Q: Several years ago, I was accused by a male co-worker of falsifying documents. My managers knew this co-worker was untrustworthy, so the...
Several years ago, I was accused by a male co-worker of falsifying documents. My managers knew this co-worker was untrustworthy, so the accusations were ignored. Now, my accuser works in another division and talks frequently with my staff. How do I protect myself from a repeat of slander without appearing to spread slander myself?
You cannot protect yourself from bad-mouthing. In fact, the more successful, visible or powerful you become, the more you will be negatively gossiped about. Success breeds envy and envy breeds the desire to destroy what is envied.
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You are smart to anticipate your accuser will repeat his behavior. Many executives I coach get into avoidable trouble when they naively give second chances. Social scientists tell us personality is like concrete after 30. Most folks don’t change their spots.
Your best immunity against gossip is to behave with respect, decency and clear boundaries. Encourage workplace relationships with staff members and others where problems are brought to you quickly. You’re right that if you broadcast the fact that your co-worker is an unreliable rat, the only reputation you will hurt is your own.
It’s not cheating, however, to approach key people who have frequent contact with this worker and brief them on your history.
You might say something like: “Several years ago, Jack told my managers I falsified documents. My managers took no action because they knew Jack was incorrect. I have to believe he took these actions because he had a misunderstanding regarding my work. I do not anticipate he would repeat this behavior.”
Now, I realize you anticipate this worker will repeat this behavior. However, you can know something and stay silent. If you want to protect your reputation, be generous and understanding in your descriptions of others. You can still be mad as heck internally.
Most folks are reluctant to believe anything bad is going on. It’s the old “serial killers can’t live in my neighborhood” frame of mind. Even though your co-worker obviously had bad intentions, other people won’t want to know about it.
However, this will eventually work to your advantage because people get tired of listening to co-workers who constantly say nasty things about others.
The last word(s)
I’d like to have job stability. Which careers are guaranteed employment these days?
None. These days a wide skill set that includes the ability to deal with people and change will keep you employed better than looking for stability.
Daneen Skube, Ph.D., can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube