my brother broke up with our coworker, it’s causing drama, and I want to intervene

A reader writes:

I work in an office with my older brother, Jack. He is not my boss, nor am I his. We have pretty separate roles, but we do see each other frequently during work. Everyone knows we are related, and it has caused no issues so far.

A few months back, Jack began dating a new hire in my department, Jill. They were the office lovebirds (everyone joked about it) until a few weeks ago when they abruptly broke up. Since then, they both have been guilty of being passive aggressive, shooting verbal barbs at each other, and causing drama at work. Think of the worst office romance story gone bad you can, and that’s about it. My instinct had been to tell Jack to cool it, but I remained out of it and didn’t say a word since it wasn’t my business.

Well, shortly after that, Jack and Jill got into another argument at work. One of our higher-ups happened to walk by, saw them, and fired Jack on the spot (at the time, Jack was talking heatedly while Jill was silent, so it looked pretty one-sided). I was gutted and knew that Jill was not innocent either, but I didn’t see it as my place to step in. I have talked to Jack in the few days since, but he has been pretty depressed and we have avoided the issue mostly. I don’t know when he will start looking for a new job.

The real issue I have is Jill’s behavior since. She is clearly happy that Jack was fired but not her and has taken the opportunity to slander his name even further. When coworkers ask how she is, she implies that she was being abused by Jack and says she is glad to be free. On one occasion, she even implied that he had tried to sexually assault her, which made me see red. I know that she is just angry over the breakup and this is her way of getting “revenge.”

I honestly can’t work with this going on. My brother is none of those things, and it would crush him if he knew the things Jill was saying about him. I have forced myself to stay out of this, but I want more than anything to confront Jill, make her admit that she is lying, and clear my brother’s name. What can I do here, if anything? Talk to Jill? Talk to my manager? Based on Jill’s stories, people seem to think that Jack is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and I know I will quit if this keeps up any longer.

This is not yours to intervene in.

The reality is, you don’t actually know what happened between Jack and Jill. You love your brother, but you weren’t one of the two people in the relationship and you don’t have standing to insist on one version of events over another. That doesn’t mean that what Jill is saying about Jack is true, just that you can’t credibly insist it isn’t — particularly in a work context, where people aren’t going to want to get into the details anyway. Most people in your office are going to want to move on, not sort out what did or didn’t happen in this relationship.

And while we don’t know the details of their relationship, we do know for sure that Jack handled a break-up really badly at work — to the point that he was fired for having a heated argument with his ex in the office. Maybe Jill bears just as much blame or more, and maybe she should have been fired too — but Jack was not unfairly fired. I’m sure it stings to see Jill still there if you think they bore equal blame, but it might help to keep in mind that Jack is responsible for his own actions, regardless of what Jill does, and his own actions are what got him fired.

The most I think you could do here is talk to your manager and tell her that the amount of discussion about Jack and Jill’s relationship is becoming a distraction and making it hard to focus on work, particularly as Jack’s sister, and ask if she’s able to address it from that angle. (That only works if it’s really true, though.)

If you really can’t work there with this going on, you of course can quit. But I’d try to wait this out — it’s unlikely that it will still be a popular topic of conversation a couple of months from now.

What you can’t do is confront Jill. That would add to the drama, indicate to your manager that you’re unable to handle the situation professionally, and put your own job and reputation at risk. Don’t get drawn into that.

This is Jack and Jill’s mess. Let it stay theirs, and don’t make it yours.

{ 674 comments… read them below }

  1. Captain S*

    Yeah, you need to stay far far away from this. And you probably need to stop insisting (to yourself and to others) that Jill is a crazy liar too, since you have no idea what happened.

    It’s not easy to believe that people we love may have behaved badly or done something terrible but defending someone who may have abused another person is never a good look.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Yep, yep. I want to believe that you know your brother, but my personal family history has shown me that the only person you can really know is yourself. You only risk making yourself look bad now. There is nothing you can do to take down Jill or fix your brother’s reputation.

      1. LouiseM*

        Love your point here. The temptation to jump to the defense of a loved one or let our personal relationship with someone cloud our judgement is strong. But there’s no excuse for turning a blind eye to and enabling abuse or harassment, no matter what.

        1. RUKiddingMe*

          And…if we stipulate (for argument’s sake only) that Jill is a victim of abuse and sexual assault, calling her a liar is a bad look and only reinforces the *misogynistic view that all women are liars/just misunderstood/should take it as a compliment … ad nauseam.

          *Yep women can also be misogynists. Society has unfortunately rewarded internalized misogyny and women hating women since … “forever.”

    2. Smithy*

      Yes yes. By confronting her as a liar – it really risks her potentially coming back with texts messages/emails/photos that may paint a more murky picture. Regardless of what that information would or wouldn’t prove – it would serve to escalate and perpetuate the gossip. Which definitely does not serve the OP at work.

    3. Seriously?*

      You know for a fact that at least once Jack was loudly berating her in the office while she was silent. It is not unreasonable that she viewed the relationship as abusive, at least verbally. Maybe she gave as good as she got maybe not, but it was a verbally abusive relationship.

      1. Captain S*

        Yep. If he was willing to do that AT WORK, who knows what was going on behind closed doors?

        1. AKchic*

          Pretty much.

          My husband would have said 2 years ago that his baby brother was a sweetheart who was shy and a good guy.
          We now know better. Much darker, and so much more his father, but we know better. I would never set any of my friends up with him. He deserves to stay single and lonely for life.

        2. Lili*

          Exactly. He’s already demonstrated bad judgement by 1) dating a coworker (bonus points for it being a new hire) and 2) verbally assaulting them at work. Even if nothing else happened behind clothes doors (which frankly, is unlikely given his behavior) you can’t really blame her for being upset about it.

          Also, it’s not uncommon that abuse survivors don’t open up about it until their completely free and safe from their abuser.

          1. Donna Freedman*

            This ++++! I was in an abusive marriage for 23 years. When I finally was able to break free, some people were soooo shocked.

            Of course, others told me, “Now I can say it: I HATED THE WAY HE TREATED YOU! But I was afraid to talk to you about it and risk alienating you.”

            No one knows what goes on behind closed doors. The reader’s brother may be completely blameless. Then again, he may not be.

          2. Rachel*

            Well, they both dated, so that’s her bad judgement as well. As for verbally assaulting? We don’t know what prompted the argument. It could have been 100% mutually heated, but the boss might’ve just walked in at a time when he was the one yelling.

          3. Thatgirlwiththeglasses*

            Right now, all anyone knows is that it’s an ugly break up that spilled over in to work and one inappropriate yelling match does not conclude abuse. Jack had no power over Jill, they were employees in different departments. It’s incredibly irresponsible to label someone an abuser when we know even less of the story than the OP. People get angry and sometimes they yell and if we believe OP then we also know the ex-girlfriend was mouthing off as well. He’s been properly punished for inappropriate behavior at work and apparently this is where that story ends. Time to let him move on with being labeled an abuser rather than someone having an incredibly ugly breakup.

            What we do know is that working together was preventing both of them from moving on and creating a toxic workplace for EVERYONE. youre brother has a right to feel like shit and unjustly fired (he can feel however he wants), but in the end this is likely for the best. He can find a fresh place to work with no bitter exes and learn not to date coworkers. And even if this relationship was awful, his next one might be incredible.

      2. Rat in the Sugar*

        All OP says about the argument was that her brother was talking heatedly while Jill was silent when the higher up walked by–it’s totally possible she could have been the one talking heatedly a minute before and the higher up was witnessing Jack’s rebuttal. I don’t think you can say just from that that it was definitely a verbally abusive relationship.

        1. Legal Beagle*

          This. Labeling a relationship “abusive” based on one perspective from a biased outsider is not helpful.

        2. MicroManagered*

          I get what you’re saying, but at the same time I think a relationship can be mutually abusive. Either way, to be behaving like that at work (whether one- or two-sided) suggests the relationship was pretty toxic. It doesn’t make sense to me to speculate about what might or might not have been happening a minute prior.

            1. Rachel*

              So it’s abuse for Jack verbally abuse Jill today, but it’s not abuse for Jill to slap Jack into next week a few days later? ALL abuse is abuse.

              1. Lunita*

                Rachel, it’s true we don’t know what went on and whether, as someone above mentioned, Jack was blameless or not. But in your example above, yes, abuse can be abuse if those are really The only incidents, but I don’t think that’s what we are referring to- i think we are more referring to situations where an abused person finally “strikes back” in order to defend themselves.

                I don’t like your statement about her “bad judgement” though. If he was actually abusing her, a statement like yours is blaming the victim blaming, yet abusers don’t start off that way. Again, maybe that’s not the situation at all and she’s just as hot tempered as he is, but we don’t k ow either way.

                1. Jo*

                  She’s not saying she has bad judgment for her behavior/reactions. She’s saying she had bad judgment to date a coworker as well. If we’re going to say that Jack has demonstrated bad judgment by dating a coworker, then we can’t say that Jill didn’t for doing the exact same thing.

        3. tinyhipsterboy*

          I mean, I don’t think they were saying it was definitely abusive; it’s just that the optics show that it wouldn’t exactly be unreasonable for Jill to view her former relationship that way. I don’t feel like we should be parsing if it was or wasn’t, anyway, given that we know even less than Jack’s sister.

          1. Rat in the Sugar*

            In Seriously?’s comment, they said plainly “it was a verbally abusive relationship”, which to me sounds like they actually are saying it was definitely abusive. I agree with those saying we don’t know what happened and shouldn’t speculate –OP can’t say with certainty that her brother never abused Jill, and we the commenters can’t say with certainty that he did or not or what actually happened between them. That’s what I meant by my comment.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Exactly. People are only speculating because 1) such evidence as LW provides opens a credible door to it actually being abusive and 2) LW’s insistence that she knows for a fact that her brother isn’t abusive when in fact she knows no such thing … and if she’s reading the comments, it’s good for her to see others’ perspectives.

        4. Fiennes*

          I think it’s a mistake to judge what was happening in a relationship by what happens in the breakup. I’ve seen toxic relationships end swiftly and seemingly pleasant relationships devolve into shrieking madness. I do think there’s some correlation—toxic relationship breakups overall generate more drama—but it’s not an exact match. You never know.

          1. Mad Baggins*

            “I think it’s a mistake to judge what was happening in a relationship by what happens in the breakup.”


  2. Justme, The OG*

    I agree with the part about seeing if the gossip from Jill can be kept to a minimum. Which she should want to do anyway, as a professional adult.

  3. CaliCali*

    Oh, man, I feel for you. I know that with my brother’s former paramours — and we’ve never been coworkers — I know I have an unfair protective bias toward him. Which is understandable! He’s my brother! And it’s OK to have those feelings toward your brother. But I think you have to put your personal emotions aside at work and let it play out. If Jill’s acting out and continuing to bring drama into the workplace, it’s just going to make her look worse in the long run anyways, and you don’t need to drag yourself into that. You’ll come out much better if you let things run their course, which they will.

    1. A Person*

      Agree with this. Jill is gonna Jill.

      The absolute most you should do is let your manager know all this talk about your brother is becoming a huge distraction in the office and it’s making it really hard for you to work productively.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think the key here is to frame it around the personal drama talk being distracting. The fact that it involves LW’s brother is almost incidental.

      2. Specialk9*

        “Jill is gonna Jill” is assuming that the big sister has the right to counter an abuse narrative, without knowing anything about the situation.

        OP DOESN’T KNOW ANYTHING. It could be either situation, and she will never know.

        It’s this kind of thinking (“I have had good interactions with this person, so anyone who says they had bad interactions must be lying”) that supports all kinds of bad behavior.

        As someone who was in a thoroughly abusive relationship, I can guarantee that my ex’s siblings and friends think I’m a crazy lying liar who lies.

        The face that abusers show to the world are so different from the domestic face. Much domestic abuse is a calculated in-control decision because it meets their ends (not having to do unpleasant chores or actions, having things their way, not getting left, etc) and they don’t care about the damage to the other. They’re in control, so they can hide from other people, because hiding the dark side also meets their goals.

        But who knows? None of us know the reality of Brother vs Ex. We just don’t.

