should I worry about tattling at work?

Periodically I talk to people who are thinking about reporting a concern about a coworker to their boss but worry that they’ll be seen as “tattling.”

So where’s the line with tattling at work — what’s okay and what isn’t?

The first thing to know is this: There’s no such thing as tattling in the workplace. Tattling is a concept from kindergarten. It doesn’t apply to adults. So you should drop it from your thinking altogether.

However, there’s certainly a distinction between complaints worth making and complaints that are merely petty, and that’s worth paying attention to.

In general, when you’re trying to figure out when something is worth raising to your boss versus when it might come across as petty, the question to ask yourself is: How does this impact our work, and by how much? When something isn’t just mildly annoying but has a real impact, a good boss wants to know about it. When something is mildly annoying but doesn’t really impact anyone’s work, a good boss wants you to either work it out with the other person directly or let it drop.

You can also ask yourself whether you’d be telling your boss simply to get someone in trouble, or whether you’d be bringing an issue to your manager’s attention that’s impacting work that she’s ultimately responsible for. The first is more likely to be petty. The latter is being a helpful, engaged member of your team who cares about the work and who understands the sorts of things that good managers care about.

That means that you wouldn’t report to your boss that Jane taps her foot all day, or that Bob takes an extra few minutes at lunch (assuming it doesn’t impact anyone else), or that one time Persephone rolled her eyes after getting off the phone with a client. But you should certainly talk to your boss if someone is routinely being rude to clients, or regularly disappearing for hours and leaving you to cover for them when you need to be doing other work, or if you have real concerns that the new hire isn’t quite understanding the work.

And when you do that, your aim isn’t to get any of those people in trouble. It’s to give your manager a heads-up that she might need to take a closer look at a situation, or address a problem, or coach someone more closely.

{ 156 comments… read them below }

  1. reader*

    Another comparison is would you tell the boss about the issue if the coworker was your best friend? If you would then you should. If you wouldn’t tell, why wouldn’t you? If the issue is only annoying because you don’t like the coworker on a personal level then you shouldn’t. Otherwise you should talk to your boss for all the reason Alison outlined above.

  2. Adam*

    I think it helps to consider, assuming your complaint is personally relevant to you, whether addressing the issue is in your self-interest or if it’s purely self-absorbed. There is a distinction.

    Speaking up in your self-interest is not a bad thing. A) No one else is going to do it for you, B) it’s a method of taking care of yourself so you can get the best out of your time, and C) when you are taking care of your interests you benefit the people around you because they are getting the best most productive version of you.

    Being self-absorbed means the issue at hand is probably only irritating to you, and there’s a good chance it’s based in something insubstantial and maybe even petty.

    Getting John to stop spamming you with Youtube videos or playing them loudly in the office so you can concentrate on work is acting in your self-interest. Demanding Kathy not floss her teeth in the employee bathroom sink so she doesn’t lose her teeth just because flossing grosses you out is being self-absorbed.

      1. Adam*

        Not calling anyone out specifically. Just hypothetically. Oh my kingdom for an edit button…

          1. JB*

            I think those are good examples, though! I didn’t take your use of “self-absorbed” to mean the way we usually mean that term, as a person who never thinks about other people. I didn’t take it as describing a person at all. I took as meaning a category of complaint rather than a person, saying that this is a complaint that’s only about you, regardless of whether you are in general a person who is not self-absorbed. I don’t consider myself self-absorbed, but there are definitely things at work that bother me and nobody else, and they aren’t things that affect my ability to get my work done. I’d put those complaints in the category you’re describing.

            That was really wordy but I meant that I didn’t think you were being insulting.

            1. Adam*

              Hey, I’ll take it. Thanks.

              Usually it’s a good idea to be concerned if what you say might be insulting to somebody, but I can go a little overboard sometimes…

    1. LBK*

      In most of your self-interest examples, I’d also say you could probably deal with those without the involvement of management (assuming John is reasonable and it doesn’t require escalation to get him to stop).

      1. Adam*

        Absolutely. I always advocate just talking to other people first and see if you can resolve things without making a thing out of it. “Everything I need to know I learned in kindergarten” and all that.

        If you’re unlucky enough to work with an Unreasonable John and talking to him first doesn’t help, that’s when you go to someone with authority.

        1. Ethyl*

          Having only recently been in a position of managing anyone else, I now understand why the advice is always “have you tried fixing it yourself?” This goes for everything from dealing with your coworkers to problems with equipment to locating files to computer problems. Your manager should never be your first stop when trying to figure something out.

          1. Artemesia*

            It seems to me when someone is grossly failing to do their own work or doing something like cutting out and leaving someone to constantly pick up the pieces that in many cases, little effort should be used dealing directly and the manager needs to be engaged quickly. This kind of thing is just above the co-workers pay grade.

  3. Apologetic*

    I just wish people would make every effort to go to the person who’s offending them before going to a boss. One time I had a talking to from my boss about a one time comment I made to a co-worker. It left me feeling very demoralized and like I was a teenager again. My work definitely suffered for a bit afterwords.

    I would have at least liked the chance to apologize/explain myself to my co-worker before my boss was involved. After words, I felt like my career trajectory had been put on the line because someone couldn’t be a grown-up and tell me how they felt in person. It also made the subsequent apology feel very forced because my boss had told me to do it, when it would have been freely given before had the person just come and talked to me about it.

    1. LeahC*

      Was this person a peer, though? I am actually about to talk to my boss about a coworker’s rude and dismissive attitude in meetings–she is a manager and I am not, although I do not report to her. She has displayed this attitude for awhile and it’s really decreased the productivity of these meetings. Today she unleashed it on me, so I figure it might be an appropriate time to say something–but I’m not looking for an apology, I’m looking for her to cut the attitude. I’m not in a position to tell her that directly, though.

      1. Michele*

        That sounds like it is a chronic problem, and with the power differential I think it is fair to bring it up to your boss.

    2. JB*

      I generally agree, but there are times when person A complains to a manager about person B because it’s a sensitive topic and they aren’t sure how to approach it, or they think that person B has been inappropriate in a way that makes them unsure of how to bring it up. There are also some topics (like body odor, bad breath) that it’s probably best for the manager to bring up anyway.

  4. K.*

    There is a graphic that is very popular among parents and teachers (on pinterest, facebook, etc) that separates out “tattling” vs “reporting” for young kids. For kids, the language is:

    REPORT: keep people safe, need an adult to help solve, dangerous situations, purposeful behavior, important.

    TATTLE: get someone in trouble, you could solve it yourself, harmless situations, accidental behavior, unimportant.

    For adults, I’d swap out the “need an adult” language for “need a manager or a higher authority than I,” but the rest still really, really holds up well as a lifelong concept. And is basically exactly the breakdown Alison has posted here. Perhaps we should put that chalkboard graphic in a few workplaces? ;)

    1. jhhj*

      Well, that’s a start: but if I have to report something, especially as a kid, it probably will get someone in trouble. And “you could solve it yourself” is a really open-ended option — I don’t know, I understand what they are trying to do, but it seems like the graphic is super dependent on having a fuller grasp of the context of what is “tattling”.

      Also, what counts as harmless? If you are in school and someone keeps pulling on your hair (not hard), that’s pretty harmless (one on axis), but I think it’s important and it’s purposeful — and of course lots of adults will focus on the harmlessness/boys-will-be-boys-ness of it.

      I think in general society is confused about reporting and tattling, and that it’s not particular surprising that this confusion goes through to your job.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        Someone might well get in trouble if you have to report something, but I take this as being a difference in your motivation. You tattle on someone for the purpose of getting them in trouble. You report something for the purpose of keeping people safe (and someone might get in trouble as a result).

    2. Michele*

      I like that distinction. I have learned, though, that I tend to internalize a lot of responsibilities. I always feel like I should be able to solve something on my own and that it is a personal failure if I can’t. Therefore, I pretty much always feel like it is tattling.

      1. K.*

        I have this same problem. Learning to ask for help -at all- has probably been the great challenge of, er, my entire life.

    3. Lizzie*

      At my school, we have 4 rules for tattling vs. telling (or reporting):
      1. Be a danger ranger (report it if someone does get physically hurt or could get hurt)
      2. Be a problem solver (try to work it out before taking it to the next level)
      3. Now or later (does this need to be dealt with now, or can it wait?)
      4. M.Y.O.B.

      Honestly, I think they apply to adults reasonably well, too! We probably don’t need to think about #1 or #3 as much as my kiddos do, but I’ve seen many letters here that bring #2 and #4 to mind.

  5. jhhj*

    Constant foot tapping is a complaint worth making and I would be able to make the argument that cutting off that person’s leg is a fair punishment.

    1. miki*

      How to deal with a coworker who keeps sighing all day long, talking to himself and in general hmping all day long (it’s hard to explain in words) ?

        1. Lauren*

          I’m guessing it’s making that little hmmph sound. But yeah, I read it like you the first time, too. :)

          1. miki*

            Yes it’s hmmph sound, along with aha!, wow, followed by sigh, aha, hmmph again, mumbling to himself… repeat for all the time he is at his desk. He is a new coworker (less than 3 weeks on the job), and I do want to give him benefit of doubt, but I am not the only one noticing and being bothered (distracted) with this strange behavior.

            1. Artemesia*

              New and driving everyone crazy? Time to try to nip this in the bud by asking him to avoid constant noise making because it is distracting or asking to be re-located for the same reason. Imagine 20 years of this.

            2. Anomanom*

              Right up until you said “he” I assumed you were the coworker two cubes over from me, because the one between us is a parade of noise. Just nonstop, all day. The most often heard noise is only replicated by “the Tina moan” from the show Bob’s Burgers.

            3. Kat*

              Oh man, this is probably going to be my son someday. He has a constant commentary going when he plays minecraft. Other times he is making noise for no reason.

              I better nip this now while he’s 10 lol. You are welcome future workplaces!

            4. SherryD*

              And you know he’s just waiting for you to ask what’s got him so perplexed/excited/disappointed .

        2. HumbleOnion*

          I read ‘humping’ at first. That’s definitely something I’d go to the boss about.

          1. jamlady*

            I had a coworker who stretched constantly and would make very, very loud sex noises every single time. It was… Ugh. I just asked permission to wear headphones.

              1. jamlady*

                Haha dude it was super uncomfortable. But now that I’m gone I get to tease the coworkers that are still there every so often :). It was hard because I genuinely liked that coworker but it felt like something that was embarrassing for her to be told about and it wasn’t pressing so I just let it go.

      1. HigherEd Admin*

        “Joe, you probably aren’t aware you’re doing this, but you hum and talk aloud to yourself quite frequently throughout the day and it’s very distracting to me. Would it be possible to stop?”

        1. BRR*

          I love that wording. I might say it’s difficult for me to focus on my work so it keeps it as work related as possible.

      2. Liz*

        Or a boss who loudly sniffs or snorts as if there’s a cold or sinus infection in play, for months. Right next to you. (It’s quite disgusting.)

        1. bridget*

          That may actually be the case. My poor sister gets chronic sinus infections, which have persisted even after corrective septum surgery. She’s constantly apologizing for her need to loudly and frequently blow her nose, which also sucks because it’s kind of TMI, but otherwise people will think her gross and weird.

          Luckily, she’s an elementary teacher, and the seven-year-olds are used to inconvenient bodily fluids (and produce more of it themselves).

      3. Ruthan*

        THIS IS ME, EVERYONE. I’m actually a bit self conscious about it, but not (so far) enough to motivate me to knock it off. Someone telling me that I’m being annoying would probably spur me to change my behavior!

      4. Elder Dog*

        Request he notice how much noise he’s making through the day.
        Try giving him a hard candy and see if that helps or is just an occasion for additional noise. Then you can decide if you want to supply him with candy for the next 20 years.

      5. Azalea*

        My boss does the sighing thing. I have to share a small office with him. I’ve taken to asking him if something’s wrong when he does it. It seems to be working.

    2. BRR*

      Lol. I have a coworker who feels the need to talk about everything mundane all the time such as the ice cube trays and their 15 minute ordeal of trying to print out a recipe. This is really distracting especially with my mental health conditions and I always wonder if my workplace accommodation can be moving her to a different floor.

      1. Nanc*

        I’m going to chalk it up to my day being almost over that I interpreted this as your coworker had a problem printing out a recipe for ice cubes. In which case yes, she should be moved to a different floor!

    3. Ethyl*

      Agreed 100%. We have a volunteer in the office now who SINGS. OUT LOUD. Not even quietly. I cannot believe nobody in any of her jobs ever told her that is inappropriate for an office setting.

      Flames. On the side of my face.

      1. Jennifer*

        I have a coworker who does that too. I think it’s just not worth the impending drama to tell her to stop.

        1. misspiggy*

          I was in an office where a woman regularly sang hymns, very loudly. A consultant who had been sat next to her politely and kindly enquired about her singing skills, whether she was in the church choir and so on, and somehow it magically shut her up for the rest of the day the consultant was there. Some people just have awesome people skills.

      2. Traveler*

        Have one of these. It’s so loud I’m sure that it comes through on the phone when we’re trying to have professional conversations. She is the office cheerleader though, so I am pretty sure if I said something I’d be seen as Negative Nancy for the rest of my days.

    4. Windchime*

      The new guy at my work, who I already can’t stand, whistles as he works and listens to his headphones. I am at the bitch-eating-cracker stage with him, so I haven’t complained so far. It could always be worse; I used to work near a guy who would make a constant sound like this: “Pkew!” (like little boys make when they are pretending to shoot guns at each other). Constantly. All. Damn. Day. Long.

  6. Dawn88*

    My assistant had an expression, “We breathe the same air 8 hours every day.” It’s like being in a big, dysfunctional family sometimes…people have their quirks.

    I like K’s take. It falls along the line of “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Then again….

    (jhhj): “Hey Bob, please stop that foot tapping before I throw a book at you!”

  7. Fabulously Anonymous*

    Alison – do you have a similar take on “throwing someone under the bus”?

    1. jmkenrick*

      that’s an interesting question. Particularly if it’s not necessarily an ongoing issue, but rather one mistake. If you know that it wasn’t your work causing the issue, but that’s not necessarily visible to higher ups (only that a mistake has been made) what’s the etiquette in clarifying that? Especially if it was another coworker who made the error.

    2. Judy*

      I’m not Alison, but I personally think there is such a thing as “throwing someone under the bus” at work, at least in some company cultures. I define that as placing the blame on someone before you are blamed for it, especially when you are to blame.

      I’ve personally witnessed teammates being dressed down in a meeting by a manager with their director looking on, when a week before I was copied on the email from the manager asking those teammates to do the thing that they’re getting talked to about, and told they were never, ever supposed to do that.

      1. NotMyRealName*

        Right. Just the other day someone did this to me. We had discussed setting up a file differently and I did it for her so she could see what it would be like. She started using it without discussing it with anyone and when they told her not to change things without letting people know, she blamed me.

    3. BRR*

      Ooh this is such a great question. I had this happen this week where my boss asked why I did something a certain way. I had copied another employee who is amazing and my boss frequently defers to her about things.

    4. Malissa*

      My take on it is, there’s still a problem that needs to be solved. So if the person throwing you under the bus isn’t going to own it, you might as well.

      Just this week I got blamed for messed up dates on a spreadsheet. Coworker said since I was the only other person in there it must be something I did. When asked about it I said, ‘Yes there is a problem. I’ll audit this afternoon and make it right.” I didn’t admit fault, but I did promise to fix it.
      I followed through and fixed it. The next conversation was me telling the boss and the coworker that the problem is now fixed. If the problem continues then I will take further steps to prevent it from happening again.
      The Boss is happy, the coworker is happy, and I am happy if I don’t have to hear about it again.

      1. JB*

        I agree with you generally. But if this happens often enough, and you never clarify that it wasn’t you who caused the problem (if indeed you know it wasn’t you), then people could start to think you can’t do your job properly. Doesn’t sound like your situation, though.

        1. Malissa*

          If it happens a lot, and it’s always the same coworker, it’s very easy to point to that fact. Yes, problems always seem to come up when I’m working with Kirk, but Spock and Uhura, whom I also work with are not having this issue.
          And it’s always the same coworker…

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I am sure the coworker got your message loud and clear. Well done.

        I had a coworker with a problem. Boss blamed me. It escalated. Badly. When the dust settled it was clearly coworker’s error. I said to my boss in front of my coworker, “I don’t want any further problem with this, nor do I expect any future problems here.”
        And I did not have any problems afterward. Sometimes you have to put your foot down.

    5. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it really depends on context. If the issue is minor and not a big deal, there’s no reason to specifically call out “this happened because of Jane!” On the other hand, if you’re being blamed for something and your manager clearly has the wrong understanding of where the mistake originated, you do need to correct that misinformation. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “I think Jane is the one who normally handles this, but I’ll go into the database and make the fix you asked for, and also pass along to her how you want it done going forward.”

    6. Linguist curmudgeon*

      Nobody’s done this to me yet, but I generally advise people to go full aggressive-aggressive with the emails when this happens. Like, “Hi everyone, good meeting Tuesday. Looks like I did the thing wrong – I must have misunderstood Lulu’s instructions . Let me know how I should handle this in the future. Thanks!”

      1. Linguist curmudgeon*

        Sorry, there was supposed to be a “paste” in angle brackets after “Lulu’s instructions” – indicating that the original email went there.

  8. Ed*

    I’ve found that most decent managers know exactly what their people are up to so I look the other way for anything but the most serious infractions. They often want to shoot the messenger because now they are forced to deal with an issue they had been purposely ignoring. If someone was stealing money I would report it. But stealing time by coming in late or taking a long lunch? Not my problem and none of my business unless we’re partners and I have to pick up the slack. Even then, I would always talk to the person first (and probably a second time as well) before escalating it.

    I don’t manage anyone right now but when I did I would always ask the complainer what the other person had to say. They almost always give you a blank look and then sheepishly admit they didn’t talk to them. I send them away and say unless it’s something serious like physical sexual harassment (with verbal stuff or just creep behavior, I would argue you should first make a statement that you’re not comfortable to see if it stops), you need to talk to the person yourself. My second question was “and what to you want to happen?” Everybody dances around that one but clearly they had a resolution or punishment in mind before you came to me.

    1. LQ*

      It seems like an odd contradiction that decent managers know what their people are doing but purposely ignore things and shoot the messenger.

      Wouldn’t a decent manager say, “No it’s not a problem that Ed comes in a few minutes late.” Or “Is your ability to get your job done being impacted by Ed’s arrival at work?”

      I just like to think decent managers would also handle an unnecessary complaint …decently?

      1. Ed*

        I think ignoring non-critical problems is pretty common, especially in very busy companies. My current manager lets all kinds of things go and is the best manager I’ve ever had but her job is CRAZY. But I can confirm she would make a mental note of me being late and will bring it up in my review rather than address it directly. Plus, it matters what I do in the office. If I open in the morning, being 10 minutes late is a pretty big deal. If I’m one of 30 people doing the same job, not such a big deal. Plus, she knows when all breaks loose at 3 AM, I’m the first one here and will stay until the problem is resolved without complaining. With that in mind, she doesn’t care if Sally is mad when I stroll in 10 minutes late. Sally won’t even answer her phone at 3 AM.

      2. Snoskred*

        One of the best managers I ever had was totally undermined by a team leader underneath her. Because it was a 24/7 call centre, manager saw this team leader for a maximum of 2 hours a day and for those two hours, this team leader was on her super best behaviour. It was a total accident that what this Team Leader was up to was discovered.

        Manager called me into her office and told me that she was getting feedback that I was “dismissive”. I said I wasn’t really sure what that meant. Could she please provide me with a specific example. She said she could not, because then I would know who gave the feedback and asked me just to keep it in mind. I said ok, but I can’t fix this without more info, so please ask the person giving you this feedback to speak up and let me know when it happens, and/or ask them if they are ok with you relating a specific example.

        A month or so later when we had another catch-up, she said she was still receiving that feedback. She had asked the feedback provider re relating an example and the answer was no. As no specific example could be provided, I said again, “Sorry, I can’t fix this. Plus, now I am starting to feel concerned that the person giving this feedback isn’t adult enough to put their name to it. Maybe there is a reason they will not put their name to it”.

        Probably three weeks later, I was walking past the managers office and I heard my name and that word. Her office was glass, so I could see who was in there with her. It was one of the team leaders. The manager and I locked eyes and she knew I had heard it. After that person left, she called me in. I apologised. I did not mean to overhear but I was walking past. Then I said – now I know who is giving you this feedback, I actually know what the problem is – it is not *me* it is her.

        This person was a team leader and if I had a question about how to handle something I would ask her. She would tell me to do X. I’d accept her answer on face value and do exactly what she said to do. Once I’d done what she said, I moved on to the next task.

        Two or three hours later she would come to me when it was quiet and try to have another discussion about it. I’d be like.. I did what you said, it is handled, and I’ve moved on to other things. And she’d be like “No, we need to debrief”. And I’d be like, I’m sorry, I don’t have time to debrief. I have 6 other tasks in my queue that need to be completed. The situation was solved and I’ve closed it off, so we don’t need to debrief.

        When I explained this, my manager said I was doing exactly the right thing. She actually felt that how I was handling this issue was too polite and she told me in future to be a lot more “dismissive” about these debriefs and just to give a simple no, and she would talk to the team leader directly about this.

        My manager then asked me why I had not mentioned this situation to her. I explained that this team leader had told me to always go directly to her if I had an issue with her and she would do the same with me. I had spoken directly to the team leader about it, and she told me it was her way of doing things and I should debrief when she wanted me to debrief. I said lets do a compromise – if I say that I have work I need to do, let it go.

        The manager was very unhappy about this “feedback deal”, and on further investigation she found out this team leader had made the same “feedback deal” with every single staff member. She sent out an email making it very clear that any issues with team leaders were to be raised directly with her.

        I was also very unhappy that this team leader was saying to my face if she had any issues with me she would raise them with me, and from then on, I did not trust her and deliberately scheduled my shifts so I would not have to work with her very often.

        All of a sudden, all the issues with people had with this team leader were going to the manager. It turned out this team leader was doing a lot of not great things and the spotlight was well and truly on her. The long cigarette breaks, the disappearances, her refusal to answer her phone when it rang, the non completion of tasks, some bullying of staff members, the times she would leave early and have someone else cover for her, all of this came to light. Then it came out that she was making up answers to staff questions, which was a huge no-no.

        She ended up being demoted from her team leader position as a result. Karma, it happens. :)

        I would be very unlikely to enter into any kind of “feedback deal” again, and if it were raised to me I would go to my direct supervisor.

        1. Aisling*

          It’s wonderful that you had a manager who had your back on this! I wish we all had managers like that.

    2. Humpty*

      This is great, both asking the complainer what the other person had to say and “what do you want to happen?” I will try that next time. Plus when they tell me what they want to happen, I’m going to ask “How can you be a part of that solution?”

    3. fposte*

      “Everybody dances around that one but clearly they had a resolution or punishment in mind before you came to me.”

      I don’t know if that’s strictly true, though; I think a lot of times people complain to a supervisor because secret supervisor magic will mean a thing, and they don’t dive into it much deeper than that. It’s kind of like when people want to know if an employer behavior is legal, because if it’s not legal…they don’t actually have any idea what will happen, but they feel something must.

      1. Linguist curmudgeon*

        Yeah, the resolution is “the person stops doing the thing.” That’s often not something within your ordinary employee’s power to enact.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Keep in mind that with reports of sexual harassment, you’re often legally obligated to act — you’re exposing your company to liability if you don’t!

    5. illini02*

      I love the “what do you want to happen”. When I was a teacher, and kids would do the tattling, I’d always say “Ok. What would you like me to do about it”. 9 times out of 10, they had nothing. They knew if they said something like “yell at them” then it would look petty, but it proved that it was nothing but a tattling situation.

      1. misspiggy*

        It used to upset me when teachers would say that. I had no idea what the teacher could or couldn’t do, so there was nothing to say. It taught me quickly that most teachers didn’t care about bullying and would not step in.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, this. Particularly when what you want to happen is something that the person in charge obviously isn’t interested in doing – so what’s the point? Asking about a possible solution is very different than “what do you want to happen”, which to me sounds like “give me a suggestion that I can shoot down and then pretend I solved things”.

        2. illini02*

          Its not like it was anything like bullying. It was more like things that affected no one. Like “Jimmy is drawing while you are teaching”. Ok. What do you want to happen. If a kid said they were getting picked on in the bathroom or something it would be totally different.

        3. ExceptionToTheRule*

          I hate that question. In my experience it’s a frequently used cop-out. I want you to work with me to solve this actual problem I’m having that’s impacting my work. I’m in your office because I’m out of ideas.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            I agree 200%. I have seen weak managers use this and it usually said in a whinny voice.
            Me: There’s no heat in the work area.
            Boss: What do you want me to do about it?
            Me: hmmm. Get it fixed?
            Boss: I don’t know anything about heat.


            Better to say, “I cannot call on this situation, I am not authorized [or whatever appropriate explanation]”. I would rather hear that type of statement. Even the answer “What have you tried so far?” can sound more like conversation.
            But too many people use “what do you want me to do?” as a statement to put others in their place- so to speak.
            As a kid, my response in my head was “Pretend you are the adult!” As an adult, I tend to think “pretend you are the manager”.

            I explain why I will not be doing something. In the process, the employee learns something- how to handle it themselves or what types of complaints are not appropriate complaints, etc. Yes, there are times where I have felt that I should not be explaining something so basic. But I explained because it was the only way to get the employee looking at the situation differently and an opportunity to explain the types of things I want to know about.

          2. LBK*

            Agreed. It’s such a childish response – reminds me of “I know you are, but what am I?”

            “What do you want me to do about it?” Well, you’re a full grown adult in charge of a department, so I want you to evaluate the information I’m giving you and make a judgment call about how you want to handle it. That’s what you’re being paid to do as a manager, right?

        4. nona*

          I agree. I wondered if only things that could be easily solved should be reported. I thought things I couldn’t prove shouldn’t be reported – so instead of reporting sexual harassment, I just hoped it would happen in front of a teacher. I also thought that a classmate who was punished would take out their anger on the person who reported them.

          Something like this happened in middle school. I reported a friend playing with matches or a lighter (??), thinking that the teacher wouldn’t tell my friend who reported him. Guess what happened!

        5. aebhel*

          This. I always took that as ‘I have no interest in doing my damn job and dealing with the issue, please stop bothering me.’

          That’s how it came across to me as a kid when teachers did it (which meant that I either sucked up the bullying or dealt with it myself and got in trouble for fighting) and that’s how it comes across when managers do it now. I’m not saying there’s never a reason to say that, but please be aware of how it comes across to some people.

          1. Jill*

            I’m sorry illinoi2, but the question “what do you want to happen” reminds me of my dad who, upon catching me doing something bad, would ask, “What do you think your punishment should be?” How does a kid even answer that?
            Same for adults. If I’m going to the manager its because I lack the authority to act and I want someone to step in and help.

            1. Humpty*

              I don’t think that can be applicable to every situation that’s brought to a manager’s attention. I definitely agree in the case of rules violations/safety concerns/ongoing personnel issues that haven’t stopped after the involved parties have tried to address it themselves, the manager should step in and act. But I think it would work well for those circumstances when someone is complaining about an annoying co-worker. “What do you want to happen?” “I want Agnes to stop hanging around my desk for half of her shift, distracting me from my work.” “Have you asked her to stop?” If “no,” then ask her. If “yes,” and it hasn’t stopped, then the manager steps in and helps.

            2. illini02*

              I’m not saying that is always valid. But sometimes it is. If its something that is just annoying you, but isn’t really a problem, then I think its a valid question. “James is crinkling his chip bag and its annoying”. I think in a situation like that it is a very valid question. Do you want me to ban anyone from eating chips at their desk? Do you want me to tell him to eat in a more quiet manner? I feel like many people, adults and kids, want to complain about things but don’t really have anything in mind to solve the problem. Sometimes, there really isn’t a problem except with the complainer. So I think making someone really think about the desired outcome from this is fair.

  9. Retail Lifer*

    In my current workplace, various associates have reported sexual harassment, unsafe conditions, and massive ethics violations. All of those things are worth reporting and are certainly not “tattling.” A good company would investigate any of those matters and ensure they did not occur again. Mine didn’t do a thing, but any other company would have.

    1. James M.*

      Don’t be too quick to assume that the grass is greener elsewhere. Plenty of commenters here can tell you that many retail workplaces have… shall we say… quirks on par with what you describe.

      1. Retail Lifer*

        I know many other places have issues, as have most other places I’ve worked, but the scale of those here is massive. I’ve never seen people get away with stuff this severe before, at leats not for this long.

  10. Humpty*

    I’m a new-ish supervisor, and the obvious rule breaking isn’t a problem but I sometimes have trouble determining which complaints/issues I need to be dealing with and which I should reasonably direct back to the employee to handle him- or herself. I try to use “is it affecting their ability to do the job?” as a yardstick, but that isn’t always as clear-cut as I’d like. For instance, “Milton’s cologne is too strong and it’s making us feel ill.” That’s pretty personal but it also can affect job performance for the people who have to sit in the same room with him all day. Or “Betty turns the lights down/changes the heat/air without asking and if we stand up to her she makes us miserable with her under-her-breath passive aggressive comments.” Betty can poison the atmosphere with her bad attitude, which affects everyone. But the fact they won’t stand up to her just empowers her to treat them that way, and my inner reaction to barely-heard passive-aggressive comments is, “…so? Why do you let her get to you? Why are you giving her so much power?”

    I try to take the information and witness the person doing it so I can address it as “I noticed this and it needs to stop/change,” but that doesn’t always work.

    I think relationships are ultimately stronger if people communicate face to face instead of relying on a 3rd party (me) to address these things, and I’d like them to learn to have those hard conversations, especially since most of the time it comes out like @Apologetic mentioned above if they don’t. But most people aren’t willing to do that (even though it will be obvious who the complaint originated with) and I can’t help feeling like I’m shirking MY duties if I put the onus back on them.

    Any insight?

    1. fposte*

      Well, the fact that they’re not willing to do something doesn’t make it your job. There are lots of things you can say that aren’t just washing your hands of the situation–“I can help you with some language for that discussion”; “Let me know how it goes”; “If that doesn’t resolve the problem, then please loop me back in.”

      But the Betty thing would suggest to me that they *have* talked to her, because that’s how they know what her response is. And I think it’s one thing to expect employees to communicate with one another, but I think when it gets to the “standing up to her” stage it’s fair to bring in a manager. Betty’s job includes being civil to people, and she’s failing at that part of it.

    2. Windchime*

      Yes, and also–people like Betty usually know how to behave when the manager is present. We have a very passive-agressive “Betty” in our office who mutters snarky comments under her breath, rolls her eyes, and laughs disdainfully during meetings, but only when the boss isn’t present. When the boss is there, she is the picture of professionalism. It’s clear that she understands the correct way to behave; she just doesn’t feel that she needs to do it unless the boss is present.

  11. Leah*

    What if it’s an awkward situation where your coworker made an error and you’re being asked about it, and the person asking believes that you did it?
    Do you say that it was coworker A, or just apologize for the error without acknowledging that it was you? Let’s assume a mostly minor mistake.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I think it is maybe how you say it was coworker A. Sometimes, in my workplace, I will redirect the person asking me to the person who made the mistake in a way where I want them to confirm with that person that they did it and that an error even took place. Of course, this depends on what was done etc. In my company, if someone’s name is signed off on something we assume to be incorrect, it may very well be correct and they can provide why this case was the exception.

  12. Z*

    With respect, tattling is certainly something that applies to adults in the workplace, unless you literally define it as something that can only be done by children.

    Invoking authority to get involved in a problem when it really isn’t necessary in order to:

    – Do social or career damage to somebody you dislike
    – Go power tripping by wielding someone else’s authority as a blunt instrument
    – Build up your image at the expense of others or;
    – Damage the image of others in order to make yourself look better by comparison
    – Other things of this nature

    certainly happens in the workplace, I would venture to say that it happens often. The difference between tattling and raising a valid concern is largely: are you doing it for personal gain/pleasure, or do you really need the external authority to resolve or enforce in order to fix a real problem (real ≠ large)?

