Wrongfully Accused of Spreading Rumors

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about spreading rumors:

Today someone at work wrongfully accused me of spreading rumors about a fellow employee being moved to our office due to previous sexual harassment accusations towards him. The woman claims she ‘heard me’ telling a fellow employee that his new placement is due to his prior charge. I told my supervisor that is not true. I demanded this person that is accusing me to tell me directly, he called her in and she said that yes, that it was me that she heard from her office. What do I do?


DearĀ Innocent:

If you are going to be talked to about it further, it would seem that your best response would be to have the other employee name who you were talking to. If she names someone have them verify that you didn’t say that (if you didn’t). If she can’t name someone it will be obvious you didn’t make the remark because you wouldn’t have said it without there being some conversation for her to overhear. If she says she couldn’t tell who the other person was, how could she know it was you doing the talking? If there was a wall that kept her from seeing you how can she be sure she heard you correctly?If you DID talk about a coworker (I’m not saying you did, just giving you an option) you may have to admit that you did. Say something to your manager like, “I don’t want to say something false to you. I did make a comment but I was worried the moment I said it that I might get in trouble, so I thought I’d better keep it quiet. I feel terrible about it now and I’m sorry.”

You’ll get in trouble, but that will be better than dragging it out longer.If you didn’t say anything, stick to your story and insist that the coworker who reported you did so knowing she hadn’t heard anything from you. Or, at the very best she heard someone else and thought it was you.If you are well known as someone who does not tell stories about others, that will probably be enough. If the reverse is true, it might be more difficult to convince your supervisor. You might also want to go on the offensive a bit and tell your supervisor that it seems strange that an employee who was offended enough to complain about you wasn’t bothered enough to come out of her office to tell you not to do it or to find out who you were talking to.Situations like this can cause a lot of unhappiness at work.

It may be that your coworker made up the story and now has to insist she heard you. She may cave in to say she isn’t sure it was you. Or, if she is truly convinced it was you, she may insist on it. However, in a fair situation, unless you are the only other woman around, it would seem there would have to be actual witnesses who could both see you and hear you, for you to get in trouble over it. The totality of the circumstances is probably what will be considered. I can certainly understand that it would be upsetting, so I wish you the best as you deal with this.

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.