Co-workers E-mail Gossip

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about gossip: her e-mail was open to a VERY long string of e-mails between her and another co-worker talking about me.

I work in a “call center” office. One day, a co-worker left her phone on and was away from her desk, so I was forced to answer it. When going onto her computer to access customer support, her e-mail was open to a VERY long string of e-mails between her and another co-worker talking about me…anything from them not being able to stand listening to me talk (which I rarely do) to them saying I sound like a horse when I eat popcorn to talking about how fat I am and I don’t have the “willpower” to starve myself.

At one point, my boss (who is the one girl’s mother) even was in the e-mail talking about me. It was an accident that I even saw it, but now, anytime I hear them talking or typing, I know it is about me. I can’t even get out of bed anymore…I feel so completely crushed. What can I do about this? I feel like they are indirectly harassing me!

Signed, Completely Crushed

Dear Completely Crushed:

Sometimes it would be better not to know what others think of us. Right? How can you face them knowing you have been berated? Wouldn’t it be better not to know? You now are not the same person you were before. Now you what they have said and might be saying plays through your head again and again. We want to know what others think of us if that is positive. We don’t want to know if it is negative. Yet the fact is that we know others judge us and that sometimes that judgment is harsh. What others think and say about us matters. It can boost our self-esteem or crush us. What can you do about this?

You have two big choices and several variations on them–to bite your tongue or to confront them:

–Bite your tongue and go about your job pretending you are a happy competent person. Bite your tongue and gossip to your friends outside of work about how nasty they are.¬† Bite your tongue, but take what they say about you as a guide to self-analysis and follow a self-improvement plan, possibly finding at least one other coworker to befriend.

–Confront them saying how shameful it is to badmouth you, never disclosing how found out. ,Confront them admitting you inadvertently read their emails dicing you and listen to their backtracking and dodging what they said.

–Confront them disclosing how much you despise their badmouthing, making them look bad for hateful gossip. Confront them, admitting you read their email, then asking their help in shaping up to be the kind of person they can respect.Or not bite your tongue and not confront them directly but report them to your supervisor and ask her help in stopping their gossip.

Or quit your job once you can find another and start fresh elsewhere. Might any of these options help you face them and live with yourself? That is what only you can say. From a distance, it’s impossible to say what you have the strength to do. Possibly you might seek the help of Employee Assistance if you have such a program or get counseling from a community or religious body.

The crucial thing for you maintaining a job and not retreating is that you get out of bed and beat back the temptation to allow what you know your coworkers have said to crush you today and tomorrow. If you were in a choir and learned that others in the choir diced your singing, you would have choices similar to what you have today as you decide whether to get out of bed. What you choose won’t be a quick fix. It will take continuing courage and telling your self that you are tough enough not to allow others to crush your spirit.

Ideally, our work group would meet regularly to talk about how we might help make each others’ and our own work more effective.¬† After all, the purpose of a workplace is to be profitable enough that we can put bread on our tables. Ideally, someone or you will talk with each other and your supervisor about that rather than to dice each other in gossip. Ideally, in spite of what you now know, you will make the most customer effective response possible to the calls that come in. You have a voice. Let it be heard. Let it be strong. Let it be clear. Let it clarify and inform. Let it be the best in you. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden