I’m in trouble for telling a former employee that my coworkers have been making fun of her

A reader writes:

For the past few weeks, I have been hearing two employees playing a recording of an ex-employee singing at a funeral. The singing is not great, and they laugh hysterically about it. They do this right before a management team meeting and will play it for others so they can get in on the laugh too.

The ex-employee was a friend of mine, no longer close but we do still talk at times. I mentioned to her what the two employees were doing behind her back and let her know they were not her friends. She got upset and confronted them the next day via Facebook.

One of the employees came to me in my office and blasted me for telling her, saying that I was mean for doing that to the ex-employee. I told her that what she was doing was mean as well and I thought that the former employee had a right to know what was going on behind her back.

This employee went to my boss, saying that I could no longer be trusted. I have been with this company for nearly 10 years. I have never before disclosed conversations going on in the conference room that is directly across from my office; I typically will close my office door most of the way to block out the noise. But this was what I considered a personal attack on an ex-employee and had nothing to do with work or industry secrets.

My boss is now so angry with me that she wants to write me up or further discipline for my actions, like a possible termination. Is this something that is termination-worthy? Am I wrong to have told my friend? Am I truly untrustworthy now?

What the hell?

Your two coworkers making fun of someone’s singing — over and over for weeks, playing an actual recording of it, and of someone singing at a funeral, on top of everything else — are pretty huge jerks. They’re the ones who are at fault here, not you.

I do wish that you had said something to them directly (like, “This is really unkind; please stop”) rather than reporting it to the former employee, since getting her involved was likely to cause more drama … but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re the ones doing something wrong here, not you.

Your boss’s reaction is inexplicable. It would have been reasonable for her to have said to you, “You know, you were right that Jane and Lucinda were being unkind and needed to stop, but the way you handled it made it into a much bigger drama than it needed to be. In the future, please talk to people directly if you’re concerned about their behavior, or come to me if you can’t resolve it that way, but don’t talk to former employees about what’s going on at work.” But it’s utterly unreasonable for her to be angry with you, let alone to threaten to discipline you or fire you over this.

I’m wondering if there’s something else going on here — other tensions with these employees or your boss that could explain her coming down so hard on you for this? And is she not taking issue at all with your two coworkers’ behavior? Something here doesn’t smell right, and it’s probably your boss, but I wonder if there’s some broader context that would make more sense of what’s otherwise a completely ridiculous managerial response.

{ 274 comments… read them below }

  1. Mike C.

    I’m wondering if there’s something else going on here — other tensions with these employees or your boss that could explain her coming down so hard on you for this?

    My money is that either the employees mocking the former coworker enjoy favored status and/or the manager in question is crazy.

      1. Not the Droid You are Looking For

        I wondered if it was a combination of bad management and the mockers trying to get out of trouble by shifting the blame to the OP. I started thinking that if the mockers confronted the OP and tattled to her boss, who else have the pulled into this situation? Are they complaining to HR or to higher ups?

        And though it’s not the correct reaction, is the boss freaking out on the OP because now suddenly this situation has become a big deal?

      1. Three Thousand

        Yeah, that was my first thought. She might have laughed at it herself and now be embarrassed and taking it out on the OP. Or she might think she can’t trust the OP not to rat her out in general and really doesn’t like that.

    1. In trouble

      There was an issue with the previous employee in the position I am now in. She and the other 2 were friends one day and at each others throat the next. It was like that for 15 years until she retired.

    2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

      I once worked in a place where people behaved that way. Another “dinner table story”.

      I had a friend (female, I am male) and it made me sick to listen to other women make fun of her.

      One day, one of my friends came by the office – he conducted business with us, but he was a college bud. He asked her out. There was a social get together, they attended, my wife and I attended, along with 30 other folks.

      Now the catty women wanted to know what was going on – even wondered if I could wangle an invite for a lady who wanted to go and return to the office – and file an investigative report, allowing the “fun” to continue. My retort/reply – to quote William Shatner =

      GET A LIFE!!!

      When I was asked what went on at the party – I said, “I dunno, I guess we all stood around and talked about what all of you all must be doing on a Saturday night… we were drinking, dancing, doing what twenty-something professionals do on a Saturday night…”

      That silenced ’em! The only thing I’m mystified by – why do women tend to act this way? I’ve seen women do weird stuff — never have I seen men in the office gang up to make fun of someone. Am I missing something?

      1. Ms T

        I’ve never understood why its only women who have this stereotype. The worst and most malicious workplace gossipers I’ve met have always been men.
        I’ve seen fairly decent workers get laid off because a couple of guys would target them, and then make up all sorts of terrible stories while out drinking with the manager.

        1. Anonymous

          I so agree, Ms. T. I don’t get the whole “Mean Girls” accusation. When I was in school, boys mocked and teased (often cruelly) all the time. Doesn’t anyone remember the video of the poor elderly female school bus chaperone who, a few years ago, was relentlessly ridiculed by a group of junior high kids? It was all over the news. All boys. No girls in sight.

        2. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

          Ms T –

          Do not confuse an orchestrated character assassination or whispering campaign designed to oust someone…. which I have seen often…

          With just a gossipy klatch of women ganging up, just out of meanness…

          1. techfool

            I’ve been the target of women ganging up on me and I realized they actually had no real power or influence at all.
            As a woman, I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse about it!

      2. seisy

        It’s a form of relational aggression. In my experience, men play these kind of games, too, just differently. E.g. instead of making someone the butt of gossip and jokes, guys who are playing these games do the whole macho posturing thing and gender based attacks, e.g. maligning the masculinity of a man, or well…the more local versions of the attacks usually leveled at female politicians, like objectification (MILF, etc), or using sexist criticisms, like that she’s a nag, or a little girl, or crazy, or frigid, or an attention whore, or whatever.

      3. Biff

        I’ve seen men ruthlessly tease, belittle and harass people as well — but usually, I’ll be honest, when the gender politics are skewed in their favor. E.g. 10 men, 2 women.

        1. Jill

          From what I’ve seen, women just gather in a big group, get all their gossip out, have loud laughs about it, etc. as a group. Men gossip but much more stealthy – Guy A will say something to Guy B who travels over to Guy C to repeat it and so on. Guys also, again, from what I’ve seen, frame gossip as “I’m really concerned about how fat Marla’s getting. It may have an impact on our project.” Making gossip sound like concern. Whereas women will just bust out with “OMG! I cannot be-leeeve how fat Marla is!!” making it sound more like straight up meanness.

          Same poor behavior, just guys have a different way of doing it. From my experience anyway.

          1. Regina 2

            Interesting. I’m lucky in that I haven’t seen much in my career generally, but when I have, it’s always been women. I’m a woman, and I’m very attuned to these conversations about stereotypes since I’m on boards like this that are very sensitive to the issue. But I only ever see it with women.

  2. CC

    Cann I also point out that it is mad cruel to mock somebody for a performance they had during a FUNERAL?

    1. OriginalYup

      Right??

      Seriously, this sentence: “They do this right before a management team meeting and will play it for others so they can get in on the laugh too.” These people are @ssholes. What the frock.

      1. Myrin

        Yeah, I’m actually really surprised no one spoke up about the untastefulness of all of this. I mean, maybe I’m exaggerating “a management team meeting” in my head and that meeting was only three people or so but really, wasn’t there anyone who felt uncomfortable with this?

        1. In trouble

          Management team is with all department heads, city clerk, HR, city manager. Usually about 10 to 12 people.

          1. Brisvegan

            Were the management team part of the audience for the mocking? Was your manager? If so, your manager is annoyed at you for revealing that management are bullying a’holes by letting your friend know about the mockery.

            They are not managing. They are pissed you took away their fun and made them see that they were cruel not cool.

          2. AVP

            HR! City officials! wow. Not to further the drama but I bet the town paper would love to hear more about this office’s total disfunction.

            1. Barney Stinson

              That’s the problem. There’s a political angle that most of us don’t have to deal with. That’s why the manager is so fried, and there may be actual laws about talking about what happens in a city’s closed door meetings?

              1. Not So NewReader

                The manager fails to grasp rule number one: People will repeat EVERYTHING they see and hear, WITHOUT fail. Count on this like death and taxes. A manager who cannot wrap her brain around this one is going to have troubles.

      2. Laurel Gray

        Still trying to wonder what kind of recording this is. Did someone really pull their phone out and record bad singing at a funeral or was this captured from a video of the service? Either way it is sick sick sick.

        1. Potluck

          I imagine someone recorded it at the funeral and it was posted to Facebook, which is where the two office meanies got it. Cousin Sue films Cousin Jane singing at Sue’s father’s/Jane’s uncle’s funeral, uploads it to Facebook, tags Jane and writes, “My cousin Jane singing ‘Amazing Grace’ at Dad’s funeral.”

        2. The IT Manager

          I’m speculating that perhaps the ex-employee posted the video on Facebook herself (or was tagged) since she confronted the mockers via Facebook. That may be how she was maintaining the “relationship” with her ex-co-workers. That also makes the warning seem sensible. These people are not your friends; block them on Facebook because they are using the information they see about you there to make fun of you.

          1. Susan

            Good point. I was thinking that the ex-employee shouldn’t be notified, but that’s an interesting perspective/possibility re: Facebook.

        3. In trouble

          It was an audio recording done on a phone and sent to HR person by the singer, the ex employee. She did this to try to comfort the HR person who had recently lost her brother.

          1. Myrin

            I’m completely speechless. Even if her singing isn’t the best, this was a lovely and warm gesture and it gets turned on her like that. Incredible!

          2. Fifi Ocrburg

            But ex-employee wasn’t singing at HR’s family funeral–she just sent a video of herself singing at someone else’s funeral? I don’t think that’s very comforting–it’s an odd gesture. If Ex was really concerned about HR’s grief, send a card.

            1. anonanonanon

              Yeah, agreed. I would take it as a well-meant gesture, but receiving something like that would make me really uncomfortable.

    2. In trouble

      The real kicker is that ex employee sent it to the HR woman to comfort her when her brother passed away, but instead she made a mockery of it and shares it with everyone.

      1. Not So NewReader

        And here is the actual problem.

        The best defense is a good offense. You can always tell how well you hit your target by how big a reaction you get. My guess here, OP, is that you hit a bulls eye. This HR peron’s behavior is off the charts. You caught her and she knows it.

        1. snuck

          Bingo.

          And not only is she outed… she is outed to the person she was insulting… who she no longer has any control over. So she’s going to take it out on you.

        2. Biff

          I very much agree with this. I used to volunteer for an organization and caught the woman playing ‘good cop’ with her hand in the proverbial cookie jar. It did not go nicely for me.

    3. Liane

      But it happens. It happened to no less than Elton John. There were complaints after Princess Diana’s funeral that his singing and playing weren’t very good. C’mon, she was one of his dearest friends!

      1. Afiendishthingy

        It doesn’t make it right, but Elton John is a public figure, which means you’re going to encounter this kind of stuff.

        1. mdv

          I think Liane means that “even Elton John did not sing perfectly when he sang at Princess Diana’s funeral”, and was criticized for it.

    4. StillHealing

      I’ve sung at many weddings and funerals. Both are difficult especially when you knew and/or were close to the deceased or couple getting married.

      The woman who sang probably gave it her all and kudos to her for agreeing to sing under difficult circumstances. Your coworkers behavior is disgusting and I’m rather surprised someone else didn’t call them on it! If the coworkers were making fun of her for two weeks, surely the Manager knew about it by the time it blew up. I bet you anything your supervisors’ over-reaction is due to not only knowing about it and not stop it, but someone else probably brought it up to her too! She didn’t stop it. She is a weak manager. The kind that caters to bullies rather than stop their inappropriate behavior in it’s tracks. It’s far easier to jump on you than to confront TWO people who are behaving inappropriately.

  3. Snarkus Aurelius

    All snark and sarcasm aside, I’m dying to know…

    What purpose did it serve to tell this former coworker about what was going on?  It’s one thing to tip her off to the fact that these two weren’t her friends; it’s quite another to tell her that these two were openly mocking her on a regular basis and all the gory details.

    I’m not blaming the victim here.  I’m trying to see why you did what you did in hopes that you’ll get a better sense of yourself and to better equip you to defend yourself.

    Oh and yes there’s definitely something else going on here with these coworkers and/or management.

    1. ElCee

      I don’t know. If the ex-coworker was still actively maintaining friendships with these people and OP tried to tip her off that she really shouldn’t trust them–I can’t imagine many people, informed that they shouldn’t trust so-and-so, not following up with a “What? Why?”

      1. Snarkus Aurelius

        Easy.  Don’t paint it as something they’re doing “to” the ex-coworker.  Tell the former coworker that they’re untrustworthy and dishonest.  Or say they frequently talk behind other people’s backs, if they do that.  Tell the ex-coworker to watch what she says because these two are blabbermouths.

        I’m confident the OP could cite numerous non-ex-coworker stories that would back that up.  

        Yes, I get that some people would want to know, but honestly the whole thing sounded so hurtful.  Why retell it if you don’t have to?

        1. KT

          I agree with this. Telling the ex-employee only causes her pain, it doesn’t end the situation–that would only happen by having a direct word with the employees and/manager.

          Telling the ex-employee only creates hurt feelings.

          1. Lindsay J

            Maybe I’m in the minority of this, but if I were the ex-coworker, I would want to know.

            Yes, I would be hurt, because people I thought were my friends were doing hurtful things. Some hurt now would protect me in the future.

            Because there is a huge difference between “These people are jerks and blabbermouths and you shouldn’t trust them,” and, “These two people are taking a recording you sent them of you singing, sharing it with loads of people, and have been openly mocking it for weeks.”

            It’s kind of like the difference between, “Hey, I think your boyfriend is kind of a jerk,” and “I saw your boyfriend making out with another girl at your favorite restaurant. And when I saw him he winked at me and made the ‘keep your mouth zipped’ gesture.” One is opinion and/or could be exaggerated. The second is undisputed evidence that the person is being horrible to me.

            The hurt isn’t being created by the person telling me a so-called friend is being a jerk. The hurt is being created by the person being a jerk in the first place.

            And I would be very upset if someone I considered a friend knew about this going on and didn’t tell me. It would make me view them as being somewhat complicit in it.

            1. nofelix

              There’s also the middle ground option: tell the friend that co-workers are mean jerks and you think she shouldn’t trust them, and then follow up with details if requested.

        2. Anonny

          But “they’re blabbermouths” or “dishonest” doesn’t work if the co-worker’s only interaction with them is as facebook friends. Especially since they’re not talking about something she told them, but instead poking fun at a video of her singing at a funeral (which, what the heck? I can’t even fathom).

          It’s hard to say “hey unfriend these people” without being forced to say “they’re making fun of you singing at your uncle’s funeral.”

          1. AnonyMoose

            + 1

            And I hate to bring this up but good friends tell the truth. Even (especially?) when it can be a painful truth. I too wouldn’t let up if I was told Sally was ‘a blabbermouth’. I probably know that about her already. But I certainly don’t know that she’s a cruel b*tch and takes time out of her day to rally the troupes against my singing AT UNCLE FRED’S FUNERAL.

            1. Van Wilder

              Depends on the person and the situation. I have friends I go to when I want the truth and those I go to when I want to be told I’m great. But an unsolicited truth bomb like that? Especially tied to the death of a loved one? I personally would not want to know. Would rather hear the softened, generalized message and I hope it was as a last resort that the OP had to tell her the whole story.

              1. Lindsay J

                See, I would absolutely, definitely want to know.

                And if someone who I considered a friend knew about something like this going on, and didn’t tell me directly, I would view them as being somewhat complicit in it.

        3. ElCee

          I agree, but who knows how OP painted it to the ex-coworker. Maybe ex-coworker kept pressing for details. An exchange like that just doesn’t strike me as out of the ordinary.

        4. Anon Accountant

          I agree. Unreasonable to have told the ex-coworker. Their behavior was horrible but telling your ex-coworker added more drama to it. Telling her there have been situations they have been talking behind ‘s backs would be honest and a tip-off.

          1. AVP

            But, if you were the person being made fun of, would you really just leave it at the and not press the teller for more information? I understand the impulse to go as low-drama as possible but if someone gave me a tipoff like that, I don’t think I would let up until I got alllllll the details out of them.

            1. Afiendishthingy

              Yeah . If I tell Daya she shouldn’t be friends with Maritza and Flaca because they are mean people who make fun of people behind their backs, maybe even *mumble mumble* Daya’s, I am going to expect Daya to have some follow up questions. I think giving Daya a hint that people are being jerks about her may be the worst option here. I don’t really know what the best option here was, but this workplace sounds crazy toxic. Run, OP, preferably before they find a reason to fire you.

          2. Lindsay J

            I don’t think it was unreasonable to tell the ex-coworker at all. Ex-coworker deserves to know exactly what is going on, so she can decide how to best protect herself from it.

            “Hey, these people talk about other people behind their backs,” might register to me as ‘Okay, I shouldn’t share potentially damaging information about myself or my opinions (Like, okay, I shouldn’t tell Erik that I think Greg is a horrible boss, because Erik is going to tell Greg that. Or I shouldn’t ask Allison to be a reference in my job hunt because she’ll tell Chase what jobs I’m applying for and Chase will tell everyone else). I wouldn’t get the picture that I shouldn’t share videos of myself on Facebook because they’re going to openly mock me for it.

            And what these people she thinks are friends are doing is so egregious to me that to me, not telling her would be like not telling someone I am friends with that their spouse is cheating on them but instead hinting and going, “So I feel like your SO is a little bit of a jerk.”

            The people causing the drama are the people mocking the ex-coworker in the first place. If they weren’t mocking her, there would be nothing to talk about.

        5. Myrin

          I get what you’re saying but I think many people when told something like what you’re suggesting have a tendency to think “Well, they would never do that to me!”, especially if they consider the offending parties friends of any kinds. (Granted, we don’t know how close ex employee and Mean Coworkers are/were. Maybe their only connection upon ex employee leaving was Facebook and ee only kept them there out of convenience and not because she actually actively cared.)

          Also, maybe that’s just me, but if someone suddenly came to me with a warning like this I would totally suspect they’d actually done/said something about me. And I’d probably trust the OP and just block or ignore these people but maybe I’d also try to dig and find out more.

        6. brighidg

          If someone told you a friend of yours was untrustworthy and dishonest, would you believe them – no questions asked?

    2. kk

      Agreed. Seems totally unnecessary to tell the former co-worker. What does that accomplish? It doesn’t stop the mean behavior unless OP was expecting the former co-worker to react.

      OP – your coworkers and manager are more wrong, but you’re not right. What you did it pretty childish too. It reminds me of my own work story – we have a co-worker who is VERY strongly favored. She has the same job as me but basically works part time and makes more money. My group knows nothing can change about the situation, but still sometime we gripe to each other. Am I saying stuff I would say to my co-worker’s face? Not necessarily. But I am being mean? No. Well, I recently found out that another group member, who participates in the whining, went behind our backs to tell the favored co-worker that we were talking about her. And you know what it accomplished? Nothing expect that now I don’t trust the tattletale.

      1. Shannon

        And you know what it accomplished? Nothing expect that now I don’t trust the tattletale.

        I’d argue that’s pretty valuable information, right there.

      2. Koko

        That’s one of the risks about talking about coworkers behind their backs.

        Years ago I participated in a lot of office gossip. But over the years I’ve learned that no good can come of complaining. People think “venting” is therapeutic, but it actually just encourages you to stew and dwell on the thing that’s upsetting you, isn’t in any way constructive toward addressing the cause of your issue, and leaves you professionally vulnerable if what you’re saying gets repeated to the wrong person…or you repeat something to the wrong person.

        1. Allison

          When I started my first job, someone talking to all the new hires during orientation told us how bad negativity was in the workplace, and that if we really needed to vent we could pull her aside, but negativity wouldn’t be tolerated in the office. But when I started to have issues with my manager, I knew better than to tell her about it, because come on, whose side was she gonna take?

          If you need to vent about work, you vent to a friend, or a family member, roommate, significant other, someone who’s close to you but not affiliated with the company you work for, who’s not gonna go blabbing about what you say about your boss or coworkers.

        2. A Non

          Yeah. I’ve found it occasionally valuable to get a perspective check from coworkers about another coworker’s behavior. When I was being bullied by my boss, it was a huge relief when I found out other people saw his behavior and thought he was a bully too. But there’s that, and then there’s complaining. I’ve never seen anything productive come of complaining to office mates.

      3. Anonny

        At the same time though, it also told the favored co-worker that she couldn’t trust you/your group, which I’m sure was your co-worker’s point in telling her, as well as the OP’s motivation.

        Whether rude or not, that words were being said behind a person’s back came to light doesn’t put the blame on the messenger; it’s still on the people talking. I’m not suggesting that you were being rude in the least, but you were still talking about this women behind her back, and there are sometimes consequences. You’re right not to trust the messenger, but the blame that comes if the favored co-worker is made upset by your words still rests on you and the other gossipers, imo.

        I personally would not have told the Ex-Coworker, but I don’t think it’s a wildly unreasonable thing to do.

        1. kk

          Well the only consequences were for the tattletale. The favored co-worker has known me & the other “gossips” longer than the tattletale and we are all very blunt – most of what we have said we have also said to favored co-worker’s face. And the tattletale is just a HUGE ass-kisser, so that’s why she did it. But this is kind of a unique situation. My major point is telling the person being talked about doesn’t really accomplish anything but create drama. Confronting the gossipers head-on is the better choice.

          1. Anonny

            My major point is telling the person being talked about doesn’t really accomplish anything but create drama. Confronting the gossipers head-on is the better choice.

            Respectfully, I disagree. In my experience the type of people who will blatantly make fun of someone’s singing (at at funeral – I’m so baffled by that) don’t just up and change their ways very often. Meaning that regardless of whether the gossipers are confronted to stop or not, it’s likely that they’ll still continue, just out of earshot to the OP. I agree that OP should still have told them to knock it off (or brought it to her manager’s attention), but I don’t think it would have changed much, and it still wouldn’t help the talked-about person any.

            While telling the talked-about person might ‘create drama,’ (Not meaning to get into your phrasing here, but in general I really dislike this term. In this case it seems to negate the perfectly valid feelings that the talked-about person would inevitably have in favor of validating the gossiper’s right to gossip, which just… sucks. The messenger isn’t causing drama, the gossipers are.), what it more importantly does is tell the talked-about person information she should know about people she thought she could trust.

            1. Lily in NYC

              I have to disagree with your assumption that confronting these people to their faces wouldn’t change anything. I am a 100% reformed gossip, all because someone overheard me making a dumb joke about her constant push to get promoted and confronted me about it. I felt like the biggest jerk in the world and it completely changed my behavior.

              1. Ted Mosby

                Me too! I feel like we’re reformed jerk soul mates.

                I was called out senior year of high school. I was being a total shit head, and I was so embarrassed and ashamed of myself that I got really defensive. I felt sick for days. I could hardly look the person in the eye for my mumbled apology. I didn’t say ANYTHING negative about anyone on campus for my first year and a half of college. It was a good life lesson, and I was shocked when someone told me I had a reputation as being really nice to everyone. NOT something anyone was saying in my earlier years.

                (don’t actually think you’re jerk gossip is a terrible habit that a lot of good people fall into)

              2. Anonny

                You’re right that it could, though I feel like that’s still rare, though, Lily. They’ve been confronted by the talked-about person, albeit over Facebook and second-hand, but they don’t seem to be showing remorse, instead being angry at the OP. My experiences and their response make me think that it’s unlikely they would have turned over a new leaf, even if some would…

          2. Oh no not again

            Lol, the people gossiping are the ones creating drama. Don’t start nothing, won’t be nothing.

            1. Lindsay J

              This, exactly.

              If y’all weren’t gossiping to begin with, there wouldn’t be anything for the tattletale to report.

              If the mean coworkers in the OP weren’t being mean, there wouldn’t be any drama.

          3. Lindsay J

            *Am I saying stuff I would say to my co-worker’s face? Not necessarily.*

            *most of what we have said we have also said to favored co-worker’s face.*

            So which is it? I feel like you’re backtracking on your own words here.

      4. A Teacher

        You know in school, I teach high school kids that if they stand by and do nothing they are equally to blame, so maybe I’m in the minority, but it doesn’t seem like the messenger should be the bad guy here.

        1. Ad Astra

          I do think saying something to the singer is better than doing nothing at all, but I wish OP had said something to the mean coworkers instead.

        2. LBK

          But “do nothing” and “tell the friend” weren’t the only two options – she still could’ve done something that most likely would have had a better outcome. That is not by any means saying the OP is the bad guy, but rather that if something like this happens again, maybe consider one of those other options like speaking to the people directly or going to the manager instead of going to the friend, which takes the situation completely outside of the OP’s control.

        3. neverjaunty

          Right? “Tattle-tale” is so grade school and smacks of “how dare you get me in trouble”.

        4. Lindsay J

          Yeah, I would be hurt if I knew that people I considered to be friends were doing this to me. I would be even more hurt if I found out that another person I considered to be a friend knew about this going on and didn’t tell me; since they didn’t tell me I’d consider them to be complicit in the whole thing as well.

        5. Regina 2

          I’m with you. I would have told the ex-coworker.

          Actually, I probably wouldn’t have confronted the people doing it either. Not my style (which I’ve found is generally at odds with this board).

      5. Lindsay J

        It accomplishes one very important thing. It allows ex-coworker to protect herself.

        She actively sent the video of herself singing to try and comfort one of the meanies after they lost someone important to them. Now she knows not to do anything like that again. Now she can take the step to – say – unfriend them or filter them on Facebook so they don’t get a hold of anything else they can use to mock her. Or just cut ties with them entirely. Maybe she would have considered using the meanies as a reference for future jobs and now can make the decision that that might not be a great idea.

        And, honestly, I don’t have very much sympathy for you in your example at all. If you don’t want it getting back to someone that you’re griping about them, then don’t gripe about them. Or do it to your significant other or your therapist or someone who doesn’t know the other person and isn’t going to feel caught it the middle. And, if it’s something you wouldn’t say to the coworker’s face, it probably is unkind in some way.

        1. Turtle Candle

          Yeah. Normally if someone was mocking me behind my back and they weren’t someone I’d have to interact with regularly, I’d rather not know. But if someone was actively using my gesture of kindness to mock me, in that case I’d rather know simply so that I could refrain from such gestures towards that person in the future.

      6. Nervous Accountant

        And this is why people idly stand by and do nothing, because, shoot the messenger.

        Isn’t the idea that there is no such thing as tattling in the work place? Gossiping and then calling someone an ass kisser and tattletale…..This all sounds so grossly immature and high schoolish.

        Something tells me that person isn’t so much the issue?

    3. Naomi

      How could OP have tipped her off without giving details about what the two coworkers were doing? If someone came to me and tried to convince me that someone I knew wasn’t my friend, you can bet I’d want to know some context before giving them any credence. Opinions may vary on whether OP should have spoken to the person being mocked, but the options were to tell her or not tell her. There was no way to half-tell her.

      1. Shannon

        This.

        The fact that they were friends on Facebook after the singer left the company says that the singer at least thought she was on good terms with the people mocking her. I’d want to know if a friend/ acquaintance were mocking me for a personal and heartfelt gesture.

        1. MashaKasha

          This. I’d also need to know whom to block on Facebook. Odds are, that was where they got the video of her singing in the first place! If that’s the case, she definitely needs to know that these two overgrown third-grade bullies cannot be trusted with access to her Facebook page.

          1. Log Lady

            Yes, this. I would want to know about something like this. I doubt I would confront them about it, but I would want to block them from everything and cut them out of my life. I doubt they were handed this video.

            1. MashaKasha

              Oh was it in a later update? I missed that. You mean this woman’s brother died and she shared a video of the funeral with one of the two coworkers and they have both been getting laughs out of that video for weeks??? Who does this? Are they human??? Why is one of them working in HR when she is clearly not qualified, on account of having less empathy than a piece of furniture would??? I have no words.

              1. MashaKasha

                Found the comments stating that it was one of the mocking women’s brother who’d died, and the singer tried to comfort her. Wow. My head is spinning. I’m close to turning 50 and in all my life, I didn’t know people like that existed! Just wow.

      2. Elizabeth West

        I would too, and it seems we’re assuming that OP went running to Ex-coworker (I’ll call her Sue) and said, “OMG Sue, they are doing this and that and this and omg omg omg omg.” It might have been more subtle and OP has no control over Sue’s reaction.

        If I were Sue, I would have just blocked them and not said one more word to them ever again.

          1. Not So NewReader

            This is the problem with implied confidences. People think they are speaking confidentially, unless confidentiality is clearly mentioned, it is never safe to assume something will be kept under wraps. Annnd even if someone says they will keep something a secret, that does not mean that they will keep it a secret.

    4. Ad Astra

      There are some people who would want to know if people they considered friends were making fun of them behind their back, so perhaps that’s where the OP is coming from. Some people want to know the truth and think everyone else ought to know the truth, too. But, personally, I’d be happier not knowing — and I think the majority of people would be, too.

      1. Kyrielle

        I would not want to know if there was nothing I could do. But if they had access to my Facebook page and were mocking something they accessed from there? I would absolutely want to know, not because knowing they mocked X would make my life better, but because I’d want to block them before they saw anything else. They could go get their amusement somewhere else at that point.

    5. OhNo

      I guess I’m the odd one out, because I absolutely would have told the former coworker what they were saying. Otherwise you might just look like you’re trying to stir up drama. (I’ve been on the receiving end of the “You shouldn’t talk to X, they’re awful and don’t like you, but I can’t tell you why.” spiel before and it never sounds like anything other than sh**-stirring). I’m a little concerned that the former coworker was so unprofessional as to confront these people with what was said, but I can’t really fault them for it.

      Seriously, though, the OP might not have made e best choice here, but the boss shouldn’t be threatening firing or anything like that. Yeesh, what am over-reaction. Are they afraid that the former coworker is going to sue the company or something?

      1. Myrin

        I’m not sure I’m understanding you correctly – and please excuse me if I got you wrong somewhere – but why do you think the ex employee reacted unprofessionally in confronting the bullies? I think if anything it’s a pretty straightforward thing that can be done maturely and without making a fuss.

        1. OhNo

          That’s what I mean. The confrontation could certainly be done in a professional manner, but it doesn’t sound like it was, given the strength of the reaction from the two that had been called out.

          If nothing else, the former coworker shouldn’t have named the OP as the source of the info. Ideally, no identifying details of any kind would have come up during the conversation, just something simple like, “I heard that you’ve been making fun of me, and I don’t appreciate it, and I’d like it to stop. Because what I’ve heard is pretty bulletproof, I’m not going to continue being friends with you.”

          But that is hard to do at the best of times, let alone when you find out something like this, so like I said, I don’t fault them for it. The only real problem with the way they handled it was the backlash on the OP.

          1. Natalie

            “That’s what I mean. The confrontation could certainly be done in a professional manner, but it doesn’t sound like it was, given the strength of the reaction from the two that had been called out.”

            I’m not sure this is an accurate leap. Plenty of people react utterly disproportionately to mild boundary setting or disapproval. In my experience, at least, people who are mean to the level described in this letter are way more likely to overreact when they perceive disapproval.

            1. OhNo

              Well, that’s certainly true. And it’s definitely possible that these coworkers are the type of people to fly off the handle no matter how it had been phrased.

              But my primary point stands. The callout had some serious backlash for the OP (to the point that being fired has been brought up!) which could have been avoided if the former coworker had been a little more careful with their… whatever it is that they did to call out the coworkers.

              1. Kyrielle

                Maybe. Not if OP is known to be friends with this person and was one of only 1-2 other people (besides the meanies) who could have heard it.

            2. LBK

              Yes, I agree, especially because it was a situation the friend couldn’t have known about unless someone else told her – so “I can’t believe Jane would tattle on us” becomes an easy redirect for these people even if what the friend said in the conversation was totally reasonable. It’s an easy out for the embarrassment of being caught acting like a jackass.

          2. Myrin

            Aah, I understand, thanks for clarifying!

            Honestly, with the way Mean Coworkers are acting, I totally wouldn’t be surprised if ex coworker confronted them in exactly the way you wrote here (minus the not identifying the OP, I guess we can be pretty sure she did or at least that it was obvious somehow) and they still totally flipped. Some people react like that to the most reasonable requests, sadly. :/

            1. OhNo

              Yeah, upon further reflection, I wouldn’t be too shocked by that either. Which probably says something unflattering about the environment at the OP’s current workplace, as if the boss’ response wasn’t enough of a hint.

      2. Allison

        I get what you’re saying. I wouldn’t keep it a secret either, but only on a need-to-know basis, like if my friend thought their former coworkers were their friends or something. Nobody necessarily needs to know every horrible thing that’s said about them.

    6. Former Retail Manager

      I think telling the former co-worker largely depends upon the nature of former co-worker’s friendships with the offenders. Was it a casual friendship/ Facebook friendship or does the former co-worker see the offenders on a regular basis and consider them close friends? If it were casual, I’d say leave well enough alone and let them all continue on as is, but if the former co-worker considered these people close friends to the point that she is still sharing intimate details of her life with them, then I’d spill the beans as well. And who needs friends that would mock a funeral performance!

    7. Cautionary tail

      I’m definately in the camp of there’s more to this than that contained in the letter-writer’s email to Alison. One does not go from 10-years of perfect service to bat-sh*t crazy without either the 10 years being not so perfect or something else going on.

      1. Biff

        She comments that she was in a prior position for a long time. So 10 years of service to the city — and only about nine months in the new position. It sounds like due to medical issues, she’s been gone a lot as well, so she’s still just getting used to her new position.

    8. fposte

      I agree that that’s not your first step, but I’ve done so in an analogous situation. Do the co-workers have this recording because they were trusted attendees at this funeral? Does my friend stay in touch with them and consider them friends or people to whom she owes support? Then I’d let her know.

      Basically, I’d only tell her if it would change what she’d do in the future. For instance, one of mine was “Jane told a hallway full of people about the guy you’re secretly seeing at work. I’d factor that in if I were considering sharing confidences with her in future.”

    9. Rachael

      The OP mentioned that the “mockers” and “mockee” are friends. I would certainly tell my friend that people she thought as friends were doing such a thing. However, in hindsight, it looks like the OP would have benefited from telling the “mockee” not to give any hint of how she knows they are bad friends.

      And the manager? Crazy. But, I bet you that she was involved and it makes her look bad.

    10. In trouble

      I just wanted to protect her, she honestly thought they were her friends. She just returned to the area, she moved for a bit after she left here, and trying to rekindle some of her contacts, but these 2 people are toxic and I wanted to warn her. I was just really looking out for an old friend.

      1. Brisvegan

        If I was your singing friend, I would be really grateful for a warning about this. It was a kindness, in my view.

      2. sunny-dee

        This. I’d want to know, and if a friend told me that, I’d understand that it was told in kindness, even if it was hurtful to hear.

      3. Nervous Accountant

        That was really kind of you. I hope you don’t let the “that was unprofessional/tattle tale/kiss ass etc” comments deter you from doing the right thing if the situation comes up again.

  4. LizNYC

    To further Mike’s point, my bets are
    1) these two employees are close friends with the manager
    2) the manager also laughed (at one point or continuously) at the video, and feels guilty for being a jerk, so she’s lashing out at the OP to make herself feel better
    3) the OP is not well-liked in the office (for whatever reason). so the manager (childishly) is trying to force her out by making this issue a huge deal.

    OP, you (and your former coworker) have learned some valuable information: the manager is crazy (and may show that crazy retaliation in any future references), doesn’t know ho to manage correctly, and shows exceptionally poor judgement. I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve witnessed the latter.

  5. AndersonDarling

    I’ll place my bet on the manager taking part in the ridicule. She can’t punish the crummy co-workers because she was in on it. Her only option is to lash out at the OP and hope she keeps quiet.
    I feel sorry for you, OP. You work with super jerks.

    1. Myrin

      I can see the manager being a part of the ridiculing group but wouldn’t the reaction the OP is describing coming from her still be pretty strong for even that? She could just say “Wow, don’t be so sensitive!” or “Mind your own business!” or whatever other crap, but she’s really going far beyond that. It’s such a weird overreaction which I feel isn’t actually adequately explained by just lashing out because of feeling guilty or being confronted.

      1. Three Thousand

        My bet is the boss is now paranoid that the OP is a “tattletale” and really doesn’t want to have to deal with that. Probably has a lot to hide herself.

    2. Jennifer

      I figured that the OP just made herself a pain for the manager to deal with because she called attention to a problem.

  6. GigglyPuff

    The original letter isn’t very clear, does your boss explicitly know what you were talking to an ex-employee about?

    Because I can also see the co-worker who reported you, being general, more along the lines of “OP shared info they overheard in the conference room outside the workplace”

    But assuming your boss does know, ugh, this is just creepy all around.

    1. LisaLee

      This was my thought too. Perhaps the coworkers were not entirely truthful and the manager assumed the lw shared something like client info, not gossip

      1. MashaKasha

        Yes, that’s the only way I can explain the threat of termination. Either that, or OP’s manager is eight years old.

      2. Ama

        Yeah, my last workplace was full of people who did this, because I had bosses who overreacted to the first person who stormed into their office upset about something.

      3. fposte

        It’s city freaking hall! It’s government and therefore public until proven otherwise. Unless her city clerk is making nuclear weapons or spying on ISIS, it’s all FOIA-able.

        1. LCL

          Yes! My fallback when I have had it up to here and am on the verge of saying or doing something I will regret, is I ask myself how this will look on the evening news. If you work for the government, you know anything you say could be made public by someone trying to make a point, and claiming it is necessary the public know all this in the interests of good government. Meeting misconduct makes the news here frequently.

    2. Nikki T

      Yes, it says “This employee went to my boss, saying that I could no longer be trusted. ” I mean, the employee isn’t going to confess they were being jerks…

      1. Not So NewReader

        Yeah, OP can no longer be trusted to cover up childish, unprofessional behavior. This would indeed be a crisis for people who plan to continue acting childishly and unprofessionally.

  7. nicolefromqueens

    I really don’t think going to the coworkers directly would have gone over well. OP would’ve been ridiculed as well. And possibly disciplined.

  8. Ad Astra

    The most insane part of this is an adult suggesting that the OP can’t be trusted with work matters because she had the gall to not keep her coworkers’ rotten behavior a secret. The fact that they’re jerks is not a company secret.

    1. Laurel Gray

      THIS. THIS. THIS.

      The worst part about being in the position of the OP and making the decision she made is that once u give the ex-coworker that information, you lose some control in the situation. The OP didn’t know how she would react – I am betting if she knew ex-coworker would immediately confront these people via Facebook, she would have reconsidered telling her. I

    2. hbc

      In my fantasy, the OP would ask the boss for clarification on what rule she violated. “I’m sorry, what page in the handbook covers the confidentiality of funerary music critiques?”

    3. AnotherHRPro

      I wonder if there isn’t more to the story. Does the OP have a reputation for spreading gossip, complaining, etc. (justifiably or not)? That is the only thing that could explain the manager’s strong reaction to this.

      And if in the same boat, I would have addressed my concerns with the co-workers directly and not involved the ex-coworker/friend.

      Either way, this sounds like a toxic organization

      1. neverjaunty

        There are lots of things that would explain the boss’s reaction other than the OP’s reaction.

      2. sunny-dee

        One thing that the OP doesn’t say is the relative *rank* of the people involved. If she’s a secretary and the people doing this are, like, county commissioners, she may not feel able to say anything to them directly.

      3. Not So NewReader

        I think the story stands on its own very well. OP called out bad behavior and people are defending themselves by launching a counter-offense attack. They are trying to murky the waters when if these people had not been mocking the singer in the first place then none of this would have happened.

  9. OhNo

    Does your boss have any reason to think that this might open the company up to lawsuits? That is the only reason I can think of for that strong of a reaction. Maybe they think the former coworker is going to come back with a harrassment or hostile workplace accusation? Or that they will suddenly decide that they were fired for their religion?

    I don’t think such a suit would have any traction in this case, but IANAL.

  10. Tiffy the Fed... Contractor

    This is… strange. And I can’t imagine it happening at an otherwise drama-free workplace. I could be wrong of course, but I agree with Allison that there has to be something else going on here.

    1. Spooky

      Agreed. We’re missing a huge piece of the puzzle here (and OP might be, too) that makes this all make sense.

  11. DUH!...

    Well what exactly did you expect??? Your coworkers patting you on the back and giving you a big hug afterwards??? Or maybe even a promotion and/or massive salary increase??? Did it not occur to you that you snitchin’ caused their bitchin’??? Have fun with that!!! Cheers!!!

        1. OhNo

          I dunn if it’s happened recently, but in the past some people have posted the same comment multiple times when the first one “disappears”. Alison might be trying to avoid that.

        2. Ask a Manager Post author

          I delete if something is really over the line, which is always a judgment call, but that’s very rare. In general I prefer to err on the side of not deleting. Also, sometimes I think it’s useful to leave it up and say “it’s not okay to talk to people like that here” as a way to reinforce that to other people who see it.

        3. Anonymous Ninja

          Not Alison, but as a reader it shows me that she is active and a good moderator. (And removing it just seem so… 1984.)

          1. Well...

            Don’t worry guys, Alison just deletes comments that criticize her personally. If the nasty comments are about someone else, she leaves them up because it is “free speech” (unless they are about her, of course).

            1. MLT

              Is this a joke? Alison is very open to feedback. Truly nasty comments about anyone should be deleted, blogger included, as they are hurtful and derail the conversation. Marginal comments like the one above can be instructive.

            2. Ask a Manager Post author

              What? I delete maybe one comment a month, if that, because it’s far over the line of civility (usually toward someone other me). Other than that, I leave comments up. There are comments here critical of me all the time.

              And I’ve never cited “free speech” as a reason for anything here. Free speech doesn’t apply to blogs; it applies to what the government can and can’t restrict.

              This is weird.

    1. Myrin

      People are more taking issue with the boss’s reaction than that of the coworkers to which I have to say – in a reasonable workplace, the OP absolutely could expect, if not hugs or a promotion, at least not facing any downsides for her behaviour.

      (Also, your continuous use of triple punctuation makes you come across as very aggressive and “hyper”, just so you know. I mean, I guess you do know and I’m not sure this is a legitimate comment at all, but still.)

      1. Ineloquent

        There’s a Terry Pratchett quite that says constant use of three or more exclamation points is a sure sign of madness…

        1. Jerzy

          +1 for Sir Terry. RIP

          Also, what an over-the-top response. I wonder why that person is so angry about this.

          !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    2. fposte

      Even if you accept the ridiculous notion of snitching, it’s the co-workers, not the OP, who told the boss.

      1. OhNo

        Look on the bright side! At least it’s multiples of the same punctuation, and not two question marks, an en dash, and a semicolon at the end of every sentence.

      1. Lizzy

        Yeah, this is definitely a hit-and-run comment from someone who enjoys blowing off steam by being anonymously hostile online.

    3. Elizabeth West

      Have a Snickers. You get judge-y when you’re hungry.

      OP had no way of knowing how Exworker would react, and frankly, if I were trying to reconnect with my former coworkers and they were pulling bullsh*t like this, I’d want to know.

    4. A

      “Hey, you know who made up that ‘never snitch’ bullshit? People who probably deserved to be snitched on.”

  12. LBK

    Wow, this is weird. I have to imagine the version of the story your coworkers told to your manager was not the same as the version we got here, because there’s no way a sane manager looks at this situation and thinks you’re the bad guy.

    1. Laurel Gray

      keyword: sane

      But totally have to agree…I feel like a game of telephone is happening between the OP, ex-coworker, current coworkers and manager.

  13. Mimmy

    With all due respect, OP, I do not think it was your place to tell your former coworker about the mocking, especially since you say that you are not especially close.

    HOWEVER, your boss is definitely overreacting. I agree with Alison that she could’ve addressed it with you more calmly. Your coworkers are going overboard as well. I’ll admit I get a good chuckle out of bad singing, but what’s happening here–that it’s continuing repeatedly and that the person was singing at a funeral–is way out of line.

  14. TheExchequer

    O.o? I do not understand this story at all.

    1. Two employees have nothing better to do than play bad singing from a funeral for a cheap laugh before *multiple* management team meetings. Somehow, either management doesn’t notice or management thinks it’s funny/harmless.

    2. An unrelated third person in the office overhears and, despite saying that they aren’t close friends, tells the person who produced the bad singing.

    3. Person who produced the bad singing calls the mockers out on Facebook (I assume in a public way since the unrelated third person knows about this).

    4. Mockers somehow find out the bad singer was informed by unrleated third person (I’m assuming via the Facebook callout), then run crying to management for something on Facebook produced by someone who no longer works there

    5. Management gets angry with the unrelated third person

    There is something either seriously wrong with the management at this place (and goodness knows it wouldn’t be the first time on this blog) or we’re missing something from this story. This makes no sense.

    1. fposte

      I think there’s an undercurrent of tension and drama here that affects the whole thing. That doesn’t mean the OP shouldn’t have told her friend, but it meant that that was inevitably going to stoke drama.

  15. BeeBee

    I think OP should have confronted the coworkers first, and then the boss if it still continued.
    Being terminated though for telling ex-employee seems too much. Hope everything works out!

  16. some1

    “This employee went to my boss, saying that I could no longer be trusted. . . . I have never before disclosed conversations going on in the conference room that is directly across from my office; I typically will close my office door most of the way to block out the noise. But this was what I considered a personal attack on an ex-employee and had nothing to do with work or industry secrets.”

    Okay, well, it sounds like your coworker lied to your boss and made it seem like you disclosed a private business conversation. You need to clear up with your boss what you actually told the coworker yesterday.

    1. In trouble

      some1, when my boss pulled me in her office and asked me about it, I told her, it was nothing work related. It was on a personal level and she said she disagreed. She felt violated and what I had done was worse than is someone had come in and robbed the place.

      1. fposte

        Just to be clear–your boss felt violated because you were talking about what happened in the workplace outside of the workplace?

        (And yes, it is work related, because it happened at work. But your boss is still crazy.)

      2. Myrin

        Your boss felt violated? Why? Even if she was in on the whole thing, i. e. taking part in the mocking, you telling ex employee about the other two employees had nothing to do with her, let alone violate her. She sounds like a nutty nut, if you ask me.

      3. JustALurker

        As suspected, your boss is completely insane and your workplace is incredibly toxic! Here’s hoping you are out of there and on to a much better work place soon.

        1. Not So NewReader

          I agree. These people are nuts.

          So it is okay to mock someone singing a funeral. It’s okay to mock someone who reaches out to you when you have a loss of your own. (NOT)

          It looks to me like they can’t mock your friend any more OP, so they have decided to mock you instead.

      4. lowercase holly

        and you are certain you and your boss are both talking about the same events? because either she is totally off her rocker or the coworkers told her a different story. this is just a bizarre reaction.

      5. Turtle Candle

        I have to agree with the person above who said that it sounds like the boss was in on the mocking. (Or else they’re just bonkers, because otherwise this makes no sense at all.)

  17. Jerzy

    OP, your co-workers are jerks, and your boss’ reaction definitely crossed a line.

    That said, there’s a quote from Craig Ferguson I like to run through before speaking about something potentially drama-causing: “Does this have to be said? Does this have to be said, by me? Does this have to be said by me, right now?”

    In the case of actually witnessing your coworkers being horrible people, I think I would have answered “yes” to all of those questions and let them know they were being cruel. In the case of my friend, I’m not sure I would have gotten past question #1. Just food for thought.

  18. In trouble

    I am the one in trouble over this. The 2 women who were mocking are the HR person and the City Clerk. My boss is the finance director. I have been here for almost 10 years November 16th will be 10 years. He had been out on medical leave for 2 months due to a surgery to my inner ear and a cochlear implant. I was promoted in December to the Accounts Payable positions and it’s been a rocky road. Mostly it’s been due to my illness, I have a disease (menieres) that causes confusion and brain fog and extreme vertigo. I have struggled to get my new tasks and duties under control they are constantly bringing up my faults. There is absolutely no more round here people are constantly quitting we refer to it is Shitty Hall.

    1. Jerzy

      Ah, a sufferer of employment in the public sector! Been there! And honestly, that explains the cruelty. I hate to say it, but I have experienced more pettiness in the public sector than in the private sector, including my time working for a pizza chain while in high school.

      And when your HR person is participating in this type of behavior, no wonder you have no morale.

      My sympathies are with you, OP.

      1. RVA Cat

        Yikes. The HR person should definitely know better – and that picking on OP for illness-related reasons could be a ADA violation.

        1. fposte

          Though it doesn’t necessarily sound like they’re picking on her for illness-related reasons; they’re picking on her for work errors.

          1. In trouble

            Yes, my work errors are what I am being constantly written up about. I had 5 days of training with the previous person in this position. Once she left, my illness did get worse, from December until May I was extremely sick.

            Surgery was in July, returned in August. Most likely returned to early, since I could barely walk having my inner ear removed. Between my struggle to get well and relearn my new duties, things have not gone smooth to say the least. I would not have gotten this promotion however had I not been qualified or management thought I was incapable. Just the timing of my illness hitting hard was at the worst time.

            1. fposte

              Ugh, I’m so sorry. It sounds like a small city hall where there’s not much recourse beyond your supervisors. However, you might consider the possibility of raising a formal request for accommodation under the ADA if you’re going to have long-term effects from the Meniere’s and/or the surgery. Your boss is going to hate it, but your boss already hates it, so it might not be a bad thing to have federal law to shield you.

            2. Brisvegan

              Could they be wanting to get rid of you due to your difficulties, but think they can’t due to ADA reasons? They might be turning your actions into a drama to give themselves an allegedly non-related excuse to sack you. I hope not, but am suspicious.

            3. Jessica

              I feel you! I had damage to my vestibular nerve over a year ago that resulted in the complete loss of my balance center on one side, and I’ve been dealing with it ever since. :( It’s hard to focus when your brain is taking up so much energy keeping you upright and dealing with your “new normal.” PT didn’t work completely for me, but I can now function much better, but I get tired very easily from consistent dizziness (and brain fogs due to dizziness are hard to recover from). I hope you also have a support system to help with the inherent frustration.

              I don’t know if you’ve heard of VEDA (Vestibular Disorders Association), but they have support and tips to help you. I keep thinking that if the work mistakes are due to the disease, then you might need more recover time and/or accommodate (if possible). I’ll put a link below this.

                1. Jessica

                  I really hope you can find some relief! It really sounds like your workplace isn’t being understanding about the situation. There are good places out there that will be, and I hope you find one soon! I worked at one like that when I first started this journey, and I am forever grateful that they understood that sometimes the fact that I was fighting to remain upright even part of the day was taking up a lot of brain estate. I’m so sorry you’re going through this! I wouldn’t wish this feeling on anyone else (except…maybe the people you work with, so they can understand what you’re going through).

                  I discovered that just having people who understand can be a big help. It’s surprising the number of people who have had to deal with BPPV (what is normally just called “vertigo”) who greatly sympathize. I haven’t met anyone else in person who just woke up one day and couldn’t walk without falling over, but I now heard from a lot of others around the internet who have. My PT was awesome in letting me know that my symptoms were normal for what I was going through, which was oddly comforting.

                  (I just re-read what I wrote and can’t figure out my own grammar. The second-to-last sentence should have been “recovery and/or accommodation.”)

    2. BuildMeUp

      It sounds like you should start looking for a new job, too, unfortunately. One of the people doing the mocking is the HR person?! It doesn’t sound like anyone is going to put a stop to the issues and drama. I would polish up my resume if I were you.

        1. OhNo

          Well here’s hoping you find an awesome position soon so you can get out of that place! It sounds like a real mess.

    3. In trouble

      That should say, There is absolutely no morale here, people are constantly quitting. We refer to this as Shitty Hall. Darn voice to text!

      I realize that, yes, I chose to “snitch”. I am tired of these 2 women pulling this kind of garbage, not just to the former employee but to nearly everyone that works here.

    4. Nikki T

      I don’t even know what to say…I hope you get out soon, please let us know so we can have virtual cupcakes!

    5. Adonday Veeah

      ” The 2 women who were mocking are the HR person…”

      Ah. Explains so much. There is no excuse for this behavior from an HR person (well, from anyone, but especially…), and it closes a door for you in seeking fair recourse.

      But please clarify — you said “He had been out on medical leave…” and then you refer to your inner ear. Was this a typo? Were you the one who had been out on medical leave? Just clarifying.

      My ex had Menieres. It’s the nasties. My condolences.

      Are you in a position to go to your doctor to request medical support for an accommodation request? From what you’re saying, it’s possible they want to get rid of you, but feel they can’t because of your illness, so they’re cooking up other excuses. Get yourself some protection.

    6. BRR

      Oh boy, this sounds like such a difficult position to be in.

      -regarding ada, it doesn’t apply if you can’t do your job with a reasonable accommodation. My ADD prevented me from proofreading really well. Requesting an accommodation would have done me no good because that was a huge part of the position. I’m not sure what a reasonable accommodation would be for you but it would put a target on your back if your coworkers like making fun of people.
      – I would recommend fmla if it would give you time to heal and perform better.
      -you’re getting negative feedback about your performance and it sounds like your boss has a personal problem with you, I’d recommend start job hunting.
      -if disciplinary procedures happen, make sure the facts are clear and make sure your boss’ boss and someone in hr besides the person involved knows. Wrong information might be used.

      But really, I’d start looking. Both because you might be on a shit list and because it doesn’t sound like a place you would want to be. People can be happy at their jobs and you deserve that.

      1. fposte

        Oh, good point on FMLA–she should still have plenty left even if she took it for her leave after surgery. And don’t forget, OP, you can have intermittent FMLA, for afternoons or individual days off.

        1. BRR

          I hate to think this way but this might help save her job or buy her some time to look. Like hey I took fmla and they fired me. Although hr seems to have missed hr 101.

          But mostly some recovery time might help (or at least a mental break). I can’t imagine recovering from a surgery like that and starting in a new job.

          1. fposte

            Yeah, that’s where it might be really advantageous, since she wouldn’t have the FMLA option for some time at the new job.

        2. In trouble

          used all my FMLA while I was out waiting on surgery and recovering from surgery. I was unable to drive, the end of May, June, July and part of August.

    7. Observer

      1. If there is a municipal union, this is the time to get them involved.

      2. There must be someone higher up in the food chain above both your boss and the HR person. Escalate it up. Whether or not you should have said anything to the former co-worker, claiming that you exposed confidential work information is nonsense. And, your boss claiming that it was as bad as having someone come in and hold up the place is lunacy.

    8. brighidg

      Paper trail. HR has a boss too, go to her. Also talk to an employment lawyer – this is harassment.

      But only do this if you are looking for another job (which you should be) and willing to move on.

    9. LQ

      Do you belong to a union? Not all government employees are union but some are, and not all unions are helpful, but if you are and yours has a reputation for being so it might be good to talk to them. You’d likely still want to find a way out but you might be able to get at least some kind of truce that will give you a break while you look.

  19. Green

    Not suggesting OP do this, but I’d be half-inclined to ask my boss how they’d explain who is right and wrong in this situation to their kindergarten age child/grandchild/niece.

  20. schnapps

    Does your workplace have a respectful workplace policy?

    And are you unionized? If it continues to be awful and they’re going after you for your meniere’s you have recourse through the union and the policy. And in any case, those are awful people.

  21. Wait, Is There Another Point Here

    What I thought as I was reading this:
    Why did the manager react this way to an employee that has been there for 10 years? Is there something else going on there that the OP is missing?
    Did the ex-employee need to hear about this at all? What real purpose was served by telling her something that she may never have been aware of otherwise? Who benefitted?
    Why did the OP believe it was her place to inform the ex-employee? Why did she insert herself into a situation in which she was essentially aware of because she inadvertantly overheard the disrespectful behaviour. And why did she do so in the way she did rather than speak with the people being disrespectful or the manager of those people?
    I get being upset about the people being disrespectful but I am curious as to why the OP chose to act as she did.

    1. fposte

      I think the why of the OP’s action is pretty well explained upthread. I also think those questions are kind of Monday morning quarterbacking, and they don’t change the upshot of the boss being really, really horrible in a way that the OP’s actions had nothing to do with justifying.

    2. Green

      It sounds like there’s also something else going on with the OP having a medical condition and having difficulty adjusting that could be playing into the manager’s reaction.

    3. Observer

      I get all of your questions. But, that doesn’t come close to explaining the manager’s reaction. Whatever you want to say, it’s hard to make the argument that she exposed something that was confidential workplace information. And, it’s just impossible to take seriously the claim that it was a worse violation than someone holding the place up.

  22. CAinUK

    OP, since HR was making the comment (and inappropriately involving your boss, who also gave a totally inappropriate response that could be scrutinzed by HR…) I’d escalate this to the Head of HR. If the person from HR who made the inappropriate comments IS the Head of HR, I’d go above him/her and your boss.

    Normally I’m a fan of direct confrontation, but it sounds like they are going to retaliate and/or fire you, and I feel like your best protection is to get more people involved from outside this caustic clique of asshats. And do this via e-mail, because (even though IANAL) these folks sound like they’d contest unemployment after firing you and you’d have a good case to contest it.

    1. In trouble

      HR consists of 1 person. The person over her would be her co-hort in crime and mockery, the next step is the manager of the entire city.

  23. Joel

    Hi Alison,

    A little off topic. At my job I’ve been sexually harassed, and after reporting it, I was retaliated against by human resources and my team. I listened to your advice and stayed in my job since I’m not supposed to quit without another job lined up. Unfortunately the stress of this situation caused me to have a nervous breakdown, and I almost ended up hospitalized and hooked up to IVs due to a rare infection I got (which doc assumed was caused in part by stress).

    So I just wanted to thank you for your advice. Now I’m stuck here, burned out, barely any chance of me finding a new job in my health condition, and I am completely screwed from a health and employment perspective.

    1. Technical Editor

      Wow. Really? Very off topic and openly hostile. You should have talked to a lawyer instead of relying on a blogger for such specific advice.

    2. bemo12

      Are you really blaming an online advice columnist on your health problems???? Has everyone lost their mind today?

    3. Anonymous Educator

      I’m having trouble recalling the column where Alison said to stay at your job to the detriment of your health after being retaliated against for reporting sexual harassment. I’m very sorry that happened to you (it sounds awful), but that’s not really Alison’s fault.

    4. fposte

      I’m sorry you’re miserable, but that isn’t even what Alison advises, so you’re blaming her for advice she didn’t even give.

      She doesn’t say you’re “supposed” to say. She says it’s advisable. She says, “as long as you’re not being harassed or abused or asked to do anything illegal, unethical, or unsafe, you’re far better off job-searching while you’re still employed.” So she specifically says in your situation you *are* better off leaving your job. She says, “None of this means that you can’t decide that quitting now is the best option for you anyway; it very well might be.” Which apparently in your case it would have been.

      So whatever was making you stay, it wasn’t Alison.

      1. Whippers

        What the hell is going on in this comments thread? This is the second bizarre comment apropos of nothing.

    5. Oranges

      I understand that you’re not in a good place right now, but that doesn’t excuse hurting other people.

      You chose to follow advice using all the information at your disposal. You now believe it was the wrong course if action. That sucks.

      This happens; however you are where you are NOW. Please be kind to yourself and others by saying: “What can I/you do to help?”

      Is there anything I can do to help? I’m afraid I don’t know much or have much power. But others here do.

    6. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’ve said repeatedly that situations where you’re being harassed, are unsafe, or are jeopardizing your health are clear exceptions to the “line something up before you quit” advice. So I’m confused by this.

      This is also wildly off topic, which I would normally remove, but now I feel like I need to leave it up so I can respond.

      1. Corby

        It’s also not like anyone was supposed to have known in advance he would have a nervous breakdown and get a rare infection.

      2. BRR

        I think it’s vaguely similar in a report and retribution way. But I also I think it’s a troll, there seem to have been more recently.

        1. Not So NewReader

          Because of the internet, it’s almost like Alison is available 24/7. She answers emails privately and online, plus she interacts with us in the forums.
          There is a secondary level of help. I have seen it too many times where someone is really struggling and dozens of regular posters jump into offer ideas. It’s a beautiful thing to watch and a privilege to participate.

          To anyone who situation is similar to Joel’s :Don’t allow yourself to go through that in isolation. One piece of misunderstood advice does NOT fit all, and probably does not fit your setting. Use the open forums to talk about what is going on, get inputs from people. Don’t force yourself to be alone. You don’t have to be alone. And most definitely, if you do not understand what is being said, ASK. This is probably the most respectful online community you will find. Ask if you do not understand.

      3. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

        Add one more thing to that list, AAM – a clear exception that validates an immediate resignation – if you’re asked, as an employee, to do something illegal or completely immoral.

        But, usually!, devious bosses are someone intelligent enough to not put a request like that in writing – so the threat of your leaving gets them to turn tail and back down.

  24. Not So NewReader

    OP, you have a lot on your plate. Please take care of you. If you need to leave, then leave. Alison has been very clear about this point on many occassions and the commenters have said it here, sometimes places are so toxic that the only answer is to leave.

    One person mentioned that you could contact people who have left and see if they know of job openings. These people will be very empathetic. All you have to say is “I want out.” You don’t have to explain what they already know. They will probably help in whatever way they can.

    I am sure the stress of your situation is driving your ear problems upward. Maybe talk to your doctor to see if he can help some how.
    I left my toxic job and my ear problems dropped like a rock. I have very little problem compared to what I used to go through. All the medicines and surgeries in the world cannot counteract a toxic work place.

    1. Ruffingit

      Please listen to this advice! NSNR is very wise. Whether it was good or bad or whatever to tell the ex-colleague about this situation, the reaction of the boss is bizarre and points only to bad things to come. Get out and don’t look back.

  25. Cruella DaBoss

    Remember we are only hearing one side of the story here. As egregious as the coworkers were for mocking someone else, I have a feeling that is not the only part of this story.

    1. Nervous Accountant

      OMG. I am so sorry to hear this :-(

      I really hope you find a million x better job, away from all these asshats.

    2. Prickly Pear

      I’m really sorry to hear that, but glad to know that you’ll be away from those jerks. I hope you get the job you deserve!

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