What to Do About Tattletales in the Workplace?

Tattletales in the workplace can cause frustration and anxiety.

Tattletales in the workplace can cause frustration and anxiety.

Having a tattletale for a grade school classmate might have caused you unnecessary grief, but even adults in the workforce aren't necessarily free of them. Some people like to not only spread gossip in the office, but also report big and small issues to the manager. Co-existing with a tattletale isn't ideal, but it doesn't have to make your life miserable.

Caution

If you're new to a workplace or haven't yet identified someone who's a tattletale, exercise caution when talking with co-workers. Avoid divulging details about your personal life or matters relating to your job, as someone who chooses to spread these details around the workplace can harm your reputation and cause you significant upset. In a 2011 "Chicago Tribune" article, columnist Daneen Skube offers a reminder that anything you say at work can eventually get spread around. In a 2012 article in "Bloomberg Businessweek," etiquette expert Diane Gottsman stresses that just because you work closely with your co-workers, don't trust them implicitly.

Avoidance

On his website, workplace therapist Brandon Smith recommends keeping your distance from difficult co-workers. If you suspect a colleague of being a tattletale, avoid conversations entirely or give mundane answers when exchanging pleasantries. Remember that the tattletale might report anything you say, so if you can't avoid dealing with the person, be careful not to say anything incriminating. Even if you haven't blatantly done anything wrong, a seemingly innocent admission that you ran an errand after a sales call could prompt the tattletale to report you.

Confrontation

You have the right to confront a co-worker who is a tattletale, although doing it tactfully is important. Therapist Brandon Smith suggests confronting the colleague in private, rather than in front of co-workers. Explain your observances, why you don't appreciate the tattletale's actions and state clearly that you expect the tattletale to stop causing problems in the workplace. Doing so won't necessarily have an affect, but tattletales are often bullies who will back down upon being confronted.

Next Steps

HR World suggests several steps to take when dealing with a tattletale. A sensible approach is to focus on your work and avoid giving the tattletale anything to report. A manager who sees your value might overlook a complaint from the tattletale because of your exemplary work. The website also recommends avoiding stooping to the tattletale's level. In a "Chicago Tribune" article, social worker Mark Gorkin suggests explaining the issue to a manager and asking to have a discussion with the manager and the tattletale to air any grievances.

 

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