Co-Worker Spreading Lies About Me

Question:
I have been at the same job for 20 years. New management took over and said they want to keep me and that they needed me. However, we have a young girl who started with them and obviously wants me gone. She talks about me daily turning others against me. Spreading terrible lies.

When they first come in a few months ago I did everything humanly possible to help them make their transition especially since I already knew them and didn’t have a problem with them . My years and experience made this girl jealous and that’s when she started. It has gotten way out of hand. There isn’t a day that goes by that she don’t slander and spread rumors to others.

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Should I Apologize?

A question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a big mistake caused by gossip.

I recently gossiped about a coworker and I feel horrible about it. The story may be long but it may help to get where I’m coming from. I’m an inexperienced, shy, young guy and I met a girl who caught my interest at a job I got a few months ago. My first mistake was telling a couple of my coworkers about my interest with this girl. It spread throughout my entire department and everyone made it their mission to get this girl to go out with me. I awkwardly talked to her a few times and I thought I wasn’t going to get anywhere. One day my coworker said I should message her, I did and got nervous. I asked him for advice and he took my phone and asked her out for me. She agreed to my surprise, I wouldn’t have gone out with me at that point, considering that we hardly spoke to each other. We went to a Starbucks she wanted to go to and it was not a proud moment for me. I knew I was boring, I was uncomfortable and I wanted to go home but stayed for an hour until she “had” to leave.

It was obvious she wasn’t interested but it didn’t end as bad as I thought so I asked her out a few days later. She gave me an excuse of why she couldn’t go out with me so I waited until I saw her at work. I was nervous when I talked to her and she gave me an uninviting response so I was going to leave and get over her. That little voice in my head said I was over thinking it so I waited until her shift was over. I talked to a male coworker of mine while I waited and it turns out he was waiting for the girl I was waiting for. She hurried out the door with him and I was upset. I went to work the next day and I vented to a coworker who was working her last day. I felt better but then the girl I went out with texted me saying it wasn’t going to work out between me and her.

I knew that already, I literally saw it with my own eyes. I assumed she thought I was stupid because she had to give me confirmation that I had no chance, as if it wasn’t clear enough. This made me angry and I told a few coworkers what happened, it spread throughout the first floor of the store and I’m not proud of what I did. I knew I should’ve kept it to myself, I lost my cool and I regretted it and I know that’s a poor excuse. I was my own worst critic and thought about quitting to avoid the drama I caused. I stayed because it would have looked too dramatic if I quit after that. Turns out that my coworkers were on my side; she was wrong for leading me on and they had a low opinion of her.

I never meant for that to happen, I was not trying to get people on my side or even take a side, I just blindly rage vented. A month has passed since then, I don’t see her anymore but I hear that the girl is still working at the store. I started working on myself after I told people about the situation; I was building confidence, keeping personal things to myself, to make sure I won’t do something this stupid again, and I started to make some progress last week. I was going to let this issue die out, but I feel awful. It’s awkward seeing her now significant other at work and I don’t know what to do. I don’t know if I should apologize to her for telling people about her business or to leave it alone. People seem very uneasy towards me now and I don’t know what to do about any of this.
Signed, another f***up.

Dear Overthink,

I prefer to address you as overthink rather than as “another f***up.” Perhaps the better label for yourself is “Learning From My Mistakes” because your careful appraisal of the situation is evidence of that. Therefore there is no need that my advice be lengthy:

  • Let the past be past. Don’t allow this mistake to play like a broken record stuck on “stupid guy” “stupid guy” “stupid guy” punishing yourself again and again. Learning is an ongoing process, especially learning how to cope with feelings.
  • Don’t apologize. Leave it alone. If you two happened to have a moment in private (and that’s not likely) and she expresses her anger at you, then you can say, “I’m sorry if I embarrassed you as I have myself. I apologize for ever telling anyone I was attracted by you. I hope you can forgive me.”
  • Shift your focus to your job and your career.  The comment “People seem very uneasy towards me now” likely is more in your head than theirs. You are too focused on yourself. You are hired to do a job. Do it. What will make your performance the kind that you would want if you owned the place? How can you make your internal and external customers pleased with what you do? How can you be more efficient and effective? In your account of your gossip, you don’t ever mention your job or customers. How can you cut wasting supplies, cut wasted time, cut wasted energy, cut wasted money? How can you manage your own time better? If you focus on pleasing coworkers by making their jobs easier, they will see of you as the kind of coworker they want to have around.
  • Answer unstated questions that are in every encounter you have with a coworker or customer—Why you? Why me? Why are you here? What do you want? What good is that to me? Such questions are ones that will put what you are doing in perspective. They will also take your mind off of what you are not paid to do. I don’t know how this particular job fits into your career plans, or even if you have any plans. But I do know that as the saying goes “none of us plan to fail, but we fail because we fail to plan.” See today as one day lost if you are not gaining experience that adds information on your career path. Just as eventually finding someone you love and who will love you is an ongoing process of elimination and discovery and, so is a career path a process of elimination and discovery. Think big. Learn the costs of overhead in our workplace? Know how many are employed? What areas make it the most money? Gradually learn different aspects of the business, even if you don’t plan to stay there. Such knowledge will make you better at your job and to know when if ever to leave.
  • Treasure good feeling moments. By that I mean such things as completing an assignment, doing something well, getting to work a few minutes early, prioritizing what you do. Achieving even minor things tells us we deserve to be employed. Cheering on a coworker, helping someone with a task, showing empathy stirs within us good feeling moments. Good feeling moments add up to satisfaction with what you are doing now or if you don’t have them, you know it is time to change your behavior or move on.
  • Value talk. Talk to yourself. Make some of that good talk. Develop rules about what you will and will not talk about to coworkers (I know you have made a rule not to gossip about personal matters). Spell out rules about how to talk on topics that can make your area of work more effective. Talk about what should be on the agenda of your work group.
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    A Problem Workplace–But Two Coworkers Are The Worst

    Question:

    This has been going on for a while. And I admit that I have irritated my coworkers which I have been seeking therapy for. I had a baby this year so the hormones have not helped. This is going to be long. First, a little background: Recently we just had a manager get terminated because she was not only discriminating against certain employees but she also got caught in borderline illegal activity. This has resulted in her telling other things about me that were not true and her telling them about some personal medical information, as well as some complaints about some unethical workplace issues I had. Okay, now with that background I need some advice with an ongoing issue.

    There are two men at my work that have been repeatedly and viciously attacking my character to other employees and my immediate supervisor. It has gotten so bad that I had dropped to part time and got another part time job. I finally broke down and reported it to the franchise owner as the things that they are doing are not being corrected or they keep repeating the behavior. She brushed it off as this was something that I needed to just discuss with my therapist and that I was overreacting. But, since then it has escalated to the point of borderline sexual harassment and baiting me to try and say something bad about my coworkers.

    This is what happened last week: I was in the breakroom as I had finished with the daily cleaning, didn’t have any clients, and wanting to just play some Scrabble on my phone. As I was getting into my game one of the two men, man A, told me he was worried about another heavy set male getting fired. So, of course I asked him why he thought that. His response was because this man had given him a massage and he thought he was breathing too heavy. (Now at this point I immediately recalled a conversation where the manager and my immediate supervisor had asked my opinion on this exact situation since I have been a massage therapist for 10 years and I used to be the immediate supervisor.) So, my response to man A was “maybe you could coach him?”

    He started going into it more in depth. Also, I told him about another man where this had happened and the man had to be terminated because too many female clients felt his heavy breathing was inappropriate. Thus, I told him that he should maybe notify his friend that he was doing this and make him aware of it. So, I left it at that. Next, he started a conversation with man B about the comic book he was reading. The comic book is a graphic one and this is where it gets strange and borderline sexual harassment. They were talking about this crazy character in the book. And man B told him “that was crazy looking.” So, they started talking to me about the comic and cool this character was. So, for whatever reason(stupid me) I ask to see the character. And man A gave me no warning and showed me an obese, giant, nude, male alien character. If you need a reference the character is in Saga Volume 2. The drawing definitely had a penis and scrotum as well as being quite disgusting! Plus all this was caught on camera!

    My husband wants me to file a complaint with my work but I have been down this road before and everyone looks down upon you for it. Also, these two men are well liked among the other coworkers. Also, I feel that since I asked to see it that that would look bad on my part if I complained. Now what’s really weird is man A has shown me this character before. And I don’t think he realizes that I remember him doing this before. Also, they both had a good laugh about it.

    Finally, this does not just stop there. The same guy who showed me this and tried to bait me into saying bad things about my coworker has also purposely not finished his work. We are to not only change linens on the massage tables but we are to also disinfect our rooms, change the garbage, make sure we remove towels from the towel warmers, and wipe any greasy hand prints off the walls when we finish our shift. So, the evening before my shift, he gets the room I’m assigned. I constantly come into garbage not changed, hand prints on the wall, smeared lotion on the wall (more than what would be a normal amount), and litter on the floor(more than normal amount). One morning, I brought the franchise owner into the room to show her how bad the room looked after three months of enduring this. She told me it would be handled. So, I thought ‘great.’ I figured it was handled! Nope, three shifts later and the room was even more disgusting than the previous times! We just recently had a meeting so I am hoping this gets resolved!

    I love my career there however this has gotten to a point where I have asked for a transfer. It was denied. I have talked to managers and the owner, but no resolution. It is getting to the point where I’m going to quit and the franchise owner will lose me, a 3 year employee with many awards(most requested therapist 2 years in a row and therapist of the year), ten years of experience, and I rarely call off in an industry that is plagued by call offs.

    I am seriously wanting to confront this person head on as I use to be his direct supervisor! However, I don’t want to cause a bunch of unnecessary drama or gossip as it runs rampant at this place! The franchise owner is already under a ton of stress due to the manager she just had to fire as well as the 5 employees that just quit! Please, help me.

    Answer:

    It sounds as though your workplace is very unpleasant! It may be that some of your colleagues are caring, compassionate and professional—but obviously several are not. If you live in an area large enough for this massage franchise to operate, there are probably others as well. It sounds to me as though you should do as Dr. Gorden often suggests, and “vote with your feet” by leaving the miserable people to their misery. If you choose not to do that, your best solution will be to rewind, reset and renovate your own work life. You can’t change the other employees and apparently your manager has done all she intends to do, so it will be up to you to look at your corner of the world and deal with it effectively.

    There are three steps to make things better: 1.) Focus on your own life and work. 2. Develop a reputation for being a highly professional colleague who adds to the workplace rather than detracting from it. 3.) Use the first two steps to gain more influence, so you can be the standard for professionalism. That is a big vision for what you can do and be—but it is achievable. Working to achieve a great vision is soul-satisfying, in and of itself—and, based on your comments, you have been missing that in your work life.

    Let’s look at those steps individually:

    1.) Focus on your own life and work.
    If you are seeing a therapist, you have a tremendously valuable resource for helping you deal with your situation. I especially hope you continue to seek guidance from your therapist and your physician, about how you are feeling, physically as well as emotionally, as you deal with the challenges of being a new parent. You are probably aware, from you reading and research and from first-hand experience, that the first three years or so of parenting can be tremendously stressful and tiring. Both parents can feel under constant pressure as a result. Combined with work, it is almost too much to expect—but our work culture does expect it. Even the parents themselves seem to think they can function as well as always, with only a short amount of time off. Any problems you have had may have been caused or made worse by the mental and physical fatigue that tends to be ever-present.

    Of course, even stress and fatigue are not excuses for repeatedly irritating others or being considered a problem, but if you feel you have had more problems since the birth of your child, you probably can attribute it to some of the aspects of being a new parent.

    Given your training as a massage therapist, I’m sure you also know all of the elements of a healthy lifestyle and how important each of those elements are for your overall well-being. Renew your efforts to keep your body fit and healthy. At the same time, develop a menu of positive things you can do to relax and refresh your mind and emotions: Get more sleep; do things and talk about things that are not related to work; nurture your spiritual life; keep your home tidy and clean; pay extra attention to grooming and personal presentation; shower love on your husband, baby and family and welcome their love in return. In short, wrap yourself in the protection of a well-lived life.

    2.) Develop a reputation for being a highly effective colleague who adds to the workplace rather than detracting from it.
    You mention that you have irritated coworkers in the past. However, a former manager created problems for you as well. There are also two men who say things about you to others and then say bad things about other employees to you. There was a situation that involved one of the men showing you a gross comic image. A final issue is that one of those men does not clean up the room you will be using on the next shift (apparently on purpose). There are probably many other irritants growing out of all of that. As I said at the beginning, it sounds as though your workplace is unpleasant. If energy is passed from massage therapist to client, I can only imagine how negative some of that energy is!

    You can begin today to change parts of the situation. You’ve already identified the people who are most problematic for you and others. Don’t engage in conversation about anyone with them ever again, unless they change their pattern of behavior. Be like one of those skillets on TV commercials, where nothing sticks to you, and let them slide out of your life mentally, every time they start to stir up trouble. Find something else to do. Don’t engage with them about anything other than work. I do think it’s better to not have a “holier than thou” attitude about it, but you can redirect their attempts to gossip and still sound civil to everyone listening. Have a menu of responses tucked away in your brain for those occasions.

    “I haven’t heard about that situation, but I don’t need to know. I’m really working at staying focused on what I’m responsible for and not getting involved in the things I’m not responsible for. So, help me do that by not telling me about Jon and Rita.”

    “Stop! If you’re going to tell me something Lisa said about me, I don’t want to know. Please, just don’t say anything more to me about it.” (Cover your ears, if it will help!)

    “I’m sorry to hear about that, but unless we were there, we don’t really know what happened, so I’m not going to assume it’s true. Besides, there’s more enjoyable things to talk about, like…………”

    Another antidote for negative conversation at work is to talk about improving work, sharing ideas for new procedures, problems in similar workplaces, new products, experiences that have been interesting or helpful, etc. Most gossipers run at the thought of talking about how they can improve their work! Have some magazines about products or methods involved with your profession and have a page or article to which you can refer when you want to introduce a new topic or when small talk is devolving into petty talk. You can offer to loan the magazine or make a copy of the article.

    Whatever you do, do not get caught up in the reports made by coworkers about other people or situations. If they lied about you, they could be lying about anyone else. Or, even if they told the truth about you, it was ultimately hurtful and harmful.  You don’t want to support even truthful talk about others, if it is negative feeling and serves no good purpose.

