Gossip leads to nothing good

Dear Annie: My co-worker, “Jane,” is the front-desk person and has a bird’s-eye view to everything. For the past several years she has noticed that it appears that my supervisor is having an affair with another co-worker. I, too, have noticed what appear to be signs of an affair. Although I do not approve (if this is the case), I am able to work without it disturbing me. Recently, it has started to affect my co-worker so much that she is now saying that this a hostile work environment.

My question is this, should I mention something to my supervisor before my co-worker takes it to HR? She has threatened to do this, but she is the type who is normally all talk no action.

I feel uncomfortable saying something to my supervisor, but if it got as far as HR then I would feel disloyal for not having given him a warning. I don’t know how to handle this sensitive situation. — Awkwardness at the Office

Dear Awkwardness: First, stop chatting with Jane about the alleged affair. Speculation without action amounts to gossip, and nothing good can come of it. The next time she tries to talk to you about it, tell her you’re uncomfortable discussing it, and change the subject.

Of course, she’s free to go to HR about the issue. And if it’s impacting her ability to do her job, then she definitely should. Do not intercede: What would the endgame be in telling your boss? It would make Jane vulnerable to preemptive attacks, and it would insulate your boss from the consequences of his own bad decisions.

If he is having an inappropriate affair, that’s a bad bet he chose to wager. Let the chips fall where they may; the stakes aren’t yours.

Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.


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