        1. Specialk9*

          To be clear, I’m not saying OP’s brother was abusive. I couldn’t know either. I’m just saying that her having seen Nice Brother doesn’t mean that Abusive Brother doesn’t exist, because that’s literally how it works.

          1. Jesca*

            Yep. Also, if Jill is just making it up, then she is a drama llama. Drama Llamas always show their true stripes after long anyway (haha mixed metaphors) . It is not likely she woke up one way going “I am suddenly a lying drama queen lying to look for sympathy”. She will drama llama all over that place about a million other things too.

            So, OP, let it go. It is not yours, you weren’t in it, and you can’t control your brother’s behavior or that of Jill’s. And just remember in the back of your mind that the possibility does exist. Most people don’t get into screaming matches at work ex or no ex.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Thank you for this. I work in DV advocacy and repeat this probably a hundred times a day. It’s nice when someone else types it out so I don’t have to. :)

        2. [insert witty user name here]*

          I disagree with your first statement. I think “Jill is going to Jill” is A Person’s way of saying “Jill is going to do what she’s going to do regardless of what anyone else does.” A Person is saying to let it go and NOT confront Jill.

          1. Specialk9*

            A Person said “Agree with this. Jill is gonna Jill.” in response to CaliCali’s “If Jill’s acting out and continuing to bring drama into the workplace, it’s just going to make her look worse in the long run anyways, and you don’t need to drag yourself into that. You’ll come out much better if you let things run their course, which they will.”

            Your take seems odd in that context.

            1. ket*

              I have to say, Specialk9, I read it the way “insert witty user name” read it. “Jill is going to Jill” seems to me to be saying that Jill will do her thing regardless of what others do, and one should let it go as Jill will make herself look bad.
              I agree that the letter-writer can’t know what happened behind closed doors in that relationship.

        3. Raider*

          I can’t imagine why on earth it’s professional for Jill to continue to talk smack about Jack in the office — whether it’s true or especially if it’s exaggerated at all or even slander — at this point, and believe it’s entirely possible that Jill herself could still face firing if she doesn’t cool it pretty quickly here. I don’t advise OP to get involved, of course. But I really object to everyone acting like it’s perfectly fine for this to be happening in a work environment. It absolutely is beyond disruptive.

            1. Samata*

              Are you sighing because you think its professional to continue to bring personal relationship issues into the workplace? I think Jack should have been fired, brother or no brother, for his actions. But I don’t think continuing to talk about the relationship, whether Jill speaks truth or not, is appropriate during the workday. Irregardless of whether or not Jack used to work there or is someone who no one knows. I know she may be seeking an outlet if the abuse occurred and she needs to talk about it, and I know people do that in different ways, but all around anyone approaching this from a distraction standpoint would be in the right and Jane should be told to manage it differently if it truly is a distraction

              1. LouiseM*

                Speaking for myself, it’s not about being professional or the workplace or anything like that. Definitely I think Jill should be talking to a mental health professional and not her coworkers about this. But the idea that someone speaking out about their abuser is “talking smack” is upsetting to me.

              2. Jessie the First (or second)*

                I agree with LouiseM – it’s the characterization of talking about abuse as “talking smack” that is gross.If she’s lying, it’s talking smack. If she is being honest about abuse that really happened, f anyone who says that’s just “talking smack.”

                There would also be a valid reason to bring up abuse in the workplace, and that would be when the abuser is/was a coworker. Because it could be that her safety would be at risk if he were to come back and visit or be rehired – so it’s important for a victim to be able to SAY what happened without being dismissed as “talking smack.”

                Now, if she is lying and spreading slander, her behavior is wrong, wrong, wrong, and none of the above applies and yes, she’d be talking smack. We don’t know which it is, and like Louise and others said above, if it’s lying and she’s a drama llama, that’ll come out eventually on its own (as she will be all drama llama about everything and slowly ruin her credibility).

              3. RUKiddingMe*

                If it was an abusive relationship, because he used to work there and has a sibling who still works there, he could come by to ‘visit,’ get rehired, or otherwise have access. She needs to be able to talk about the *abuse so that others are aware so that she can be safe at work regardless of what his sister thinks her brother is/isn’t capable of.

                *I have no no more knowledge of the relationship than anyone else does, I am only stipulating it as abusive for argument’s sake in order to illustrate my point.

          1. what's my name again?*

            I agree with you. We don’t know the whole story, which could actually be that Jack is innocent (beyond having a loud personal argument at an inopportune part at work). If so, Jill’s continued comments are out of place at work, distracting to others and actually could be considered slander or defamation of character. She should be reined in somehow too.

              1. Traffic_Spiral*

                If she’s telling the truth about her relationship, she can save it for places where talking about her relationship is appropriate, AKA Not Work. Her friends, family, online journal, personal diary, and shrink are all appropriate audiences for this. Her work is not. I don’t want to know about my coworker’s bad ex, druggie brother that steals money, toxic belittling mom, bitch neighbor Karen, awful kid, terrible Dad-in-law, or anything else of that nature.

          2. Luna*

            I mean the entire relationship and how it was handled from start to finish seems unprofessional. People can date coworkers, but keep the relationship drama out of the office.

        4. This Daydreamer*

          Yeah, I have had to deal with wwwaaayyyyy too many women who weren’t believed because “he was so nice”, “he wouldn’t hurt a fly”, “he’s so romantic” (nb, the over-the-top romantic who wants to sweep you off your feet and marry you next week on some tropical beach needs to be told to slow down – and you should leave if he doesn’t), “he was so protective of me when my boyfriend got abusive (by beating the crap out of him?)”, “he’s a pillar of the community”. Dealing with hell is bad enough when you aren’t surrounded by people who think you’re out to ruin a good man.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            + Infinity

            ““he’s a pillar of the community””

            My response to this kind of comment (which like you I hear way too often):
            —Know who else was? John Wayne Gacy…Dennis Rader…Ted Bundy.

    2. [insert witty user name here]*

      Yup. This super sucks for you, OP, but try to have faith that Jill is going to dig her own grave at work (much as Jack did – he just got to the bottom sooner). Stay the heck out of it and people will ultimately see that you are above all of this, not involved in it. It sucks if Jill is saying things that aren’t true, but this has to be Jack’s problem, not yours.

      Hope this works itself out of your workplace sooner than later!

      1. Specialk9*

        You’re assuming that Jill is a liar because Jill’s ex’s big sis thinks she’s a liar. You have to realize how problematic that is.

        1. KimberlyR*

          In the end, it doesn’t matter to this commentariat if Jill is a liar or not. Jill didn’t write to Alison. The OP did, and Alison’s advice is to not say anything to Jill about the brother or his (possible) actions. Alison’s advice is good whether or not Jill is lying because OP needs to stay out of the situation.

        2. Forking Great Username*

          I don’t see that assumption – the comment said IF Jill is lying. Jill will likely dig her own grave at work if she keeps up this behavior. That has nothing to do with whether or not she’s lying – if she isn’t lying, and OP’s brother was abusive, it’s still not really appropriate for her to bring it up and slam him over and over at work. Particularly when she works with the ex’s sibling.

        3. [insert witty user name here]*

          Re-reading my comment, I meant to be clearer that IF Jill is lying, she will dig her own grave. I did not assume Jill is lying, but I can see how my comment was unclear on that.

          What I was actually trying to get it is for the OP to let things run their natural course and eventually the truth will come out – either Jill is making things up and is a drama queen OR Jill is telling the truth and is free of a bad relationship. Or somewhere inbetween.

        4. Temperance*

          Even if she’s telling the truth, it’s so inappropriate to bring that kind of drama to work. Especially since Jack is gone now, and she has no reason to run her mouth.

          1. Louise*

            Saying that abuse victims talking about their abuse is “running their mouth” is really really gross and leads to victims being afraid to speak up at all.

            1. Safetykats*

              I don’t think that anyone is implying that victims of abuse don’t have the right to, or shouldn’t, come forward about their situations. But the appropriate way to do that isn’t to spend your work day telling all your coworkers all the details of your situation. This is equally true whatever your situation is – because it would be equally inappropriate for Jill to spend excessive amounts of work time talking about any other personal issue.

              1. Louise*

                Temperance literally said “she had no reason to run her mouth.” It’s that kind of thinking that led to countless women being silent on their workplace abuse.

                I also don’t think it’s a good look to tell victims and survivors the “appropriate” way to handle their trauma. Given the letter, this is how Jill responds when she’s asked, not that she’s screaming it from the rooftops. It seems you and temperance would rather her keep her mouth shut when she’s explicitly asked how she is/what happened.

                1. jo*

                  I know we aren’t supposed to speculate, but I confess I am inclined to side with Jill even not knowing a thing about her or hearing her perspective. I won’t deny I’m biased to believe people who say they’ve been abused, even without any other evidence. (That inherently means I could be quite wrong in many instances.) HOWEVER, I agree with Safetykats that work is not the place to untangle one’s trauma.

                  I have talked to coworkers about my relationship issues, including abuse, but I did it outside of work hours and outside the workplace. It’s possible to be up front about what you’re going through without distracting yourself and your colleagues during the work day. If Jill is asked, she has the option to say, “Thanks for your concern and I’m happy to talk about it, but we have other things to do right now, so let’s save it for after hours.” That would be the more professional option. And if Jill took it, it would keep the discussion out of OP’s earshot. An abuse victim/survivor gains nothing by airing their side of the story in front of people they must know will be on the abuser’s side.

                2. jo*

                  Also, what’s being discussed here isn’t workplace abuse. It’s intimate partner abuse where the partners happen to be coworkers. I think that makes a big difference in the handling.

                3. Mad Baggins*

                  +1 to jo. I am all for victims of abuse getting the support they need. I also do not want to hear about abuse at work.

                4. Lunita*

                  +1 Louise. And, someone above made a good a point about this being relevant, if true, since he could come back and visit his sister at work. Unlikely since he was fired, but a possibility nonetheless.

              2. Mimi the strange*

                It doesnt say she spends her whole work day on this though. It says she tells people when asked.

                Also isn’t it entirely possible since the OP/sis is ready to quit working there over her brother that maybe she is exaggerating how often it comes up? Maybe not intentionally but she has such strong feelings about it her view could be skewed. Or that she just feels like everyone (especially Jill) is talking about all the time when really it might be a few minutes at most?

                When my colleague was pregnant it felt like all she talks about but really all told it was probably 10 minutes a day. It just felt like a lot because pregnancy makes me OCD go twitchy.

    3. Flinty*

      Agreed. There are no wins to be had by inserting yourself into this drama. At best, Jill really is a liar and may turn on you too. At worst, you’ll further hurt someone who has already been abused by your brother and ruin your own reputation in the process.

      1. Washi*

        Yes. OP, it sounds like you wrote in to find a way to make things better, but you’re not in a position to do that. The best outcome here is just not to make anything worse.

        1. JennyAnn*

          Yeah, this is one of those situations where as an emotionally involved third party you have no good options – you can’t be impartial, you don’t get a say in how this is handled, and you have very little ability to maneuver around this in discussion. At the very most (and I say this as someone who would both take and shoot a bullet to protect my brother), I think you could point this out as a way to excuse yourself from the conversation when it gets brought up. “Obviously, I can’t be objective here; you’re discussing my brother, but I was not part of the relationship. There’s nothing I can say that isn’t letting someone down. I can only ask that you hold off on discussing this topic until I’m not present.” (Feel free to adjust as needed – I’m sure that someone here can phrase this better.)

          Your goal here isn’t to shut her down, just remove yourself from the narrative/situation. Anything beyond that is just going to feed the drama and make things worse.

  4. Amber Rose*

    Reason #8672 to not date a coworker. I’m sorry, LW, this situation sucks, but Alison is right. Your brother made the decision to date a coworker, handle the break up poorly, and have an angry yelling match at work. Whether Jill should share the blame or not, we know from this that Jack was not behaving professionally or maturely. If you confront her, you will be repeating his mistakes, with what I imagine to be a predictable outcome.

    If you must leave, do it on your own terms. If you get fired for drama, Jill just wins again.

    1. Discordia Angel Jones*

      It’s also reason #8672 for not working with family members, to be honest.

      I’m pretty sure, LW, even if we removed the former romantic partner part of this, if Jack were fired for say, shouting at Cersei in a similar manner, that you would be feeling similarly to now.

