Co-Workers Talk About Me Behind My Back

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about one particular employee that is talking real bad about me behind my back to other employees:

Hello, I’m an employee at a government hospital and I transferred to the current hospital I work at about 2 months ago. I have had problems with employees simply because of the way that I look and carry myself. I have this one particular employee that is talking real bad about me behind my back to other employees and the other employees who used to talk to me on a regular basis don’t have anything else to say to me. They talk bad about me behind my back also.

It makes my work environment a living hell. The person that is talking bad about me behind my back is supposed to be a real nice person. She has been talking about me ever since I moved to the same shift as her. Please let me know if there is anything I can do to make my work environment better. Thank you.

Signed, Feeling Left Out

DearĀ Feeling Left Out:

The place to start making things better is with your supervisor. A supervisor can’t solve every workplace problem, but should be made aware when an employee feels as shut-out as you do. There are things you might be able to do, but I think a supervisor should know about your concerns and what you think has been going on.

Let me share some thoughts and see if you can adapt them to your situation.

1. You say that people are talking about you behind your back. But, if they are, how would you know? There is usually some discussion of other employees when they’re not around, in almost every workplace. But that may not be so negative as you think.I’m not saying that you’re imagining hostility or some other attitude by your co-workers. But often we think people are paying more attention to us than they actually are. On the other hand, I know that a few times of feeling shunned can seem like a million times! That’s why I want you to find out what is really happpening and to see if there is something specific you can do about it.

2. You say your co-workers talk about you because of the way you carry yourself and look. That could mean a lot of different things. If you swagger or slump, frown or have a strange facial expression that can be controlled, or have some other appearance that looks unbuisness-like, they might comment on it every time they see you. If you are not clean, fresh smelling, neat and tidy, that might also be talked and complained about. If you are grouchy or moody or do not communicate effectively, that might cause talk as well–especially if the shift was running well before you go there.But those are all things you should work to correct anyway. And, if something about the way you carry yourself or look is creating problems, your supervisor should say something to you. Maybe if you mention it first, that will be a good point in your favor. I don’t mean to imply that you are at fault. But all of us can do and say things that create problems for others. We need to know about it, so we can correct it and do things differently.If your co-workers are talking about facial features or some other aspect of your appearance that you have absolutely no control over, it would be hurtful to be talked about. You would be right to ask your supervisor to help you stop that kind of hurtful actions by the others.

3. You say the main person talking about you is supposed to be a nice person. Maybe she is, and there is a misunderstanding about what is happening. If you haven’t heard unkind words coming right out of her mouth, don’t jump to the conclusion that she has said something. If you have reacted to what you suspect by being less than pleasant to her, that might be why the others are upset with you.Or, if it is someone else who is telling you that others are talking about you, maybe they are just stirring up trouble.

4. One thing is for sure: You need to talk to a supervisor and ask her to help you find out what is going on. Ask to talk to your supervisor in private. Then, tell her what you wrote to us. Be sure to tell her that the things that have been happening are making work miserable for you. Let her know that your work life is being affected by this.If you did good work and didn’t have this kind of problem on your other shift, point that out to her. You might want to suggest that she talk to your former supervisor to find out how well you got along.Ask your supervisor to help you find a way to work well with the team on your shift. According to what has been happening you might want to tell her that your goal is not to get anyone in trouble, it’s to find a way to fit in and work effectively.You may want to ask her if she would be present when you talk to the other employees and ask them to help you understand what it is that is creating the problems between you.

That may be uncomfortable for you to do, so you might not want to confront them in that way. But it would be helpful. I think you should have a supervisor present though, so there can be no accusations later that you were threatening or unpleasant to them. If you talk to your supervisor but get no help or support, consider talking to the HR section of your hospital, or to the person who supervises your supervisor. Whether your supervisor completely agrees with you or not, she should take some positive action to respond to your concerns.

5. In the meantime, consider thinking of your co-workers as people who don’t know the real you and who need to find out that you are a hard worker, a good team member and a good person to know.You may not be able to fully control how they act, but you can control how you react to it. If there is even one person on your shift who acts friendly, be supportive of that person, but don’t shut others out while doing it. Never fail to say hello and smile. Talk in a pleasant way. Be a good person to know. Help everyone be more successful in their work and keep your focus on your own work, so you do it well, on time and in a pleasant manner. All of us should be that way at work–and if you’ve been doing that all along, just keep it up! 6. But, what can you do if nothing changes about the way your co-workers treat you? You only have two options in that case: Find a way to continue working without adding to the conflict and while tolerating what is unpleasant. Or, find other work. That last option isn’t a good one for most people! It’s important to have a stable job, but it’s also important to feel good about work.You may have to simply find the strength inside you to focus on your work and learn to close your mind to the unpleasant things around you. If you do want and need your job, that is where your key focus should be. If you don’t have to work directly with the others, maybe you will need to just do your work, be as pleasant to others as they should be to you, and go home at the end of the shift without anger.

But, I still believe there is something more to all of this than just some mean people deciding to treat you badly! Be open to what might be the cause. You don’t have to take all the blame, but be willing to acknowledge that some aspects of your actions might have made your new co-workers suspicious of you, upset with you or not comfortable with you.But, if they say or do something to you that is unpleasant and not trying to solve a problem but create one, don’t hesitate to say, “Stop it.” Don’t show anger, just say stop it in a firm way and go talk to your supervisor about how to respond to make such behavior stop altogether.Best wishes as you work on this challenging situation. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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.