. Guy 2 I thought was nice, but he wasn’t. Both men have told that he had sexual experiences with me. The second guy told what it didn’t like about me physically in intricate details, things that only he and I should know have found its way among many people–1st job with scandal.

It came to attention of a coworker I was having trouble with. She spread it; then all others there spread it. Then 2nd job, a guy there knew someone who knew #1, who knew me, and told it (who worked at job 1). Then job at 3, a girl that worked there was good friends with woman from job 1’s niece, who told her.

Now at Job 4, information about guy 1 has spread because of someone who knew me said that he was cool with and told about our relationship. And now other 3rd/4th/5th/6th party characters on this job have heard things about Guy 2 and it has spread. The managers all know. Everyone, who associates with this one male older man, is out to destroy me. Why I don’t know he is making sure people know who I am.

I am not sure what I have done to people. I have tried to be a nice person. I have only had intercourse with Guy 2 (was a virgin until I was 21), (total of 6 times) this was over a series of 3 yrs. This story is 7yrs old, With Guy 1, it is 8 yrs old, but it has been destroying me over the past 4 yrs. I couldn’t stay at these jobs because it was so bad. I want to leave the city. I have an interesting name so people tell other people, and then they spread these stories on me. I don’t know what to do.

I feel so desperate, embarrassed, and ashamed. I am not involved with anyone and have trouble since this has taken place because I trusted someone or when someone wants to talk to me. Someone interferes and tells them not to talk to me and why they shouldn’t. They call me horrible names, and someone even said that I need to be beat! I need major help.

Signed, Subject of Gossip

Dear Subject of Gossip:

There are several things for you to consider as you think about what you see as a situation that is becoming impossible to handle as it relates to people talking about you:

1. First, I think you need to put your sex life in perspective as it relates to your problems at work and with people. Many women (and men) in the work world have comments made about their sex lives, whether the comments are true or not. My goodness, I would have had to stop working thirty-five years ago if I felt destroyed every time someone talked about me in that way! Your issues at work aren’t really about your sex life I don’t think. For one thing, no one is terribly shocked about anything to do with sex anymore. For another, you don’t describe anything all that bad that has been said about you, as it relates to sex. Apparently all that has been said is that you had a sexual relationship and maybe there have been some details talked about. There doesn’t appear to be an accusation of anything wildly kinky or illegal. Maybe if you didn’t react so strongly to it, they wouldn’t be so likely to talk about it.

2. IF you really believe and can prove that your sexual history is being discussed to such an extent that it is destroying your employment, you may have grounds for a claim of a hostile work environment against your employer for letting it happen. I don’t necessarily advocate doing that, but if you feel you have asked for help and not gotten it, that is certainly something to consider. The size of the company would make a difference, as well as what was said and what your bosses know about it. Talk to your supervisor about it and ask for his or her help to make it stop. If that doesn’t work, contact an attorney who specializes in sexual harassment cases and ask for a free consultation.You will need the following: The names of people who you have heard say things, or the names of people who will verify they have been told things. The precise things that were said. The approximate dates and times the remarks were made. Who was present. The impact it had on your ability to work. You will also need to show that you have asked your supervisor to assist you and not gotten help.

3. Now, step away for a moment and consider this in another way. You have had three jobs in apparently a relatively short amount of time. If you were a good worker, you were not fired. If you were getting good evaluations, your supervisors would not want to see you leave. So, it you quit, perhaps you did not need to do so. If you never talked to your bosses about your concerns, you don’t know but what they would have tried to help you. If now people are saying things like you “need to be beat” that says to me there is much more going on than the usual gossip that happens in the workplace. And it sounds to me like something is happening NOW that is creating anger…not that they are upset over some minor thing you did with someone else years ago. That is not even logical and I have never heard of that severe a reaction.

If you have heard about the remarks being made, then you must have one or two friends. Consider asking them their honest opinion about why you and you alone are being treated so badly. Tell them to be honest with you so you can know what it is that has created such bad feelings. Ask them if they think it can be made better. If you do have friends at work, make sure you show your friendship. As for the people who treat you badly, be courteous to them as well. Don’t argue with them or accuse them in an angry way. If you want to talk to them about this, do it from the viewpoint that you are hurt when remarks are made and you want to know if there is something you have done or said that makes them feel so negatively about you. Let them see that you do not want to fight about it, just that you want to get back to work and not worry about remarks. Then, if they will not discuss it, tell them you want them to stop. Then stop yourself. The more you talk to them about it, the more they will think about it.

Next, look at yourself and your actions without being defensive about it. Ask yourself if you are doing as much work and as good a quality work as the others. Ask yourself if you have gossiped about people or done things to make trouble for them. Do you act hostile if you think they are talking about you, even though you don’t have proof of it? Do you get in their face about issues that result in angry words? Are you neat, tidy, pleasant, a dependable worker and take care of your own business without meddling in others? You may be able to say that you are doing fine in all those areas. My experience is that someone who is doing fine in all those areas doesn’t have as many enemies as you say you have! Maybe the reality is that you don’t have so many enemies and any gossip is not as severe as it seems to you. It may be that you have some negative feelings about your sexual activities and think that others have those feelings too. If you have someone to talk to about it, a minister or counselor, that might be a good thing to try.

4. Let me suggest this for the very next time you go to work: Either write a letter or talk in person to your supervisor. Tell him or her that you want to do a good job and you want to stay working there, but you feel that you are disliked and being treated unfairly. Tell him how you feel about things and ask for his honest opinion. Here are the questions you could ask: Do you think I’m doing a good job? Is there some way I should be doing something different? Am I doing anything to cause the angry feelings I’m hearing about? What do you think I can do to make things better? If you don’t think I am in any way responsible for this situation, can you help me deal with it? I don’t think it’s right that the others talk about my personal life. How can I make it stop? Will you help me with that?

If they won’t stop, can I come back to talk to you about it? If you feel strongly about this, and your work has a process for making complaints about other employees, you may want to write a letter of complaint that is official. In that complaint say that you cannot work well with the remarks that are being made and you want to file a complaint. You can also say that what you want is for the remarks to stop and that you don’t want any more trouble over it.

5. As I said at the beginning, my experience has been that usually when there is as much conflict and negative situations as you describe, there is much more to it than one thing. In your case, I honestly do not think your sex life is so dramatic that people in every workplace would think it was worth talking about. So, there must be something else to it and your challenge is to find that something else and deal with it. One thing is for sure, if you are like most of us, you need your job and you don’t want to have to find another one. Anything you can do to make this one last would be worth it. That does not mean I think everything is your fault or that you are imagining it all. But I do think there is more to it than you say and I think you could likely do some things to make it better. It might not be easy, but it would certainly be worth it to allow you to enjoy work again and to feel that you can make friends and have good relationships with those around you.

In the meantime, at least you can concentrate on making your life away from work as good as possible. Focus on those you care about and do not spend your time thinking or talking about work problems. Be the best friend you can be to the people you like and trust. Find a hobby or activity that you enjoy. Or, just enjoy taking care of your home or reading. Go for walks and take care of your health. Go back to school and work on improving all of your skills so you can get a better job some day. Do not let your work take over the rest of your world. There is more to your life than work and if you can enjoy that, your work will not have such power to make you unhappy. Focus on the best things in your life and let the other things roll over you without reacting to them so strongly. This is a time to develop strength of character and peace within your self. I hope these thoughts will get your started toward building a better situation now and in the future.

Work can be more than a paycheck when you are skilled and committed to doing good as well as doing well. Hopefully you can find working with others a joy and not a nightmare. That is what we mean by WEGO.

Follow Up: P.S. On job 1, I did not name drop, but to talked with supervisor about how I felt what was being said about me and that I wanted to resolve it. But all he did was say I know who you are talking about, and I said that I didn’t want anyone to be talked to. Rather, I wanted to know how to handle the situation, to deal with it better. Then he said, “Don’t worry about it; just keep doing a great job, and not let what they say affect you. Later he told her off, cussed her out, and she told people that. People started acting/feeling that I was a telling on them. If someone did something or if they talked to me, they felt that I told the supervisor everything, which I never did. I was an assistant. I was promoted from within. I keep to myself. There are things that people told me that I never told anyone, but they all turned against me. I did make harsh remarks but it was not to everyone. It was on paper, electronic, or on my personal phone, and there were people that ease dropped on my conversations. This was wrong, but at times, I said some things to see if they were listening, and found out they were.

Signed, Subject of Gossip

Response: Thanks for the additional information. It doesn’t sound as though your boss at your first job handled things very well if he cussed someone out! On the other hand, you do not have to apologize for going to the boss about gossip and rumors. The people who were doing wrong didn’t want to get in trouble, but the fact is they were wrong to talk about you. In your current job, you will probably have to be the one to take the lead to calm things down. I’m not advising you to be a saint and never complain. But, the first way to try is to tend to your own work and treat the negative things only as something you feel sorry about because it makes everyone unhappy. If you have friends you can talk to, tell them that you have decided it is too miserable to keep arguing back and forth and you are going to do your best to be at least civil to everyone. That doesn’t mean you have to be friends with them or act as though nothing hurts you or angers you. All that means is that you won’t try to get back at them for it. You now know that it doesn’t help to say things to find out if someone is overhearing your conversations. No phone calls at work are private.

When you spend all your time focusing on what is being said about you, you are not spending your time focusing on work. Do your best, as hard as it is, to think about something other than how people feel about you. At some point they will get tired of continually gossiping. They will never completely stop but at least it may be manageable. As new people come to the workplace, be a friend to them and never, ever, gossip about the other employees. If you are forced by the situation to criticize something the others have said or done, add the thought that they must be very unhappy if they act like that all the time.

Look at your work area and see if it sends a message that is positive and upbeat. I don’t know if you have a workspace or not, but if you do, reorganize it and put up a pleasant photo or a good poem. Show by everything you do that you want to live your life in peace and you will let other people do that too.If you can, talk to the people who are making you so unhappy. Be honest with them and say something like, “All I want to do is be able to do my work and go home without feeling upset. I’ve said and done some things that have upset you and I’m going to do my best to not bother you anymore. I just want to work in peace and would appreciate you letting me do the same thing.” Then stick to it.

When you make a statement like that, it doesn’t mean that you want to get along until an hour later when she makes you mad again. It means that day and the next and a year from now. Don’t refer to the subject of the gossip and try to disprove it, whether it is your sex life or anything else. The more you talk about it, the more they will talk about it. Remember the adage: Never chase a lie. Leave it alone and it will run itself to death. In this case, leave all of it alone and focus on work. If at some point you can’t do your work, write a formal complaint and tell you boss you are going to have to quit if the mean remarks continue. I don’t think you want to do that, so that will remind you that whatever is said it would have to get very, very, very bad to make you quit.

Keep in mind too that if you don’t respond others will get tired of hearing from the few vocal people and will finally tell them to shut up. So, that’s where it stands and the rest is up to you. If you want to stay at that job you will have to find a way to do your job and wrap yourself in a mental cocoon where you don’t let others get to you about petty things. Nothing you have described sounds to me as though it is impossible to deal with. It is upsetting and it makes you angry and frustrated, but it can be handled if you focus on work and having a positive life.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.