    3.) Use the first two steps to gain more influence. You can set the standard for what a professional in your workplace should be like. If a video was made about the ideal massage therapist in a franchise operation, how would that person act and talk? How would they deal with conflict and solve problems? Let that person be you and let others slowly realize that you fit the description of a true professional in your work. It takes three things to have influence: You must be credible, you must be valuable and you must communicate effectively.

    You can work on each of those three things simultaneously and set the standard for everyone else to follow. From what you say, many of your clients already think of you in that way. Probably many colleagues think so too. However, any of us can benefit by being more credible, more valuable and a better communicator.

    That brings me to how you could handle the situation of the naked comic image—and I did research it and agree the figure is grotesque. However, it is in a widely acclaimed graphic novel series and is not considered pornographic—it is “adult themed.”  It seems to me that your situation involves disrespect and inappropriateness more than sexual harassment. I think you are correct, that in this case the men could say you weren’t forced to look at the image and that you had reason to suspect it would be bizarre, based on their comments as well as the nature of those adult graphic novels. This is one of those times when what you would get from a complaint would not be worth making it. They aren’t going to fire those two men, so you would just be made more uncomfortable.

    It often is helpful to ask, before looking at or listening to something considered funny, “Is this going to be G rated? If it’s PG or X rated, I don’t want to see it.” Or, “Before I look at it, is it anything I’ll be embarrassed about? I don’t want to look at something crude or rude.” That is another time when a menu of responses is helpful. I wouldn’t normally mention that, because most of the time it isn’t necessary. However, I expect you may have something similar again, if those two guys are around.

    Fortunately, you won’t be as likely to be in that situation again, if you don’t engage in casual conversation with those men. If you are professionally civil, you won’t seem unfriendly or as though you’re shutting them out of work conversations. But, don’t let them get into your life and mind by talking to them any more than necessary. If they improve one day, you can rethink your approach. They won’t be around forever and you will at least have the satisfaction of knowing you didn’t let them get the upper hand.

    You also said the two male coworkers have been spreading stories about you. The only way you would know that would be for someone to tell you. If it was your manager, ask her to work with you to stop that kind of hurtful behavior. If you were told by other employees, keep in mind their report might not be the entire truth. The old adage is correct: “It takes two people to  make you feel bad—an enemy to say something behind your back and a friend to make sure you hear about it.” Don’t even let friends fill your mind with unpleasant thoughts. Just redirect them and make it clear you are doing your best to stay focused on your family, your work and your clients.

    You don’t seem to be in a situation where you will be fired for the things the men are saying about you. Over time, if you make it a project to focus on your own work, be a valuable member of the work group and work to gain influence, you will be able to overcome idle talk. If any part of what they say is true, work on that first.

    The third issue you mentioned about the men was that one of them doesn’t clean up the room after using it. In fact, it seems he messes it up more than needed. What a juvenile thing to do! Really, anything bad that happens to him as far as his job goes, is well-deserved. I don’t know why people would like him and the other man, if they know he does things like that.

    You say you had a meeting about it, so hopefully the matter is settled. However, if it happens again, take several photos, some of them close up. Then, take several photos showing how it looks when you leave it. Use those to ask your manager to direct Coworker A to clean the room correctly.

    I would think your business would have a checklist for each room, so the therapist could never say he or she had thought it was cleaned. They could look at the checklist and look around the room, to ensure they have done all that is required. If there isn’t such a checklist, consider developing a draft and asking that it or something like it, be place in each room.

    Your final comment was that you have considered confronting the employee directly. Replace that with “communicate with the employee directly.” But do it in writing, if possible, so you will have documentation.

    First, let your manager know that you are going to send an email or leave a message for Employee A. Then, make your message a request—making the assumption that it will be seen by others and you want your words and demeanor to appear professional but not falsely sweet. Something like, “Hi Kevin, when I got here this morning, I saw that there was trash on the floor, lotion on the wall and two towels still in the warmers. Cleaning it up made me have to rush to get my first client started on time. Please help me by following the process we discussed in our meeting last week, in which we agreed that each of us would leave the room clean, picked up and ready for the first client on the next shift. I’ll be sure to do the same. Vanessa”

    You may be thinking that since you’ve talked about it before, you can’t easily send something that sounds so mild. However, it can be more effective than other approaches, because it gives the other person one more chance and is clearly something that can be forwarded to higher levels. If you talk about it, the words are in the wind, but if you put it in writing, there is no doubt about what you said. If he approaches you about it personally, stick to what you wrote, rather than getting involved in a back and forth argument. Just repeat the thoughts in your message. If nothing is being resolved, suggest that the two of you talk about it to the manager again. (Or if you haven’t talked with the manager about it, suggest it as the best thing to do.)

    The Bottom Line: All of this is a lot of words of advice and I realize that you may have tried some parts of it already. However, I don’t think you have tried all of it, and all of it can be useful. Start by promising yourself to not talk about work at home to same degree as you have done in the past. Give your family and yourself a break. Then, focus on work at work, not the human drama that is swirling around you. Talk to your manager when it seems to be a good time and find out if she has ideas for things she’d like to see you change or do more of or less of. Remember, your goal is to establish the standard that your manager can use for comparison, when considering the work of others.

    These suggestions put a lot of weight on you, but you are the only person you can control. You can guide others by being a good example and you can inspire others by supporting their positive efforts. I hope you can lead the way to a better workplace.

    If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how and when things start smoothing out, what worked and what didn’t. Best wishes to you.

    Tina Rowe
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    What Can I Do About a Rumor That Could Ruin My Life?

    A Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an untrue accusation of an affair at work.

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    Question:

    I work in a retail environment with eight other coworkers of different genders. A male coworker works night shift and when we close the store our jobs require us to walk the store for a hand-off. Someone recently accused us of having an affair. The store manager approached the night manager to ask him. At this time I was not aware of the rumour because HR asked the store manager to investigate (HR never asked me). A couple weeks later the night manager was approached by the store manager again and asked about it. He informed the manager that it was not true and he wanted to squash the rumour like the first time. 

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    Gossip About the Boss’s Flirting

    Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about gossiping about the boss’s flirting:
    For several weeks many of my co-workers had been noticing very flirtatious behaviors between the boss and another co-worker. Most of them were small things, so I just brushed it off as probably nothing. I chose not to speak to anyone and would just smile and walk away when people would say the comments. As time passed, I had started to see the behaviors, such as very close proximity, whispers and giggles during staff events, and texting one another. I did not believe that he was cheating on his wife, but could see the flirting with this one co-worker.

    In a conversation with one of my closest colleagues, I told her that many people had been noticing something strange between these two and asked if she had noticed.

    A week later I got called into his office. Apparently the person I spoke with went to two other people and told them that he was cheating on his wife. It got back to him. When she was confronted by him, she said that she had gotten the information from me and one other co-worker. I apologized because I felt awful that it had gotten that far, but was also infuriated because it had been the whispers through the whole building and I had only talked to one person about my feelings. Looking back now, it was definitely the wrong person, but there is nothing I can do about that now. He asked me to give him names and I told him that there were just several comments from several people. I told him that I did not believe the rumor that there was actually something physical between them. He told me that I am just as guilty as the person who gave my name and that he was very upset for my part of the gossip chain. I apologized again.

    Now my work environment is awful. I am in a job where I need to go to my boss several times for support and no longer feel welcome. He avoids me and I avoid him. He later sent me an email recapturing the events of that meeting, which was the first contact they we had had since. I don’t know how to fix my work environment. I know I should not have said anything, but I also feel that I was not completely out of line. I feel like the situation was handled very poorly. Especially since more than half of his staff were involved. I just want work to be a pleasant place to be and I don’t see that in the foreseeable future. Please help!!!

    Can I Fix It?

    Dear Aren’t Regrets Enough?

    Unfortunately, what has been said can’t be unsaid. That’s the nature of communication. It’s not reversible, nor is your boss’s past interaction with the coworker that caused the gossip. You apologized for your gossip. Now the best you can do is to learn from your mistake and resolve not to talk about anyone’s behavior unless it is illegal without going to him/her first.

    Can you live it down? Can you fix it? Will the avoidance of him for you and your for him continue? Probably for a while, but because you need to meet with your boss to do your job, this distancing should gradually stop. Perhaps his “email recapturing the events of that meeting” will signal it is his last reprimand and his guilt about his behavior. If not, you can try to earn your way back by good performance. However, you had best not grovel or walk on eggs in fear of his continued dislike for you. Therefore if a pattern of avoidance continues and frustrates doing high performance work, you have at least two options: 1. Confront him asserting that the past should be past–both with his flirting and texting that provoked the gossip and for your gossip about it. 2. Request a transfer or seek another job. I don’t think these are good options, nor should be a third one to go above him to his boss or to Human Resources.

    I have observed that bosses can live down their misdeeds and that so can the bossed. Attraction and flirting will happen and sometimes its consequence is incidental and even helps pass the time; other times it can be destructive for those involved. Whatever happened that caused the gossip in your work setting, time will tell if it is corrected or persists. If it distracts from getting the job done, it will cause someone to say so. But not you. You, your coworkers and boss are employed to make your workplace successful. Make that your intension by thinking as a major stakeholder. Ask yourself what you might do to make your boss and coworkers jobs more effective and easier. Be a cheerleader.

    When corporations such as BP or as did Union Carbide have made catastrophic blunders, correcting them took time. They had to learn from them–what them might do to prevent them and to find ways to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy, and create innovative ways to make up for their losses. You can do that in your workplace—initiate quietly cutting waste here and there and being someone who helps make your boss and coworkers work more pleasant. Does this make sense? If not, does it at least spur you to see yourself not as a victim? There is a bigger picture than that between you and your boss. It is your work organization and its mission. Can you now care about that?

    Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. We welcome hearing more from you regarding about what you do.
    William Gorden

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    Co-Workers Angry That My Complaint Led to a Termination

    A question to the Workplace Doctors about how to respond to anger over the termination of a coworker.

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    I have worked with a toxic coworker for three years. Recently he brought a knife to work and threatened me with it. My company investigated and terminated him. Now a few of my teammates are angry at me and there have been insinuations that I went to HR because of the other employee’s race. Some say I was motivated by jealousy. How do I handle the aftermath like a professional?

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    Answer:

    The most professional way to handle rumors and griping from co-workers is to keep moving forward: Do good work, be helpful and pleasant and seek assistance from your manager if the remarks become such a distraction that your effectiveness suffers.

    You will not be able to argue people into supporting you or even to stop making comments to others about it. If you aren’t allowed to discuss why the employee was fired, perhaps you can at least say something generic like, “I’m not allowed to tell you what I reported, but I can assure you, you would have done the same thing.”

    If they know what you reported, surely they will know why you had to report the former teammate. If, knowing that, they still feel you were wrong, it shows they are ignorant of workplace violence indicators. (Maybe tied into their ages or their workplace experience?) Or, maybe there were already problems between you and them, so this gave them one more thing to talk about.

    Your calm and professional behavior may at least let them know you are not one who gets angry and gets revenge–which is what they’re accusing you of doing. Instead, you are the kind of person who focuses on your job and on being a productive and pleasant person. If you had a generally good working relationship with people prior to this, hopefully they will recall those better times. If your relationships were not good, maybe you can use this to mend those fences.

    Consider discussing the situation with your manager and asking him or her for suggestions. They would know your situation best and also know the people involved. They may be willing to  talk about workplace violence at a staff meeting, as a way to show support for your actions, even if they cannot directly discuss the personnel action involved.  (If I was a manager I would view their behavior as a problem and talk to them individually about their options–straighten up or find another job!)

    If you want to keep working there you will need to find a way to move through this time. Asking someone on the outside for advice, as you did by writing to us, is one way to do that. I imagine you knew what we would probably say and had said it to yourself already.

    The best way to refute the accusation that you had a racial bias is to ensure that you never, ever say or do anything that reinforces that kind of thinking. The best way to refute the accusation of jealousy is to work cooperatively and helpfully with everyone, including the person who replaces the person who was terminated. Let your positive and good-natured behavior do the talking for you and after a while it won’t be easy for those who are upset with you now to find anything to justify their grudge against you.

    Best wishes to you as you deal with this. The same strength of character you showed in the past situation can help you in this one.

    If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know how things develop over time and how you were able to find a successful resolution. Your experiences may be helpful for others who write to us.

    Tina Rowe
    The Workplace Doctors read more

    Employer Employee Texting Day and Night

    Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about if it is legal for an employer and employee to be texting.

    If an employee and employer were texting each other for 2 months day and night, is that a legal issue for the employer?

    Signed, Legal Curious

    Dear Legal Curious:

    Our disclaimer suggests that we don’t answer legal question. Even a legal answer to your question might be “It depends.” An attorney could provide you an answer in light the context of the situation and size of the workplace. For example if the employer was married and his spouse made the affair cause for divorce, that could cost the employer dearly.Why do you ask? What is your position in this situation? How do you know the texting is day and night and is in fact an affair? If you are one of the parties doing the texting, you have a lot to think about should an affair of a superior and a subordinate sour. That could affect the reputation of the company if sexual harassment were charged. If you are an employee who has work dumped on her because of the affair, you resent that. If you are a stockholder or partner in the company, you too have worries because certainly the quality of product and/or surface can suffer resulting from the distraction of an affair of employer and employee. This is not to say all workplace affairs never bloom into meaningful relationships.

    The important thing for you to do is to think about why you care and what is your stake in this situation. Then it is equally important that you avoid making assumptions with inadequate information . If indeed you have a stake in the company, you are at risk. Finally, you had best look in the mirror and ask if your concern is one of good will, any of our business or if you wish those two individuals ill will. I’m sure you know that whatever are your answers, you should remember that gossip about this sort of thing can do no one good, including yourself. So remember the rule not to say something about someone you have not and will not say to him/her face-to-face. My signature: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS does not mean an affair between an employer and employee is that kind of wego.

    William Gorden read more

    Called A Snitch

    A question for Ask the Workplace Doctors about being called a snitch. 

    “There are rumors of me being a snitch, but I’m not. What can I do?”

    There have been rumors of me being a snitch and that is causing my seventeen coworkers to have very negative work attitudes towards me. Twelve of those are very close to each other. They talk very condescending towards me and many do not want to work with me. Several of them have actually gone to complain to the supervisor about my work ethic.

