I work in a cubicle environment and I overheard a coworker of mine call me a slut and a liar. My concern is that others did as well. I am in the process of writing a letter to the HR (human resources) director – any suggestions?

Dear Struggling,

You were probably angry and felt humiliated. That is understandable. However, you need to set aside your emotions and approach this rationally. Strive to clear the air before it begins to affect your work attitude and performance. Most people spend more time with coworkers than they do with their families during the week. If you do not address it, it will continue to bother you, and the hurt you feel may balloon.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. It would be better that you talk with the co-worker first before you write the letter. Did you tell the person who said these things that you heard him or her and that you felt humiliated? Though it may be hard to do, confidentially talking with that person alone, and not involving anyone else, is the best way to handle it.
  2. Never confront the person in front of others. That will only put them on the offensive. Just because they spoke badly about you to others, it doesn’t justify your retaliation. The goal is not to wound them as they wounded you but to mend fences. That would be the adult thing to do. It puts you in a better light instead of stooping to their level.
  3. Think before you speak. Keep emotion out of your tone. Do not point fingers or say “You shouldn't have….” Scolding only puts up defenses. Make it about you, not them. Tell them that you were hurt by what they said and ask them if there is anything that you have done or said to offend them which would justify them saying such things about you. Then allow them to speak.
  4. Of course this person may not act like an adult, and then you would write your letter to the HR director. Usually the HR director will ask you if you have said anything to this person first, so it would be nice if you could say, “yes” and describe the conversation. HR directors like it when employees can work things out among themselves first. However, if the person is toxic to the work environment and will not cooperate, HR needs to know.
  5. Above all, be considerate and caring. Do not slander them. Try to rise above the insult and do not define the person by it even if they may have mistakenly defined you. It may be that this person is having emotional issues and for some reason chose you to be the “dog they kick.” Hurting people have a tendency to hurt others. HR can assist them with counseling and other resources.

It might be hard, but focusing on solving the problem in the best way possible is the wisest course of action.

This article was written by: Julie Cosgrove

Photo Credit: Joshua Ness