Accused Me of Gossiping About Her

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about personal privacy.

I was falsely accused by a new colleague, what to do? A new colleague very unexpectedly during a casual conversation suddenly started yelling at me and accused me in gossiping about her for the last several weeks. She was loud enough to attract everybody’s attention. My multiple polite requests to calm down and discuss her concerns in one of the offices were ignored and she told that she heard me talking about her and discussing her with others. This continued till a manager interfered and pulled us into his office, and asked what had happened. I tried to explain that I was being blamed in talking about her and I would like to know exactly what she thought she heard. Instead of giving a direct answer, she started a long story about her feelings and the culture in the department. She said that she feels some things, never being specific. I wanted to know the exact answer. I reminded her that I communicated with her only to help, for example help to understand the new role and the projects, processes – she cut me and said she didn’t ask me to help her.When I asked again that I need to know what she was exactly blaming me in, she said that she feels, and she might be wrong, she doesn’t know, but she feels like I am taking her personal information from her and sharing it with the boys in the department, as they are seeking for information about her. She mentioned that one of the male colleagues told her at lunch that they are usually talking about girls during the lunch breaks.

Also she mentioned that I asked her if she has kids. To this I explained that she was seeking my advice on what projects she needs to work on. I said that some of the projects are very time consuming and if you had kids you should be aware of the overtime hours. She yelled that it is not my business whether she has kids or not. I said ok. BTW, I am a woman and have children myself. I left the room without saying anything. The two remained in that office. Whatever she would continue to say, I will not know. I think the accusation that I was sharing her personal information with boys, for some ridiculous reason, is not acceptable, and beyond unprofessional.

I am neither her manager, nor am I going to work with her closely in the same organization. But this hysteria can harm my reputation in the future. Besides, the manager, who interfered, shouted at me and cut me off when I was directly asking specifically what she was blaming me in. This happened on Friday, and I have the weekend how to react to this. Please advise.

Signed-Have the Weekend to React


Dear Have the Weekend to React:

Nothing said sometimes is the best said, like that given by the best advisers, no advice is given. For now my “no advice is no advice” because apparently you will play this unhappy exchange with your loud disgruntled new coworker and manager over and over in your head like a broken record. Perhaps also you will share it with your husband or friends and vent it to yourself while trying to sleep. My advice for now is let it go. It happened. You are angry about this coworker’s false assumption about you gossiping about her. You are upset about a manager shouting and cutting off your effort to get an explanation. You know the whole thing is not your fault. Trying to defend yourself at this point will likely cause others to see you  reliving that unhappy exchange as aggressor.

Might the scenario have been something like this? –You meant well by forewarning that a project could be demanding and you ask if she had children, thinking that would show your concern for her life outside the job. Probably she jumped to the conclusion that you were suggesting she might not be up to the job. She was new and didn’t want her capability or commitment doubted. She brewed over that and exploded to stay out of her family life.

For now cool it, avoid her. Only briefly apology if you have to work on something together and if she seems not to want to work with you. Then you might say you didn’t mean to probe or imply she wasn’t capable. Say that now your and her jobs hinge on being able to collaborate. Only confront that manager if at an appropriate time you can ask if you might discuss the past incident—about being cut off from an explanation that could have resolved the blow up.

Focus on making your work go smoothly and effectively. Find outside of work activity that rests and refreshes rather than recalls the stress of interpersonal coworker and boss-bossed interaction. Think big as if you owned the place about how to cut waste—wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted money, waste due to redo of defects, etc. Think how it could be fun to work as a team excited about what your workplace contributes to customers and your little circle of the world. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden