How to Deal With Slander in the Workplace

If you work or have worked in an office setting, then you know that there are times when the entire office is buzzing with some kind of news. Be it that Jon has found a new job and is going to leave or that the manager you all share is rude and unprofessional. Gossip in the office isn’t always negative, but at its core it is unproductive and can really break a team down. Especially when gossip takes an evil turn and morphs in to slander. Slander in the workplace can really deter an employees work, their productivity and their happiness at work. More importantly, it can be a huge liability and issue for the company seeing as though, if pushed hard enough, the employee being slandered can take legal action. That is why gossip, and more specifically slander, must to be dealt with in the office right away.

For clarification purposes, let’s just differentiate between these two things here. By definition, gossip is “casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.” Somewhat similar is slander, which is defined as “the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.” In its defense, gossip is usually harmless chatter that is passed from one person to another. There can be gossip that an office romance has sparked up between two employees in the department. While it may be harmless at the root, if this gossip is not addressed it can take a nasty turn. Someone in the office may dislike one of these two lovebirds and can sprout up a lie and say they saw Becky and Patrick getting busy in the janitor closet during work. Of course, this is just an example I sprouted up, so it’s more lighthearted than the possible reality.

Not only did this employee just completely lie, but the lie they sprouted could really harm the other employee’s job. If a manager catches wind of this, which is likely the goal of the employee that created the lie, then it can mean trouble for Becky and Patrick. You see how gossip can quickly morph into slander? Perhaps most important is the fact that slander is a civil act. This means that the person who is creating and spreading the lies can be sued. Unfortunately, they cannot be criminally charged. That action is saved for libel cases, which is when slanderous or false comments are put in writing or in visual material.

Since slander is oral and is not written down on paper, it can be really difficult to prove someone is making slanderous comments about you. If you take a cue from the Legal Aid Society-Employment Law Center, they say to first write a letter to the employee that is doing the slander and ask them to stop. It’s best to get it in writing so it can be proved that you made an attempt to stop the slander. It’s also better to avoid confrontation since what this person has said is probably hurtful and can raise a lot of emotions. Approaching someone in an emotional state is not the best idea- especially in the workplace. It’s also a good idea to inform your employer what is going on. That way, they are aware of its existence and should take actions to make it stop. That is, if they are a good manager.

If you have a Human Resources department, it’s a good idea to contact them as well right from the start. That way, they know the situation and can keep tabs on what is going on. However, the best way to combat slander in the workplace is to prevent it from happening in the first place. That is why it is so important for managers and superiors to squash gossip right from the get go. Of course, it’s impossible to squash all gossip and a lot of it is really harmless, but the negative gossip is what you have to watch out for. It is too easy for negative gossip to take an evil turn, and before you know it you can have a big conflict on your hands. Not to mention a possible legal conflict.

As an employee and a coworker, it’s best not to engage in gossip at all. While it may be interesting and you may want to hear the juicy details of so and so’s whatever, it’s not pertinent to your work and it cuts back on your productivity. The best advice I can give is to say hi around the water cooler, but keep your mouth shut otherwise.

Have you experienced or witnessed slander in the workplace? What was the outcome? I want to hear about it! Sound off in the comments of tweet me @nicole_spark.

SOURCE: Small Business
IMAGE: Courtesy of Power to Change

  • Caprice Nedrod

    I have been on my job for 7 1/2 years. I love my work, however there is a very clear divide between management and frontline staff. I am constantly feeling stressed and uncomfortable due to negative comments that have been made about me. I feel as though I am targeted as the “angry black woman”. I was told by a peer once, that the acting ED at the time referred to me as “difficult”. I asked the acting ED during evaluation, if she had indeed referred to me as difficult? She stated that she may have, but that she didn’t mean it in a bad way. She went on to praise my work. I have had my direct supervisor tell me that I cannot discuss my feelings regarding work issues with co workers because it is gossiping. She also in the same conversation referred to my actions as stupid. I feel scared and anxious on a daily basis because of the personal attitudes that some upper management cliques have regarding me. By the way, I have been the told weekly that my actual job performance exceeds expectations. Not sure how I should be moving forward

  • Leanne

    I recently had a heart attack scare at work. The paramedics were called and I was taken to the hospital. I am a lead teacher with an assistant teacher. when the attack started I asked my assistant (who is not my normal assistant) to lead for awhile. I contacted my boss and she called the aid car. my children where removed from my classroom, and where not able to see the goings on. A assistant WHO WAS NOT THERE AT ANY POINT… told several people in my school that I was a drug addict and I was speaking incoherently during the episode. I’m sure her comments have spread like wildfire, but i’m not sure as this happened on Thursday and I haven’t returned to work yet…. Is this slanderous?

  • Tobias O’Brien

    I reported an assistant manageress for always being on my back and making me do all the work, she was known as a bully towards certain younger men. In the end I reported her and since then her and some of the people who work below her have started spreading lies about me and one person there has even wrote something to our area manager to try and get me into trouble with higher status. What are my rights as a volunteer when work staff are spreading such lies about me and they are also trying to get me into further trouble. Do I have a right to get them sacked at all?

  • Eileen Nash

    A coworker keeps going to my boss and fellow workers complaining how I run things I am the lead. He claims I single him and give him more work then the others. Which is not true he makes the most mistakes mostly HIPAA related which can be serious. No matter how I tried to instruct him on the correct ways things should be done he keeps bad mouthing me to other employees. I have discussed this with my boss but it doesn’t stop and it is taking a toll on me and the other members of our team. How can I stop this from continuing?

  • ReginaG

    I recently made the mistake of dating a co-worker for 2 months. I ended the relationship 5 days ago because he wanted me to move in with him & leave my sick, disabled, elderly mother alone in a home that she could never afford on her own. Another reason was because he constantly accused me of flirting with my male co-worker (the women on my shift don’t speak any English so I can’t communicate with them). I go to work on Monday & find out that a neighbor of mine, who recently started working with my ex-boyfriend, had told him what cars were in my driveway, who was at my house, everything he could see from his front porch. Mind you, I broke up with this guy on Friday so what I do after that is none of his business or concern. Now my ex is standing around at work, gossiping with my neighbor (whom I don’t even know) saying that I cheated on him the entire time we were together, that I’m sleeping around with multiple people, that I spent the entire weekend with another man… This man has been a FRIEND for over 20 years & is just that, a friend. These rumors & gossip are causing stress & anxiety for me at work because the man I dated has done this to other women at work, has a file of write-ups 2″ thick but they will not fire him because the company would lose money. They have no one else that can do his job as well, fast or efficiently. He laughs that they won’t fire him, that he gets his way there & has had multiple people fired. I have no idea what to do. I don’t want either of us to be fired or anything but his mouth is tarnishing my reputation at work. It was already bad because he’s considered the bad boy of the