Rumors About Me Taking Pics of Coworkers!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about rumors: Now the rumors have spread that I’m taking pictures of my coworkers. I’m being approached by workers being pissed off.

I work in a factory and the rumor mill is just way out of hand. Recently a temporary worker started with us who has just been a pain in the rear since day one. The supervisor has been approached many times and seems not to believe what I say. So, I took matters in my own hands and took pictures of this worker doing things wrong. Now the rumors have spread that I’m taking pictures of my coworkers. I’m being approached by workers being pissed off. I don’t even know where to start to fix this issue!

Signed, Caught In The Rumor Mill

Dear Caught In The Rumor Mill:

Things can sure get twisted around quickly, can’t they? I’m hoping that you have enough friends at work that they will believe your motives and stick by you. Here are some things to consider:

1.Stop taking pictures, of course. I can see why you did it, but it was almost inevitable it would be misunderstood. For one thing, there are enough people doing wrong things all the time that your coworkers probably figured they would get in trouble whether you intended them to or not. For another, no one likes the idea of someone potentially sneaking around taking their photos. It just feels bad.

2. I don’t know the number of people in your warehouse, but there usually are key leaders. Perhaps union leaders or just informal leaders. Go to those people and tell them you are sorry that your actions caused so much concern. Take the blame on yourself and be willing to be humble about it, even if it doesn’t seem all your fault. You have to work with those people, so you might as well let them feel more like forgiving you.I think I would take the approach that I thought I was doing something to help everyone and I never even thought about it creating a problem like it did. I would pour it on thick and even be willing to sound like a well-intentioned dope if I had to!I think you should try to approach as many leaders as you can, but at the same time, talk to some of the others as well, as you see them. If you see a group, go right up and say you are sorry. Something like,”Hey you guys, I want to tell you how sorry I am that I took those pictures and caused people to think I was making trouble for them. I can only ask you to know I wouldn’t do that. I thought I was doing the right thing. I’m sorry.”The one thing you don’t want to do is to get angry if someone doesn’t accept the apology right away or if they question you more than you think they should. Someone wrote to me not long ago about offering an apology to someone and the other person said he didn’t think the guy apologizing was sincere. To which the first person replied, angrily, “Well, screw you then! I only was apologizing to be nice, but now I see you’re too big a jerk to apologize to! You can kiss my rear!” He wrote to see if I thought it was too late to try to apologize again! (I think it was.) The point of that is to say if you truly want to get this calmed down it will be a three step process. 1.) Apologize for a day or two to as many people as possible. Don’t blame the temp worker, just apologize. 2.) Drop it, then and focus on work. You may still need to say something now and then, but you’re better off letting it die down and letting something else take its place. 3.) Don’t let a barrier build up between you and others, even if they don’t seem so friendly right now. Be appropriate, but keep talking and smiling like always. Seek out those you know will accept you. Continue to be an active part of things.All of that brings you back to what you should do about the problem coworker. I’d say leave it alone and let your supervisor deal with him. If his work hurts you or creates more work for you, put it in writing and send it to your supervisor or ask the supervisor to come to your location and show him the problem.

Otherwise, let the temp make mistakes–as many temps do, since they don’t have the training or experience others might have. It may be those errors don’t matter so much to the supervisor. It may also be that other employees haven’t complained so you have appeared to be out to get this one employee. Or, they may have complained too, but your supervisor just doesn’t think those issues are that big a deal.If something is said about the employee now, you can say that you were pushed to the point of being so frustrated you took matters into your own hands, but nothing is worth hurting the friendship you have with your regular coworkers. That kind of statement gets repeated just like others do.You may want to consider talking to your supervisor about this and explaining why you did what you did.

You might even want to say you regret that you took the photos instead of writing or talking to your supervisor again. That will probably be a tough conversation, but it might be worth it.

Groups of people (men or women) seem to like to have something to be agitated about. You gave them something new to be agitated about so they probably won’t want to give that up right away! Probably someone has the story being that you’ve been paid extra money to take photos of employees (or some such ridiculous thing like that!) As the old saying goes, “Never chase a lie. Keep as far away from it as possible and let it run itself to death.”

This one might take a few days but it will go away as your coworkers remember the kind of person you’ve always been. (And we’ll hope that was a good person!)Best wishes to you through all of this. I know it can be frustrating and even depressing. No one likes to be in the middle of a storm at work. Time will take care of it if you can hold on and show your decency and friendliness. You may find you can be a bit more empathetic for the temp worker too. OK, maybe not!Best wishes to you with this. 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.