    If you have a good relationship with your coworkers you’re unlikely to have to ask yourself that question.

      1. JB*

        I’m with fposte. It’s a word that specifically connotes children and childish behavior. It has an underlying, unspoken meaning that “reporting” does not have.

      2. Z*

        If that is the case, then yes, you can’t tattle as an adult.

        However, it seems extremely bizzare to me to put a different category on the same behaviour based on a characteristic of the person doing it. The argument then becomes one of definition or terminology rather than about the subject itself.

        1. fposte*

          I don’t think so; I think it’s because the concept doesn’t apply in the adult workplace, and using it for adults suggests a misunderstanding of the dynamics. It’d be like putting a staffer on the naughty step as a disciplinary measure, or saying that they’re grounded.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        “The first thing to know is this: There’s no such thing as tattling in the workplace. Tattling is a concept from kindergarten. It doesn’t apply to adults. So you should drop it from your thinking altogether.”

        The word “tattling” to me diminishes adults in the work place and unfairly elevates managers to levels of mythical power. It almost requires us to believe that we are powerless five-year olds all over again.

        In adults, the behavior is better described as whining or complaining. If it’s an on-going behavior then it’s chronic whining or chronic complaining.

        I had a coworker complain that someone “tattled” on him because he did X. I said, “Well, did you do X?” Yep, he did. “Then it’s not tattling. You aren’t supposed to do X. You did. Coworker reported you. And you should report anyone doing X. It’s pretty clear cut here.” Some folks don’t get it at all. I couldn’t even get to the part about “we’re not in kindergarten here”.

    1. illini02*

      I agree. The definition of the word doesn’t magically go away once someone hits 18 years old and is an adult. If the only purpose is getting someone else in trouble, then its the same thing. Its like how some parents and teachers prefer the word “fibbing” to lying. Its the same thing, no matter what you call it. Just because you don’t being labelled a tattler because you are an adult, doesn’t mean its not true.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        But accountability kicks in as an adult. If a person is constantly complaining unnecessarily about a coworker, then that person is having difficulty relating to others in the work place. If a coworker is lying about another coworker, we don’t put him in time out. The consequences are much more serious. Calling an adult a tattler can make it seem that their lying was no big deal. Chronic complaining or lying in the work place is a big deal.

        OTH, I have never been a big fan of using “kid words” with kids. I don’t think it helps them to learn and it might only confuse them sometimes.

  13. YandO*

    I talked to my boss about co-worker exactly once. Co-worker kept trying to bully me into submitting unauthorized expenses for reimbursement. I told him, then I had accounting spell out policies for him, but he was relentless. Eventually, I felt I had no other choice but to discuss it with our boss. That ended the problem.

      1. YandO*


        in his case it was lots and lots of minor receipts that just did not fit the guideline

        like eating dinner out on a Saturday because you worked for an hour from home does not qualify. My old company was VERY generous (think lunches, dinners, taxis, etc)

        Funny enough, we’ve had a few receipts from gentlemen’s clubs and those went through just fine

  14. Elizabeth West*

    At one office I worked in, the standard procedure was to report to management FIRST. I did not know this until a co-irker who sat near me and would not turn her radio down tattled on me for repeatedly asking her to please lower the volume. I admit I did sigh when all I got was “I don’t know how the speakers work,” for which I got in trouble. Seriously. They wanted you to tell on people rather than solve it yourself.

    I don’t know what precipitated this asinine policy, unless they just enjoyed the drama. Once, a person in Marketing made a good-natured joke about my department getting jazzed over fitness (some of the women would do aerobics at lunchtime). She said something like, “Oh those girls and their obsessions!” Someone told one of the women, she got offended, tattled, and the poor marketing person had to apologize in email TO THE ENTIRE COMPANY.

    I’m so glad I don’t work there anymore.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      “co-irker” is brilliant! If this is what I have to look forward to in your novel, please send me the pre-order link! :)

    2. Steve G*

      HR had a very open door policy in past past past job. I think it created problems because of incidences like this. I complained about my salary to a coworker I went to lunch with sometimes, she did the same thing though. I thought we were complaining more about “boy it is so expensive to live here” not “wow this company sucks.” Well, HR magically found out that I was “very unhappy” about my salary and it became a big drama and I lost credibility for “gossiping,” even though I thought it was a private, personal conversation between me and one person.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I had one of those jobs. All you can do is leave. It’s like working in a straight-jacket. No one can do anything.

  15. Kathlynn*

    I use tattling to describe the level of complaining my boss expects me to do. Which is anything a coworker does wrong, even if I’m not on shift. This is so she doesn’t have to do her job and watch the cameras. And I’ve never seen a change from things I’ve told her, that she agrees are wrong.
    I do not think its a small issue when people show up late, take longer breaks, or leave early*, regularly. Even if the difference is 7 minutes. Which is a smoke break at my work. But I also work at a gas station so there are different issues (safety issues mostly) at play.

    *this one, last 10 min don’t matter, so long as the next shift is actually on shift. But I have w manager who regularly leaves at least 30 minutes early. And that is an issue (she claims to arrive early) because last shift doesn’t get a chance to talk to her.

  16. Nutcase*

    This is a topic that I’ve been struggling with recently. One of the guys I share an office with, Bob, frequently leaves work before his regular hours are done for the day. We have flexible hours so as long as we do our 8 hours we can start anywhere between 6 and 9am. I start at 6 and Bob always arrives at about 7, although he often leaves at the same time as me, an hour or more before he should be leaving. This happens a few times a week.

    Each time he appears to be leaving too early he makes sure to declare to me that he did extra time the day or week before and has some flexible time to use. This is little odd in itself as he is always complaining of being bored stiff and not being able to wait to go home so I found it out of character that he would want to stay very late on any day. I always gave him the benefit of the doubt though as we’re a very informal office and basically all trusted to manage our own time within reason – plus I’m senior to him but I am not his manager so have no reason to keep track anyway.

    My tingling spidey senses were confirmed to be onto something, however when I happened to be talking about workload and overtime this week with the other guy in my office, Steve, who comes in late and leaves late. Basically Steve confirmed my suspicions that Bob has never actually stayed past his regular finishing time so he couldn’t have banked all of these hours to use as flexible time.

    Now, Bob really irritates me for a plethora of reasons which I won’t go into here. While his skipping out on 2-3 hours of work a week doesn’t affect my work directly I feel like it is something that I would want to know about if I were his manager. Obviously it is pretty irritating to witness but I’m not sure if my general annoyance at Bob is clouding my judgement about this and if I should just let it go or not. How would I even bring this up with his manager without seeming petty? Should I say something to Bob myself?

    1. illini02*

      This to me would be considered tattling. Unless the guy is actually hourly and is blatantly lying about the hours he is being paid for, then its really not your concern. If he isn’t getting his work done, thats on his manager to worry about. Here is the question, if you really liked Bob, would you still be telling his manager? If not, then you really are only doing this since you don’t like the guy, which to me is tattling.

      1. Nutcase*

        We have a yearly salary which determines how much we’re paid per hour, which is used if we go over our scheduled 40 hours a week. We only get paid for the times we write down on our timesheets (we have to record in and out times) but we’re expected to be in at least 40 hours each week to get our base salary. The only reason why someone wouldn’t book 40 hours is in the event of annual leave or a sick day. I don’t know what Bob puts on his timesheet but if he put his real in and out times down he would not make 40. Especially after realizing that he frequently lies to me I’m quickly approaching bit*h eating crackers with Bob so I’m really not sure what I would do if I actually liked him! Being dishonest is a good way to get into my bad books though so I’m not sure this situation and liking Bob could ever coincide anyway.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Why not just say, “Bob, I am not the boss. Please stop explaining your times to me. The only person you need to please is the boss. You have to go discuss this with her.”

          Now you have laid the ground work. The next time he starts explaining his hours, you can sicintly say, “That’s between you and the boss, Bob.”

          And yes, when you check in to see what other people know about a situation, it will not make you feel better. It will only make you feel angrier. As this progresses along, resentment shifts to the boss. How come the boss does not know this? Why doesn’t the boss fix this?
          It’s just a bad road to start down and it won’t serve you well. Put the responsibility where it belongs. “Bob, I am not in charge of keeping track of your hours. If you have concerns you need to talk to the boss.”

    2. Nobody*

      That depends a lot on whether Bob is paid hourly or salaried. If he is getting paid hourly, then it is a pretty big problem for him to skip out on the hours he’s supposed to be working. If he’s salaried, it doesn’t matter so much, as long as he’s getting his work done (although if he’s getting all his work done in 35 hours per week when everyone else needs 40 hours, there may be an issue of uneven work distribution… Or Bob is just an efficient worker).

      I am very much in favor of talking to the person before reporting them to management, so in this case, if the issue really needs to be raised, I would suggest you talk to Bob. Maybe you can say something like, “I don’t want to accuse you of anything, but I’ve heard some talk that you’ve been leaving before you put in your 8 hours. I really enjoy having this flexible schedule, but it can only work if the boss can trust us all to manage our own time. If people start taking advantage of that, I’m afraid that the boss might not be willing to let us keep our flexible schedules. I’ve heard a few people specifically mention your name in this respect, so you might want to be extra careful to make sure you’re putting in all your hours.”

    3. hayling*

      I agree that this would be tattling. It would drive me BONKERS to see this. But as long as it’s not affecting your workload it’d be too petty to report it.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would say something. I’d want to know if I were his manager. I’d say this: “I feel a little awkward raising this, but I thought it was something you might not be aware of and might appreciate a discreet heads-up about.”

      1. Nutcase*

        Thanks Alison, I appreciate you weighing in on this. I get on well with his manager so I think I’ll try this approach. Our department enjoys an awful lot of trust from our managers and we’re generally left to our own devices to manage our own flexible schedules and holidays because we do get everything done as a team, and done really well, on time. I’d hate for that trust to be lost or for other junior employees to pick up that cutting corners or being unprofessional is acceptable too.

        1. Penni*

          I’ve just reported as colleague that has taken more leave than he is entitled to (about 20% more due to working condensed hours and not reflecting this in leave entitlement)

          I agonised over it for about 3 months but an opportunity arose during a discussion about workloads. This guy frequently asks peers to do things for him and too polite to argue they do. But for me expecting these peers to cover for him when he is on his (extra) leave was too much. Particularly when he is the last person to volunteer to help anyone else out.

          The conversation with this guy has happened but I suspect the full fall out is yet to occur. Head down in the meantime.

          1. Penni*

            I did try dropping some very very large hints to prevent him from taking another weeks leave including saying “more leave, I didn’t think you’d have any time left to take!” And “would you like a copy of the spreadsheet I’ve created to tack my hours because I do condensed working?” And, “it’s cool that you get extra leave due to length of service next year although I suppose it’s only x% of y days because of your condensed week”
            I could have tried being more direct but to be honest I was too scared!

  17. neverjaunty*

    Or, if we conjugate: I report important workplace concerns to the appropriate level of management. You tell the boss. He tattles.

  18. Cubicle Joe*

    I’m just sitting here smiling, wondering where the apologists on this message board are hiding.

    You know the ones . . . “snitches get stitches” . . . “track down the tattler and retaliate”.

    I’ve learned the hard way that you should just keep quiet, no matter how unethical or even downright illegal something may be.

    The poster in the hallway says, “Trust is our top priority.”

    Uh huh. HR has a great sense of humor.

  19. Amber Rose*

    I can see this being my problem right away, as I’ve been given safety coordinator authority to give verbal and written warnings. Snitch is now my job description.

  20. Jeanne*

    What do you do when a boss encourages tattling? If I had a disagreement with a coworker, no matter how small, she would run to the boss and complain. He would believe her because she got there first and because I didn’t run to him. So she would lie and I was in trouble.

    1. Amber Rose*

      Stop working in a playground.

      Sorry, that’s not helpful I know. Its just, I can’t imagine working for/with people who behave like children. I’d go mad.

    2. tiana*

      @Jeanne, I seriously thought it was me posting that comment as I am in the exact situation. No matter what my coworker does, no matter how wrong, she goes to the boss first tells her something and then the boss comes to me and tells me not to complain. Really, I asked my boss ‘do I ever even have a chance to complain?’, she says ‘no, but don’t complain’.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      “Gee, Jane seems to have a lot of problems with me. Can the three of us have a sit down meeting to iron out some of this? It’s my preference to get along and do a good job.”

      “I am sorry to hear Jane is upset with me. Please let Jane know that I am available to talk about this with her.”

      1. Jeanne*

        I actually tried that many times and was told “Jane” didn’t want to and didn’t have to. It was really bad management.

  21. Kyrielle*

    I had a coworker once who had allergies and asthma, and coughed a lot. He’d seen a doctor, of course; the issue wasn’t contagious, obviously.