    My supervisor told them he does not witness any negative work ethic from my part and I am working at a decent pace. They claimed I was working slower than the rest. In my work area, there are two leads and two supervisors. I feel one of the supervisors and one of the leads are siding with the others and may be contributing to the lie and falsely saying I have snitched about other workers to them.  The reason I believe this is because they have known & worked with the rest of my accusing coworkers for over eight years and this is the first time I have worked with them. The lead  and supervisor also talk condescending towards me and have a negative attitude towards me at work. There is only one supervisor that knows I never snitched or complained to him about the other coworkers. In fact he told me that several of the accusers have actually come to him personally to complain about my work ethic. Only this one supervisor knows my innocence of not being a snitch.

    I feel they trapped me by labeling me as a snitch. If I complain to a supervisor/manager, I would be proving them correct and make things worse! If I take this to a higher level, I would be proving their accusation correct. Also it’s a numbers game because about twelve of them are against me, don’t like me and don’t talk to me. However, if I do nothing, the abuse and label will continue and ruin my reputation.

    It seems this was well planned and thought out by some sociopathic manipulator who is the one snitching on their close coworker but blaming me, the quiet newbie. The good supervisor told me others were convinced I was doing the snitching because they wouldn’t suspect it from one of their own and it was in fact  one of their own members that snitched on their “friend/coworker” and blamed it on me. But the good supervisor told them it was not me and& that person didn’t believe the supervisor & continues being friends with the actual accuser! What do I do? Please help! Thank you for your time!

    Didn’t Snitch

    Dear Didn”t:

    Your lengthy story expresses much discomfort. You attribute this to someone in a gang of twelve saying you are a snitch and talking down to you.  Additionally you say someone complained about you working slow. It’s stressful to feel you are not accepted and that coworkers have targeted you. Can you correct lies? Maybe not. Can you cope with being talked condescendingly? Maybe maybe not. Can you gain the respect of those you think dislike you? Maybe not.

    Would that there is a quick fix to each of these related problems. There probably isn’t even a long fix. Why? Because, the hard fact is that changing others is not within your power. You’ve spoken with one supervisor who assured you that he didn’t accept the complaint about you. You are fortunate for that. You probably are wise not to go to the other lead and supervisor. If you do, you will be seen as a tattletale.  So what can you do other than worry and worry until you are so distressed that you seek a job elsewhere?

    Here are some suggestions that might enable you to cope:

    1. Don’t allow yourself to tell and retell this story of being victim either to yourself, your family, friends, or coworkers, or supervisors. Accept the fact that you can undo what has happened. Repeating this lengthy tale doesn’t make you feel better nor will it change those you think dislike and badmouth you.

    2. Work at a reasonable pace. Do good work. Earn the respect of those in your work area. You say you are new to there. Soak up all you can from observing how others work. Be helpful. Be of good cheer. Applaud others and be generous with thank yous. Focus on the job. Other than a friendly hello talk and occasional comment about the weather or sports, talk about about what  the job demands. Avoid idle talk.

    3. Think like an owner of your workplace. Learn who are its suppliers and its inside and outside customers.  Think career, not just a job. By that I mean ask yourself  what your company contributes to making the community and world. Are its products durable and services of high quality. In short, shift the focus from me, me, me  as disliked and being labeled a snitch to what you are hired to do–and to the good you to making your work group and workplace successful. Apply what you are learning to your longer term goals–and seek training within your company or outside that will make you wanted where you are now or in a job elsewhere.

    4. Think cutting waste–wasted supplies, wasted time, wasted energy, and wasted money. Talk occasionally with coworkers about what you see might make your company more profitable. Dream about what you would do if you owned the place. Possibly your workplace has a stock ownership plan. Take advantage of it.

    5. Work on yourself–becoming more fit, more kind, more interesting, more the kind of friend you want to be to others. Sometimes a favorite song, poem, or maxim helps. Talk to yourself kindly. You are a story of what you talk to yourself about. Click on the name of Tina Lewis Rowe, my associate workplace doctor. Her site will pop up and you will be informed and inspired.

    Does any of this make sense? Please report back to us, if you these thoughts help you work though this feeling that you are called a snitch. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

    To our readers: You  may not have been called a snitch, but you may have questions about rude communications, work performance, gossip and rumors or other workplace problems. Check our website to see if there have been questions similar to yours or send a question, being specific enough to allow us to answer fully. read more

    Gossip???

    Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about gossip.

    How is it appropriate to deal with coworkers who gossip in the workplace?

    Signed, Can I Stop It?

    Dear Can I Stop It?:

    You feel some gossip of coworkers is destructive. We could write a book about gossip based on the dozens and dozens of questions we have received. Apparently you haven’t scanned any of our Q&As in our Archives. So scan them.

    What do you find in these Q&As that might apply to your situation? Tell us what you think and what you have done. I predict that since you care enough to at least submit a question that you also care enough to approach your question as problem-solver and that you will act on what you learn. Am I correct? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS,and that also entails dealing with gossip.

