Fellow Supervisor Spread Rumors I Am On Drugs!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about accused of drug use:

I am a supervisor, and a fellow supervisor has been spreading rumors that I am on drugs. She is jealous of my position and believes I have taken her position. Then rumors are getting out of control what can I do?

Signed, Subject to Slander

Dear Subject to Slander:

You do not say the type of size of your organization, but if there are two supervisors you both likely have a manager. This is an issue that management should be involved with as well. As I will mention later, this is apparently only one part of a much more complex problem. Also, ask yourself why she would be able to even suggest such as thing as drug use on your part. That is not something that is usually made-up without any indications. Among the reasons people accuse someone of drug use are: Absences, strange behavior, unfocused behavior, poor work, loss of control emotionally, over-talking or depression, lack of care about personal appearance, unusual actions such as going to the car often or meeting people outside the building, physical reactions such as shaking sniffing, coughing or scratching and moodiness–especially going from very cheerful to very quiet in a few hours, repeatedly. If you have situations that are causing some of those behaviors it could be that she is not the only one who thinks you are using drugs!

Ask your manager if he or she has concerns about you. It may be that the supervisor is saying something others are thinking. In a similar situation an employee saw an email in which her drug use was discussed. She angrily went to the person sending the email and after a heated conversation found out almost everyone thought she was using drugs because of her actions and conversation! If there have been actions on your part that might indicate drug use, be open with your manager about them and why they have occurred, but assure him or her that drugs are not involved. Then work to change the behavior. If there have been no actions and the other supervisor is literally making it all up, be clear about that as well. Write your concerns, especially how you know the other supervisor has made the statements about your drug use (witnesses etc.). In your letter say that she is harming your reputation and credibility AND the credibility of the organization and the manager since they are your employers. Say you need their assistance to make it stop. Be firm about that, because this is something that certainly SHOULD stop. Consider asking your manager to be present when you confront the person about the harmful things she is saying. Ask those who have reported it to you to speak up on your behalf as well. If you have an HR or personnel section, they should be part of this, since there are probably rules about discourtesy to fellow employees.

THEN, put some time and energy into the situation that has started all of this. Your manager should be concerned about this level of anger and distrust. See if there are ways you can help the situation through your own positive actions. The rumor is just a symptom, so even if it stops, something else will occur as long as the hostility and conflict remains. Do your best to let your manager know that as well. Make a point of letting him or her know what you consider to be the underlying cause. And make sure you never do anything to contribute to it through your own remarks about her or your actions in relation to her. It is a temptation, but one a supervisor must avoid. Your employees are watching both of you to see how you handle this. They may even encourage it! So, you will need to take the lead to be an example of how unpleasant situations should be handled.

Obviously this person feels negatively about you and may never change, but you can do a lot to help by first insisting that she stop her slanderous remarks, then insisting on finding ways for the two of you to at least have a peaceful co-existence, however you might feel about each other.If you go about it in an organized manner, sticking to your goal of having a civil workplace for everyone, you will at least come out of this looking much better than the other supervisor, if she refuses to cooperate in your efforts. That will be a giant plus for you! Hopefully, she will see the value of building something better than the current situation. Best wishes as you work through this problem. Giving respect and earning respect are twins that compose WEGO with co-workers.

Tina Lewis Rowe