Co-worker Spreading Rumors About You? Ask Madeleine

Dear Madeleine,

I work in a hospital. One of my colleagues always seizes the opportunity to slow me down or otherwise make me look bad. In addition, she makes personal comments about me and spreads rumors about my family members. We live in a small community, so although I try to ignore her nonsense and avoid her, it isn’t always possible. It feels silly, but it is starting to get to me.

What can I do?


Dear Bullied,

I’m sorry you are having such troubles. It’s so draining to have to deal with this kind of petty behavior. You have two separate situations here—being targeted personally at work in a way that is hurting your job performance, and the rumors being spread.

When you are dealing with something like this, you have three potential courses of action:

Ignore it completely and pretend it is isn’t happening. She might just get bored and stop her antics.

Face it head on, talk to your manager, let them know what is going on, and get their support. Confront her. Tell her to cut it out, and that every incident will be tracked and reported. You need to be ready with the right words, so practice using them before you need them.

  • “I see what you’re doing and you need to stop it right now.”
  • “Cut it out.”
  • “You do your work, I will do mine. Stay out of my way.”

The more ready you are to say something, the less chance you will need to.

Stoop to her level and start sabotaging her work. (Okay, I really don’t recommend this one, but it is fun to think about. Under no circumstances can you stoop to her level.)

In terms of the rumors, there isn’t much you can do except tell everyone who will listen that she is spreading rumors, nothing she says is true, and no one should believe a word that comes out of her mouth. You can also tell people if they hear anything about a family member of yours that they should come and ask you if it is true. You can build a coalition of people who are on your side and will see her for who she is.

I am a big fan of the old adage that says bullies will back down if you stand up to them—mainly because I have experienced it to be true. We generally worry about standing up to bullies because we don’t want to escalate things. But, really, what’s the worst thing that could happen? Do you think you might get into a wrestling match in the middle of the hospital waiting area? Probably not.

People will continue to engage in bad behavior as long as you allow it. Get your manager on your side, be ready with the right words next time something happens, build a coalition to fight the rumor mill, and be strong.

Love, Madeleine

About the author

Madeleine Blanchard Headshot 10-21-17

Madeleine Homan Blanchard is a master certified coach, author, speaker, and cofounder of Blanchard Coaching Services. Madeleine’s Advice for the Well Intentioned Manager is a regular Saturday feature for a very select group: well intentioned managers. Leadership is hard—and the more you care, the harder it gets. Join us here each week for insight, resources, and conversation.

Got a question for Madeleine? Email Madeleine and look for your response here next week!

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