I should preface this story by saying that I’m no fan of anyone that I presently work with in my small department. In the 7 years I have worked here, each has done things specifically to harm me, by virtue of their own questionable morals, which I do not forgive, but accept. I cannot stand up to them to outside sources like supervisors or Human Resources because unfortunately the organization does not want to be involved unless the offense is so egregious that the law is violated. Their behaviors are unfortunately so calculated that they skate this line often, but never cross it. I should also say that although I am looking for other work opportunities, there are none that I can find to fit my needs so I stay.
Over the last week, I attended a conference with my boss, and a colleague (PJ) who is, for the purposes of this story, on the same level laterally as me. She frequently stirs up trouble, and has mentioned on a few occasions that she believes that the boss and his assistant (ST) are having an affair. In her mind, I’m sure she has conjured this story to explain why ST is given information and slack that the other employees are not. I have disregarded this as mean-spirited gossip, but one night at an event which had open bar, she had a few drinks and said she witnessed ST tucking the boss’ shirt in for him. The image was beyond gross to me, but she seemed to insist that something was going on.
Frankly, I don’t care if they are carrying on, because they are adults, and as long as I don’t see it, hear it, or otherwise become aware of it, it doesn’t affect me. However, after this last insistence by PJ, I’m concerned that she’s going to spread this rumor elsewhere. Considering that information like this would be particularly damaging, I have considered letting my boss know what’s been said. I don’t want to say anything to ST, because her reaction would not be a good one. My thought about telling my boss would be to nail down the source, if PJ does start telling other people outside our group, which could be hugely damaging. She has told me of her suspicions at least three times and we are not close, so I can only imagine what damage may already be done.
I should also say that while I had an axe to grind with these people in the past, I’ve really worked hard at letting go of my own resentments toward them. It’s not been easy, but although I do not like or trust them, I accept that they are bound to their own flawed humanity, and I must simply work around the crazy they throw down until I can find another suitable position. I also don’t want to burn bridges, since our industry is small, and everybody knows everybody.
I’m happy to let it go, but I’d hate for this type of gossip to be attributed to me, which is possible if it gets around. Your thoughts and feedback are very welcome. I’ll post in comments if this gets posted about what I decide to do and any fall out. Thanks in advance! 1111-13
Rule 1: Never, ever believe defamatory gossip, particularly from people who are not your family or dearest most trustworthy friends, unless you are willing to do the investigative research to discover the truth.
Rule 2: You are not responsible for the behavior of consenting adults during their non-working hours and that includes trying to police the gossip (and the consequences of her gossip on herself or others). You are neither part of the problem (either the alleged adultery or the gossiping) nor the solution so keep your own nose clean by not getting involved in any manner.
Rule 3: When PJ starts in on her gossip mongering, either change the subject quickly or tell her, “I’d really rather not hear this”, and leave the room.
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I’m with Tye and Karen T. The OP may well be a bad fit with her office culture — been there, suffered with that, can sympathise. But something about her language, and indeed writing this entire post about what’s pretty obviously a non-issue, suggests she’s really, really enjoying her martyrdom. A suggestion for your job search, OP: you keep up with this sort of high-toned moralising and you may well find that there’s *no* office out there that’s going to suit your needs. Just saying.
I do agree mainly with admin – the only thing I would say though about believing damaging gossip or infomration is if it is from some that you trust? I know that certain members of my family have convienant memmories. For example OP has said the PJ likes stiring up trouble – now if PJ was the personification of honesty and approaching OP for advice about her concerns then that would be a bit different.
As for judging people’s morals: some people think it’s okay to be racist, sexist, unfaithful and say/do some very nasty things which is not on. If two colleagues are having an affiar and they display such behavour clearly e.g. touching bums and kissing etc in front of other colleagues and the colleagues unwittingly drop them in it with spouses/partners/g.fs/b.fs they cannot complain. However until the OP sees evidence of an affair he/she should bean dip like crazy everytime PJ brings it up.
I’m also a bit concerned about the OP’s tone – OP won’t go to HR, doesn’t want to have anything to do with the others but has considered telling the boss. OP has also been stuck in the same job for 7 years with horrible people and can’t find anything else: I strongly recommend OP looks at the situation he/she is in and sees if he/she can find a job elsewhere ASAP.
Thank you all for your comments. I will abide and stay out of it. For those who have recommended I find another job, I am looking actively, and hope something will come soon. If things get bad enough, I am saving what money I can and will walk if left no other alternative.
For those who feel that I am not in a position to judge others, you are right, but let me be clear. When I say that some have questionable morals, I mean to say that some have stolen (from me and our employer), which most would agree is pretty easily identified as wrong. Some have displayed other circumstantial behavior, from petty gossip to reporting others to HR for things that may not be necessary.
For example, when I was pregnant last year, one of my colleagues would insist I continue to do part of her work , which included heavy lifting and was not part of my assigned duties. It wasn’t until my doctor forbid it later in my pregnancy that my boss would intervene (hiring another full time employee, not making this woman do her own work). This same person also would block the doorway when I tried to enter, physically grabbed me in a bear hug when she was sick and contagious, and refused to attend the baby shower that my colleagues were eventually shamed into putting on for me (whole other story altogether) by people in other departments. No one had a problem with this behavior but me, not even the boss. Nothing was “reportable” enough to HR, nor did they want to get involved.
Yes, these things on their own may all be acceptable to some, but for me, they felt like an affront. In a small group like ours, there’s always one person on the receiving end of some horizontal violence or bullying. So you’re right, it isn’t for me to “judge” someone. The reason I presented this is that if they were more civil to me or each other, the gossip may take on a different light rather than another development in a long line of bad and dysfunctional behavior.
I am planning on letting this slide, and hopefully it will not be mentioned again, at least to me. When she did mention it, I basically said, “Ew!” and moved on. I’m planning on “bean dipping” if it comes up again. And, I’m keeping my eye on the job listings and planning my exit as soon as it seems feasible.
OP – I’m glad you went into why you do not like your colleagues – stealing is wrong and asking you to lift heavy things whilst pregnant and hugging you when the hugger is ill is wrong. Keep your eye on those job listings and save. When we get stories where not enough information is given it can be harder to access the situation.
Wait, so one of this woman’s supposed transgressions is refusing to go to a baby shower thrown for you by unwilling hosts? You think she has an obligation to shower your baby with gifts even though the two of you don’t see eye to eye and are admittedly not close?