    We had another coworker who complained to his manager about the fact that he was coughing in the office, because he ought to stay home sick when he’s sick. The coughing bugged this person so much she kept complaining about it after being informed it wasn’t contagious. Apparently, he was supposed to stop coughing for her. (She eventually got an office and could close the door…as far as I know, no action was taken against either party for the ongoing issue.)

  22. GOG11*

    I wish I could give this article to one of my coworkers. The only time he ever addresses anything directly with me is when it’s in front of our boss. Otherwise, I will do something and get a call/email from my boss (who works in a different location and couldn’t know firsthand) about something I did or am doing. I do a pretty good job and I don’t do unethical things at work so my boss usually just says something to me as an FYI/because so-and-so said something to her, but it’s still an obnoxious behavior.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I would be sooo tempted to ask Coworker, in front of the boss, “Is there some reason why we can’t just talk this out ourselves. Does every conversation have to include the boss?”

      1. GOG11*

        This is good! Or, maybe, “Boss was just going over X, but I’d be happy to work this out with you privately in a moment/after our meeting/whatever.”

  23. worked for the devil*

    Oh boy. Ex-coworker was the champion of running to the powers that be over every.little.thing. Drove me nuts! Ex-manager was besties with the head of HR, which resulted in very skewed “counseling” about everything! Needless to say in that situation you leave as quickly as possible. I did and don’t regret it for a moment.

  24. illini02*

    I think the tattling thing is really a matter of semantics and connotation. Some people are uncomfortable assigning that label to an adult, but the behavior is the same. Its similar to chronic complaining. If a little kid does it, you may call it whining. If an adult or co-worker does it, you may call it bitching and moaning. If an elderly person does it, you may call it being cranky. Now I get that out of respect, you may not say your great grandfather is whining about something, but in reality, they may be doing the same thing in essence that a child is that you would call whining. If the action is the same, to me the definition can be the same. If a kid is telling the teacher something about another student for the sole purpose of getting them in trouble, the action is the exact same as if my co-worker is telling my boss something for the sole purpose of getting me in trouble. Some people just aren’t comfortable calling it the same thing, which just seems weird to me.

  25. MashaKasha*

    I would like to hear what people think about a situation when coworker A reports coworker B for a wrongdoing towards coworker C. This happened to me. We had a creepy-ish contractor in the office. We also had those ridiculous 4-person cubicles that were supposed to promote teamwork by having everyone sitting in three other people’s plain view. One day, Mr. Creep walks into my cube, approaches me from behind (I didn’t see him), sneaks up on me, and kisses me on the cheek. I told him, “Creep, you might not want to do this in the office – you’ll get in trouble. Don’t do that.” Creep left me alone after that and I considered the case closed. A few weeks later, my manager calls me into his office for a talk. Come to find out, someone reported Creep for the kissing incident. They had seen it and it had made them uncomfortable. Manager was very supportive of me and told me “if you want Creep gone, say the word and he’ll be out of here tomorrow”. I asked him to give Creep a second chance; Creep definitely left me alone after that for the next six months; then his contract was up and he left. I still don’t understand why the person who reported Creep, did it. It was my problem, not theirs; it was something I could handle on my own; I DID in fact handle it on my own and the problem went away. Why would someone report something that didn’t happen to them, didn’t involve them, and isn’t their business? Even if they meant well, IMO they should’ve at least talked to me or Creep first, before escalating this to the manager. I was frankly uncomfortable working in our office after that, because I knew there was someone in my office who liked reporting people at the drop of a hat, but didn’t know who that person was, or when the mood would strike them to report me too!

    1. illin02*

      That type of thing is ridiculous to me, but common. People and their being upset for someone else. If the action was directed at you, and you handle it, its no one else’s concern to bring it to management. This is how misunderstandings happen. Its like if I have a certain rapport with someone at work, and they make a comment to me that I know is a joke. Its not Jane’s place to go to the boss and say how it made her uncomfortable when she had nothing to do with it.

      1. jmkenrick*

        But, she DOES have something to do with it. You’re making that joke in her workspace. In fact, I’d argue that even if you made that joke in your own time, if your coworker is there to overhear it, she’s within her rights to complain to management if it was a joke that made her uncomfortable.

        Obviously, there’s a lot of grey area on whether someone is overreacting or not, but I could certainly think of jokes that it inappropriate in a work setting, even if both participants are “in on it.”

    2. jmkenrick*

      I don’t know if I agree with you on this. Maybe if you had another example…but it could well be that Creep also behaved inappropriately with another coworker, and when they reported it, they also added what they’d witnessed on your end. That would be totally valid.

      I would be weirder out to discover that one of my coworker was randomly approaching people and kissing them on the cheek to the point where I’d almost think it was odd NOT to raise it to the attention of the manager.

    3. Snoskred*

      It is their office too. They have a right to mention anything that happens within it.

      There are a myriad of reasons they may have reported it – It might have made them even *more* uncomfortable than it made you. They may have had a bad experience with sexual harassment in the past. They might have seen you handle it well, but they might have been worried that if it happened to someone else it could be handled badly. They might have been worried it would happen to them and they would not be able to deal with it as well as you did. They might have been concerned if that person would do that with others present. worse things may happen when nobody else is around. They may have assumed you were going to report it and wanted to back you up, but did not want to embarrass you by talking directly to you about it.

      You don’t know what else Creep did – it is entirely possible he did things to other people and your incident got reported at the tail end of their reporting other incidents as a way of supporting their report.

      On top of all of that, this is sexual harrassment and as Alison said up thread, people are often trained and required to report this.

    4. Linguist curmudgeon*

      Because hostile work environment. If I saw that, I’d probably report it, because if I don’t – what if I’m next? Or worse, what if one of our young interns (who are on probationary status, so might be afraid to complain) is next?

      The standard I walk past is the standard I accept.

  26. Jess*

    Shouldn’ t a ” Good Boss” knows what is going on in the office? if you have to tell your boss that Maria spends hours on the internet and her work is accumulating by the minute to the point that other departments complain about it, or that people are leaving the office early all the time and not finishing their work and you are expected to pick up their slack all the time, where is the line between tattletale or telling your boss to please do the job they get paid to do?

  27. js*

    I resent the office tattle tale to a degree. Unless the manager will be training, best not to leave it to the team to find excuses why jane doe isn’t doing a task that isn’t essential to the bigger picture. This happens a lot in retail, where it’s not exactly about the quality but the quantity of work that you do. Unless employee poses safety risk or is blatantly and intentionally committing a crime, should you leave your employees to police each other? Tattle tale or office vigilante for justice, performance evaluation is up to the manager, not the employee.

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