The Time I Was Betrayed By A Coworker And How I Got The Last Laugh
By Alyssa Johnson
We’re all guilty of it.
Talking about your co-worker to another co-worker is never a wise thing to do, but it happens for many different reasons. We get bored at work and happen to stumble across some juicy gossip and want to share it. A co-worker or manager pisses us off and we need to vent. Not a big deal, right? But what happens when the tables are turned and you’re the one being talked about? What if those tables rotate twice and not only are you being talked about but lied on as well? If someone was talking about you off the job, I’d say let it go. But things are not so black and white when it comes to lies being passed around on the clock. This is your professional reputation we are talking about and lies can assassinate your character and travel faster than the truth. If the right person hears it, you could be out of a promotion, or worse, a job.
This happened to me recently. I’m sitting at my desk, minding my own business when I hear *ding!* An instant chat window appears on my monitor, asking me to join a conversation. It’s from my co-worker and she’s asking me if I can help her solve a work-related process issue. Before I can say yes, another *ding!* sounds off, but this time the message isn’t so nice. She’s talking about me in the chat but she mistakenly sent the message to me, stating that she would ask me for help with her issue but that I usually yell at her and make her uncomfortable, so she tries to avoid me. She posted an “lol” at the end of her statement for comic relief.
I was floored. How dare she lie on me? I have never yelled at a co-worker a day in my life! (Well, sure, I’m yelling now, but my demeanor with her has always been calm) I am professional enough to know that my emotions don’t really belong in the workplace, so this was extremely troubling for me. Also troubling was that this was the same co-worker who asked me to cover for her a few weeks earlier and I agreed to do so. So here we are, just so you are clear: I’m being lied on by someone at my job who I have helped out numerous times in the past. Gas money for her vehicle? Check. Emotional guidance/support for her personal problems that she shouldn’t have been discussing at work in the first place? Check. Professional advice? Check. I sat there for a minute when I received her accidental message because at that point, I wanted to go off and let her have it, but I knew that if I did, this could potentially backfire on me.
So I thought logically instead of emotionally. Since I wasn’t the one at fault, all I had to do was take a breather, process what just happened and base my decision off of that.
After calming down I asked her to explain herself. Of course, she was indignant about the whole thing and kept repeating that “it was all a bad joke.” I informed her that she should never use someone else’s professional reputation as her personal punchline. What if this message had been sent to a manager? The next practical step for a manager could have been to call me in a conference room to discuss how I alienate my co-workers and create a hostile environment.
Although I was heated, I actually felt embarrassed for her. Think about it. How ridiculous is it for you to lie on someone at work and then get caught in the process by the very person the lie was about? In the end, she felt so bad that she ended up outing herself to our manager and then the manager sent me an inquiry asking what was going on. I forwarded the messages over and human resources handled it accordingly.
If this type of situation ever happens to you, don’t let the insanity of it all get the best of you. Although your professional reputation is at stake, this is an easy fix, especially if you have evidence like I did. The key element here is documentation, so even if the conversation was not originally in email or chat form, you should still write down exactly what happened because if it’s not on paper, it didn’t happen.
After speaking with some of my other co-workers about the situation, they thought I was being petty and said that I should have just let it go and not forwarded the messages. I didn’t feel that way. The “joke” is never funny when it’s on you. Always trust your own instinct as to how you choose to handle situations like this, because not taking a stand can incorrectly dictate how you are perceived in the workplace. Listening to others will only muddy the waters and you can never base your decision-making on how someone else feels. You should protect your professional reputation at all costs, no matter how large or small the threat is. Again, we’re talking about your livelihood here.