Is This Defamation?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctor about defamation: Did I unknowingly commit slander even though I said nothing negative about her; I just that what she did was one of my pet peeves?

I recently discussed a pet peeve with a coworker and she took it upon herself to address the issue. The person she told about it misunderstood and is now claiming defamation of character. Did I unknowingly commit slander even though I said nothing negative about her; I just that what she did was one of my pet peeves? Am I in the wrong and what kind of repercussions am I facing?

Signed, What Am I Facing?

Dear What Am I Facing?:

Defamation is making a false statement about another person, which causes that person to suffer harm. If you have done that, consult an attorney. Our site answers questions about workplace communication issues, not legal ones. There are several sites to which you can send a legal question, such as,,, etc.

It is impossible to know if you defamed a coworker because you haven’t stated what was your pet peeve exhibited by someone where you work about which you gossiped. Probably it does not constitute defamation; however, negatively it was interpreted. Repercussions from saying a coworker did something that you dislike hinge on what are the rules within your work organization. Are there rules against badmouthing someone? If so, you might be given a warning. If you said falsely a coworker stole from the company, that could result in a severe penalty for you.

If you gossiped a certain coworker talked endlessly about her personal life, that likely would not result in a penalty. If you gossiped about the way your coworker overstayed her breaks, that is a matter for her supervisor to handle, and that should not cause you to be disciplined.

What have you learned from this incident? Hopefully you’ve learned not to talk about someone in a way that would upset her or him. Does this mean you won’t have pet peeves? No. We all see some things that annoy us that others do at work. We each can endure annoyances that don’t adversely affect our work. We can confront those who annoy us if that distracts from us doing our jobs and if they continue to with such acts, we can request that our supervisor see that they stop. So what do you do now?

You have some overlapping choices:Talk no more about it. Take responsibility for this. Admit that you were wrong to gossip about a coworker. Apologize to the offended coworker for talking about her/him who exhibits your pet peeve. Resolve from now on not to say anything bad about any coworker without first confronting the individual about it and only then to broach that subject if it adversely affects your job. Focus on quality of products and service.

Engage your work group in cutting waste; wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy and wasted money. Show respect for and goodwill to your coworkers. Cheerlead. Applaud helping acts of others. Don’t obsess about this and avoid further talk about it with any coworkers other than the one who annoyed you. Think team. Realize that talk about others can be perceived to harm their status. Realize that our job entails both what we are hired to do and how well we interact with our others. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Do that and this worry will pass.

William Gorden