    William Gorden read more

    Stop Gossip By Managers

    Question for Ask the Workplace Doctors about how to stop gossip by managers:

    At my workplace, we are having trouble with focusing on our goals and missions as a company. Often times, rumors and gossip, flow endlessly throughout our staff in a way which is overtaking. I find that not only is it the employees and persons in their younger ages, but more and more the management is beginning to consume themselves with the “drama.” We would all do better if we could stop the gossip by managers.

    I find this to be a very important and crucial time for our specific company. We are now going on 5 years of being open and the initial excitement of the establishment is quickly dying. I believe that we have many options to bring business back.  However, I also believe that with so much negativeness being spread around, that this could either make us again or break us completely.

    Management is set up to give us someone to respect. We are meant to see these people as role models and for guidance on issues. It is hard to do so while our management consumes their own time with finding out the latest gossip and adding to it with their own two cents or opinion. What hope is there in reversing this spell? Is it possible to stop gossip by managers without hiring all new management?

    Signed, Want Gossip Stopped

    Dear Want Gossip Stopped:

    Options of what may improve or correct the situation and stop gossip by managers, may include any of the following:

    *Distance yourself from the situation as a whole. Stay as far away as possible from the “drama”.

    *Secondly, smile and ignore the petty remarks of co-workers. Ignorant people can be quite irritating and the more you surround yourself with the negative aspects of others, the more frustrating the situation will become.

    *Lastly, do not pick sides. Be the positive vibe, the person whom your co-workers respect. Do not involve yourself with bad vibes.

    The option I think best is to distance or remove oneself from any and all negativity in the workplace. We are all there to WORK. We are there to perform well and to the best of our ability to produce the best possible results. If we form healthy relationships, great! If not, well, we weren’t there for that reason in the first place. However, when such situations arise attempt to make the most responsible choice in the matter.

    Tina Lewis Rowe says, “Focus on your own work and be as good as you can be at it. Ask your supervisor if he or she has suggestions for how to increase your speed or accuracy or whatever might be an issue. Develop a good working relationship with supervisors and/or managers that is sincerely focused on helping the company make money through your quick and accurate work. Be such an employee and coworker that no one will stand by and do nothing if someone says something unpleasant to you. And be such an employee and coworker, that you will say something supportive to the person who is being mistreated by others, as well as telling the other person to stop.”

    She says, you can’t control how the coworker acts. But you can control how you respond to it. I’m not advising you to ignore it, but it sounds as though the way you are responding is not making a positive difference either. Rowe suggests attempting this approach and doing it consistently:

    “Keep the mind-set that you have a right to be there and to be a fully functioning employee who is pleasant, a contributor and a person of value to others and the company. Walk confidently and happily down the hallways, as though you and everyone else can share them just fine. Nod, smile, do a quick wave, or otherwise acknowledge people when you see them–including the unfriendly coworker.”

    Negativity sucks away energy. If part of the negativity stems from your attitude or perspective, commit yourself at the beginning of each day and each activity to find something positive in yourself and in others around you. If the people around you are negative and you can’t change that, either remove yourself from the situation or view it simply as one obstacle you face in pursuing your own potential. Remain focused on your own individual goals and make the best of the situation.

    Sometimes, you can help the employee turn the negativity around. Your best approach is to not let the negativity get started in the first place, but if it’s already creating destruction in your workplace, there are steps that one can take.

    (1) Inform the employee about the negative impact her negativity is having on coworkers and the department. Use specific examples that describe behaviors the employee can do something about.

    (2) Avoid becoming defensive. Don’t take the employee’s negative words or attitude personally. They are not directed at you. For whatever reason, the employee is unhappy with his or her life.

    (3) Ask the employee if something negative is happening in her personal life that is affecting her workplace success. For example, a divorce affects every aspect of an employee’s life. You’re not a therapist or counselor but knowing lets you offer sympathy or another appropriate expression. It can also help the employee see that you are interested in and concerned about them as a person. You must ask the employee to keep the personal issues from affecting workplace performance.

    4) Ask the employee what is causing his negativity at work. Listen to the employee’s complaints and concerns until you’re certain that the employee feels heard out and listened to. Sometimes people repeat negative sentiments because they don’t feel as if you have really heard them. Make sure that you have actively listened.

    (5) Focus on creating solutions. Don’t focus on everything that is wrong and negative about the employee’s outlook or actions in your approach.

    (6) Focus on the positive aspects of her performance and the potential contributions the individual brings to the work setting, not the negativity. Help the employee build her self-image and capacity to contribute.

    (7) In the future, when interacting with the employee, try to compliment the individual any time you hear a positive statement or contribution rather than negativity from her. You’ll want to reinforce, as much as possible, the positive interactions the employee has with other employees and the workplace.

    I hope all these ideas will inspire you to do your part and help others as well.

    Bill Gorden  read more