      It does suck, but you don’t know what happened in their relationship, and Jack was fired for a valid reason at the end of the day. Be the better person, and the office talk will move on quickly, but I’m sorry you are having to deal with it now.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        I don’t think this is entirely fair. If the OP and her family live in or very near a major metropolitan area, it could (in theory) be easier to avoid working with family or dating co-workers. But that isn’t always the case.

        Some people do live in small towns or rural areas that have very few major employers, and also a smaller potential dating pool. A significant percentage of people meet their partners at work, too. It’s maybe riskier in a career sense, because of the potential for things to go badly, but it’s a thing people do, for all kinds of reasons.

        In this case, the relationship didn’t work out well. We (and the OP) don’t know the reasons, and don’t know what may or may not have gone on behind closed doors between Jack and Jill. Given that Jack was yelling at Jill at work, it seems safe to say that things weren’t good.

        We also don’t know what he was yelling…it’s possible that it wasn’t only the yelling, but the content of the yelling, that lead to the firing. It’s also possible that content had nothing to do with it.

        It’s totally understandable that OP wants to defend Jack, but that would be unwise at best. I think it could be reasonable to say something about this being distracting in the workplace to the boss, but I don’t think I would suggest going further than that. If possible, finding another job might be the least painful way out of the situation for the OP. If not, waiting for things to calm down and/or the next Big Office Drama (because there’s always a next Big Office Drama) to come along might be the most realistic options.

        1. Safetykats*

          You can’t blame this entirely on dating coworkers. People who have the tendency to break up badly are going to have shouting matches over the phone with their ex during work hours, create

          1. Safetykats*

            drama even if their ex isn’t there, or show up uninvited at their ex’s work to make a scene. I’ve dated at work. I also broke up with a coworker – with whom I was living at the time – when he stared sleeping with another co-worker. That’s no fun, but it doesn’t force you to behave unprofessionally while at work. It would be better to say that if you’re not capable, for whatever reason, of separating your work and home life it would be better not to date at work.

  5. CityMouse*

    This is an excellent answer. While Jill may not be innocent, if Jack got fired on the spot, something must have been very wrong. You can quietly tall to your manager about being uncomfortable, but publicly confronting Jill is a very very bad idea. Stay out of it.

    1. Triple Anon*

      Yeah. The person who fired Jack might have known things OP didn’t. Maybe there were performance issues or other people had found him difficult to work with. Who knows.

      But I really empathize with OP and I agree with Allison’s advice. You just don’t have all the facts so you have to stay neutral.

    2. Trout 'Waver*

      I don’t think you can make such a strong statement about something being very wrong. They could have been looking to fire Jack anyway, or management could be baised, or any number of other things that had nothing to do with Jack and Jill’s relationship.

      1. CityMouse*

        It sounds to me like, in the moment, Jack’s verbal tirade was bad enough the boss thought it warranted firing. It does not really matter if Jill had previously engaged, boss had the right to not want that behavior in the workplace.

      2. Leela*

        I agree that just as we, total outsiders, can’t know if Jack was or wasn’t being inappropriate with Jill in their relationship (outside of his behavior at work which definitely was), we can’t know that management was acting in a way we’d approve of in their firing. It could be that it was so bad it warranted firing on the spot, or that the manager adores Jill and was totally unfair, or anything in between. I’m going to say that yelling at a coworker while she sat silently is definitely good enough reason to get him in trouble, firing or no, so it does tend to skew my perception that the firing was just, but all we can know are the objective facts in here (Jack was objectively yelling at a coworker while she was silent and was fired) and not what we infer (Jack was egregious enough to warrant firing on the spot, or he wasn’t).

        Whether Jill bears as much or more of the blame here should reflect on how she is treated but not Jack. It’s like when a kid gets in trouble for punching another kid and goes “but they started it!!” They may very well have but…you can’t go around punching people. Or yelling at coworkers, especially when they aren’t even reacting

  6. SJPxo*

    If it were me and I heard her I’d, at a push say, “Jill, please bear in mind that Jack is my brother and this is a work environment and not someone to gossip and talk about a break up, please can you not talk about it any more?” and just leave it at that.
    That way you’re pointing out that what she is saying bothers you and point out another obvious that it’s a work place and she’s wasting time and being a bore…

    1. LSP*

      I agree that OP could at least remind Jill that the person she is gossiping about is her brother. OP could even add, “What happened in your relationship and how it ended is between the two of you. I don’t know what happened and I don’t have an opinion on who is to blame.”

      1. KHB*

        I would not recommend this. It’s clearly not true that the OP has no opinion on who is to blame, and she’d be hurting her credibility by claiming otherwise.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this. At most, I’d ask Jill to keep her relationship drama to herself, since that would apply no matter who the other party had been.

    2. LBK*

      If years of watching reality TV has taught me anything, I think this would go over terribly – it will probably sound to Jill like OP is defending her brother and trying to silence Jill’s truth, and then Jill will just move on to attacking the OP instead.

      The issue here is that the OP can’t possible appear objective in this situation, so I think the last thing he can do is talk to Jill about it directly. Especially based on Jill’s already proven propensity for splaying her personal life across the workplace, there’s no doubt in my mind that trying to engage Jill directly would just result in her redirecting the drama at the OP.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Sadly, I agree. I also think OP loses the high ground by calling it gossip. And it’s hard to separate out Jack because he’s a former employee. Unfortunately, I don’t think OP can pull this off without risking escalation and a replay of what got Jack fired.

      2. Naptime Enthusiast*

        This is still the right course of action assuming Jill is otherwise a sane and good coworker. There’s 2 outcomes: either Jill will stop talking about it and get back to work, or she will turn on OP as you pointed out. If it’s the latter then the bosses should intervene and tell Jill to cut it out because it’s completely inappropriate behavior on Jill’s part, not OP.

        1. LBK*

          There isn’t a lot in the letter to suggest Jill is an otherwise sane or good coworker based on how much she’s already engaged in fighting with Jack at the office before he was fired.

          1. Anion*

            Yes. Or the way she’s still constantly talking about Jack and going out of her way to smear him in the workplace. Those are not the actions of good, sane, responsible adults.

            1. DogG*

              Yes, exactly.
              Women in my church have whispered that I’m a child abuser because I let my pit bull guard my baby when she sleeps. Believe me, that baby would not be safer if I were standing over her with a rifle. My pit bull is an angel. They’ve also whispered about the pastor, the organist, the florist, each other’s husbands… I let the pattern speak for iteself.

              1. Fiennes*

                Back in the early 20th century, pit bulls were more commonly called “nanny dogs” because it was safe to leave your children with them. The breed gets such unfair press.

                1. Oregonian*

                  This is totally off topic – but, still:

                  The whole “nanny dog” thing was a myth. It was based largely on a bunch of photos of pit bulls with babies from the period, but there was never a trend of considering pit bulls to be nanny dogs. Numerous unbiased sources have demonstrated the falsehood of that myth.

                  I think pit bulls get a bad rap as well, but it’s best to try to improve that image with factual stories.

              2. Harper the Other One*

                It’s like the whole “the cat will suck the baby’s breath” thing. I have adorable pictures of my son as a baby, sleeping soundly with our cat in the crib watching him, and I didn’t dare share them at the time because we lived in a place where people regularly kicked their cat outside to fend for itself as soon as they learned they were pregnant. (They’ll be fine, they’re basically wild animals, after all, and we have to protect the baby.)

              3. Yet Even Another Alison*

                My trainer has a pit bull and she is a sweetie. She took a bit to warm up to me but after she did, she is like a sweet dainty kitten. That said, she is very protective over “her people” and if someone comes around us that she does not know, she stands guard and carefully watches the new person’s body language. I pity anyone who tries to harm “her people”. Let the whisperers say what they will. They just don’t understand.

                1. Technical_Kitty*

                  My sister has a rescue pittie names Sophie, Sophie is the sweetest dog in the world despite having had a bad start. And the only time she acts aggressively towards strangers (growls, guard stance)is when my sister is pregnant.

            2. OhBehave*

              I’m also curious if Jill is deliberately saying these things to get the OP’s goat. She does know OP is his sister. I also would have spoken with my brother at the beginning of the relationship just to caution him about dating in the workplace. But do this outside of the workplace.

              There are just too many unknowns. This kind of letter begs for suppositions. Those who have been in abusive relationships sometimes automatically assume Jill is correct. So many possibilities to this letter.

              In the end, do not say anything to Jill. DO speak with your boss about this and about the interruption of work.

      3. SJPxo*

        Personally if it were me I’d say what I wrote to Jill and just walk away without giving her time to reply and cause drama.. You’re simply stating two things to her attention is with any luck would remind her that work isn’t the place for this

        1. LBK*

          Just because you flee one conversation doesn’t mean she can’t hunt you down later…they work in the same office, it would take a pretty concerted effort for the OP to somehow avoid Jill forever after saying this unless when the OP walks away, she walks into her manager’s office and quits.

          1. Snark*

            It doesn’t really sound like Jill is actually directly approaching OP with this. She’s just answering when people ask her how she’s doing.

          2. SJPxo*

            True, although I think that it would send a clear signal that OP wasn’t saying it for a discussion but to make a point

            1. LBK*

              So? That doesn’t prevent Jill from being passive aggressive or talking about the OP behind her back. There are myriad other ways for Jill to rope the OP into the drama aside from engaging in a conversation.

              1. LBK*

                (Seriously, I’ve watched every season of Vanderpump Rules, someone who wants to cause drama isn’t going to wait for you to give them an opening.)

                1. Where's the Le-Toose?*

                  Side note — Tom and Tom should get married. Seriously. They’re perfect for each other.

              2. SJPxo*

                True, although it would reflect poorly on Jill and not OP though if Jill did that.. as OP’s said what she needed to and left it at that. Snark below is right to not ask Jill not to talk about it at all, but at least limit it to not in front of OP

                1. LBK*

                  It would, but a) management doesn’t seem to care unless it escalates to a screaming match, and b) does the OP really want to subject herself to that with the hope that it will lead to Jill being reprimanded such that she’ll stop completely?

                2. Luna*

                  But that’s assuming that if Jill did start targeting OP that the OP would be able to remain calm and professional, which I’m not convinced she could (no offense intended to OP) given how emotionally invested she is in defending her brother. Saying anything at all to Jill could easily spiral out of control.

            2. Mallory Janis Ian*

              But walking up to someone to Make a Point and then swanning away before they can respond is still Housewives of (X)-level drama.

    3. Snark*

      No, no no. I like the first part, but it’s on OP to excuse herself from conversations she’s not able to productively participate in, not on Jill to avoid mentioning it.

      1. SJPxo*

        Yes OP could just say “Jill, please bear in mind that Jack is my brother and this is a work environment, please can you not talk about it any more”

        1. Snark*

          ….that’s not what I said. She can step aside from a conversation if she needs to, but asking her to not talk about it isn’t a good look.

          1. Seriously?*

            It depends on where and how often Jill is bringing it up. It would not be reasonable to expect the OP to leave a conference room right before a meeting or leave her desk. It would be reasonable for her to leave the break room. Essentially, if avoiding hearing Jill talk about her brother prevents OP from doing her job, Jill should not bring it up around the OP. They are at work and it doesn’t sound like the discussions are at all work related now that he does not work there. If she were bringing it up because she felt unsafe and wanted him banned from the building or something then it would obviously trump the OP’s discomfort.

            1. Snark*

              That’s fair, but I’d still phrase it differently. “Hey, I’ve got a dog in the fight, and I’m trying really hard not to get involved. Can we move on?”in the moment is a little better-sounding than asking her to not talk about it at all.

              1. Seriously?*

                I agree with you. Asking her not to talk about it at all is a huge overstep. Asking her not to talk about it around the OP seems like a good compromise though. The OP did nothing wrong, talking about it is not a work matter and hearing it is distressing to her.

              2. Detective Amy Santiago*

                I think saying “I’ve got a dog in the fight” is far too aggressive. A mild “I don’t want to be involved” is more neutral.

                1. Snark*

                  I don’t think it’s aggressive – it’s just a colloquial way to say she’s got a conflict of interest.

                2. teclatrans*

                  It’s a colloquialism that has no aggressive or fighting implications*, it just means there are two sides and I am deeply invested in those sides.

                  *Okay, dog fights are brutal and awful, and maybe the phrase should be retired on that basis, but it still doesn’t mean anything aggressive.

                3. Snark*

                  Yeah, it’s not a great phrase, but I think its conversational use has become unmoored from its origins enough that it can be safely used. “I can’t be objective and fair about this” is a decent alternative, I guess.

                4. Eye of Sauron*

                  An alternative would be ‘horse in this race’ but I think the dog reference is well enough known not to come off as aggressive.

                5. KHB*

                  I think what rubs me a the wrong way about “dog in the fight” (or the less aggressive-sounding “horse in the race”) is that it frames the situation as an ongoing competition between Jack and Jill – which, from Jill’s perspective, it really isn’t.

                  It’s not as colorful, but “I’m not a disinterested party here” avoids all problematic implications (I think).

                6. Snark*

                  KHB, I think that’s splitting hairs a bit. It’s an ongoing situation, and those phrases are commonly used to connote a conflict of interest without necessarily implying competition.

                7. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  Dog fights are horrible and brutal, and this is one of those phrases that needs to die out as a sign that we’re becoming a more enlightened society. As I said below, I’ve been cringing every time I’ve read it on this thread, and am somewhat surprised that so many people are defending it as “neutral”. It’s not.

      2. STG*

        I don’t think Jill has a right to be airing her dirty relationship laundry in the work place even if there wasn’t a sibling involved though.

    4. Where's the Le-Toose?*

      I wouldn’t talk to Jill at all because there is no upside for the OP.

      Let’s assume Jill is exaggerating everything that happened with Jack. Do you think that Jill will simply stop talking about it because the OP is Jack’s sister? Noooooooooooo! Jill will probably double down and go to HR, claiming that now OP is harassing Jill. And if Jill has any credibility with HR or executive management, the only thing that will happen is that the OP will be given a talking to. There is no winning that fight. You can’t out crazy crazy.

      And let’s look at the issue through the lens that Jill is being 100% honest about Jack and that Jill is a really good employee. She’s upset and verbalizing it. The OP talking to Jill will probably come off as the OP bashing her brother’s victim, and there may be consequences for the OP with HR and OP’s coworkers/managers if Jill is being honest.

      Time is the only thing that will resolve this issue. Jill will either move on and stop bringing it up all on her own or she won’t. And if she doesn’t stop, then the OP and other employees can bring it up to management if it is truly interfering with their work.

      1. Jules the 3rd*


        In a year, if it’s still coming up regularly, then ‘That’s old news, can we move on?’ is reasonable. Right now, it’s a no-win. If Jill is exaggerating, OP loses when Jill takes it out on OP; if Jill is telling the truth, OP loses when Jill comes back with more info.

      2. Leela*

        I give OP the benefit of a doubt that Jill was passive aggressive, shot barbs, and argued with Jack. Considering this, talking to Jill will most likely result in this behavior now being directed toward OP specifically instead of at the brother.

        The office narrative will become “Jack abused Jill, and then Jack’s sibling tried to shut Jill up! Can you BELIEVE that family?” I wish it weren’t true but well…I’ve worked in offices before:/

        I think that talking to management about being sensitive to the fact that this is the family member of a current employee being discussed like this is the best option here. And OP please don’t quit, as awful as this is! Not until you have an offer

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I wouldn’t say a damn word to Jill, only to my manager, and only as Alison recommended if even that. Anything else would look biased no matter how you worded it.

      Just no. It’s not a good idea to speak up, though I understand how frustrating this is.

      1. valentine*

        Anything OP says to/about Jill will smell like it’s coming from Jack. This could affect his references and Jill’s employment.

    6. This Daydreamer*

      Unless Jill is approaching the OP to talk aout this, I’d stay quiet. If she is complaining about Jack to the OP, then I think it would be a good idea for her to simply say “Please leave me out of this. He’s my brother and I don’t want to talk about this at work.”

  7. Kalros, the mother of all thresher maws*

    Jack and Jill shat where they ate; don’t try to clean it up with your bare hands.

    Also, however protective you may feel of your brother, don’t assume Jill is lying for revenge.

  8. Rusty Shackelford*

    My instinct had been to tell Jack to cool it, but I remained out of it and didn’t say a word since it wasn’t my business.

    That was a good instinct and you should stick with it. At most, if someone questions you directly about Jill’s accusations, you could point out that they’re only hearing one side of the story.

    1. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’m not sure I’d go with that line. It’s true but the OP would be casting doubt on an alleged sexual assault victim’s story. That can stir up more drama

      If anyone asks, the OP should say she doesn’t know what happened and wants to do her job.

      1. Seriously?*

        Possibly she can say that she is very uncomfortable hearing gossip about her brother, especially when he can’t defend himself. That might also go over poorly, but at least puts the focus on the OP’s feelings. She really shouldn’t be forced to listen to it often.

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          Aligning it as gossip is going to also have negative connotations and reflect poorly on the OP, whether it is gossip. Suggesting that the brother should be able to defend himself also isn’t going to go over well- it implies there’s some reason/justification for his actions or that Jill is wrong. Given that some people think Jill is a victim (and she might be), it’s just going to come off that the OP thinks Jack’s actions can be defended.

          I don’t think she should have to listen to this, but I don’t think making it about the OP’s feelings is going to help this situation at all.

          1. Seriously?*

            Yes that was poor phrasing. I still think that pointing out how uncomfortable the OP is would be the best way to go since she said she finds the situation intolerable.

          2. Trout 'Waver*

            But what do you do when people are gossiping about baseless and false accusations of assault? We don’t know what the truth is here, but it’s really, really damaging to the victims of false accusations to say that they can never cast even a shred of doubt on their accusers.

            1. Tuxedo Cat*

              Well, the letter writer isn’t the victim of a false accusation nor a witness to the situation nor is she in a position to investigate this without considerable bias. Your comment doesn’t really apply in this situation.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                Your comment is phrased in very general terms that seem to encompass all similar scenarios.

            2. Tuxedo Cat*

              If the letter writer were the accused, then he should align the evidence best he can and determine his best course of action. I had a friend who was falsely accused of sexual harassment and that’s what he did. He chose to go forward some kind of trial. He was also acquitted of the accusation (was on a completely different continent, well documented).

            3. Jessie the First (or second)*

              “But what do you do when people are gossiping about baseless and false accusations of assault?”

              But the OP *does not know* if it is false or not. The OP loves her brother, and wants it to be false, and hopes it is false, and therefore believes it is false. But OP doesn’t know, and so shouldn’t intervene in conversations with the assumption that it’s false.

              The most would be to say something along the lines of “this is about my brother, and so I really don’t feel comfortable hearing about any of this” and changing the subject.

              If OP somehow magically actually knew this all was objectively false she could be more direct – but she doesn’t, so she can’t.

    2. Traffic_Spiral*

      See, I think *that* was the time to step in and say “bro, I get that you’re having a hard time now, but this really isn’t office-appropriate. Bringing your personal relationship drama into the office is gonna make you look bad – you need to keep the arguments to your off-hours and be professional so long as you’re here.”

      That would have been an appropriate thing to say to a sibling-coworker. The current mess, however, is not something she can get involved in.

  9. March Madness*

    I’m sorry, OP. This is truly a tough spot to be in.

    When coworkers ask how she is, she implies that she was being abused by Jack and says she is glad to be free. On one occasion, she even implied that he had tried to sexually assault her, which made me see red. I know that she is just angry over the breakup and this is her way of getting “revenge.”

    With all due respect: you don’t know that it’s a lie. There are plenty of perfectly pleasant people who abuse their partner, and as recent events have shown again and again, the general understanding of what constitutes ‘consent’ remains very poor (and is poorer among men than among women). Maybe these are baseless accusations, but you don’t know for sure.

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      If someone made these accusations against my brother I would be furious too. But we’ve seen lately as part of the #MeToo movement and especially the accusations of sexual coercion against Aziz Ansari, people do things that they don’t think are bad until someone shines a light on them. I sincerely hope that this isn’t what happened but I understand your desire to deny this and defend him to your coworkers.

      1. March Madness*

        Yes, I can always understand that people want to defend loved ones. It’s a natural reaction, a gut reaction. But at the same time it’s worthwhile to remember you don’t know everything about family members. I remember a couple of relevant studies – one of them showed that the overwhelming majority of men say they’ve never raped anoyne. But if you ask whether them they’ve ever forced someone to have sex, or if they ever had sex with a very drunk person, or if they ever had sex with a person who didn’t seem into it at all, the number change drastically.

        1. Susan Sto Helit*

          There’s a current case in the UK right now – two men broke into the home of an elderly couple armed with a screwdriver, forced the man into the kitchen whilst his wife was upstairs, and one of the men ended up being stabbed to death.

          Despite the fact that their loved one died /whilst committing a violent robbery in someone else’s home/, the dead man’s family, whilst understandable grieving, are extremely angry and defensive about his death, even erecting a massive shrine to him directly opposite this couple’s house. They don’t care what he did, or why he died – just that he’s gone.

          1. Discordia Angel Jones*

            In fact, the couple haven’t even been home since the incident, because the family are threatening him and are “out for revenge” according to friends of the family.

            1. Discordia Angel Jones*

              Also, the shrine has now been taken down by someone because it was so inappropriate.

          2. Anion*

            Yes, I’ve seen news about that one. Absolutely disgusting, the behavior of those people–we see it here, too, unfortunately, and it’s disgusting every time. Defending oneself is a basic human right.

          3. Temperance*

            There was a similar case in the US last year, where an elderly woman shot an intruder after he targeted her multiple times (IIRC). His family denounced her in the press, and defended their criminal relative because he needed money for sneakers.

    2. Katniss*

      Yup. LW, unless you were literally in the room for the entirely of their relationship, you really have no idea whether or not he actually abused her.

    3. I Coulda Been a Lawyer ;)*

      OP I would have been the one to testify that my ex would never hurt a fly … right up until about a day before he assaulted me. If you weren’t there, you don’t know.

    4. LouiseM*

      Yup, very much agreed. Thanks for bringing this up. I’m sorry to say I’ve ended some friendships over this (as in, my friend chose to stay friends with a known abuser). It can be so very painful, especially the ones that happened when we were quite young and didn’t know much about the world, but ultimately my life is better now that I’m surrounded by only people with moral courage.

    5. Triple Anon*

      Ideally, someone should refer Jill to some kind of actual support service for people who have been sexually assaulted or abused, and then advise her to stop talking about it at work, at least within earshot of Jack’s sister.

      You have to err on the side of taking those kinds of statements seriously, regardless of what you suspect to be true. But leaving the sister of the accused out of it is also a reasonable expectation.

    6. Jules the 3rd*

      Many behaviors that one person or family think are ‘normal’, another person might find as ‘abusive’. Take the silent treatment. Barbie yells, Ken stops talking. Barbie is socialized to expect yelling back – a ‘lively’ exchange of opinions. Ken is socialized to see yelling as the precursor to physical abuse, and only silence sometimes deflects. Ken stops talking for a couple of days, until he feels safe again. Barbie sees this as manipulative or punishment. Both partners have an example of abuse to pull out for the audience.

      I’ve seen this one happen IRL; I witnessed the yelling, the silence, etc between two roommates once. I know Barbie told other people that Ken gave her the silent treatment, because they told me she had when they were trying to explain why Ken was getting the boot from their social group. I explained why she was full of it as I walked out the door.

      Abuse is complex. It’s not always obvious from inside or out. It took me months to realize that what I was witnessing wasn’t just normal fights. If I’d seen just one, I wouldn’t have figured it out.

      So OP, as Alison says, you really do not have standing to protest Jill’s take on this. You can sympathize with and support your brother, but just keep away from Jill, at work or elsewhere. At best, she’s manipulative and awful and any direct interaction will blow up on you; at worst, she’s a traumatized survivor who doesn’t need more from your family.

      1. Triple Anon*

        Yes. And culture comes into it too. Even slight cultural differences, like between regions of the US, can make a difference. What seems like yelling to one person seems like talking loudly to another. Obviously, a lot of abuse has nothing to do with things like that. But there can be misunderstandings. It’s good to talk about culture and communication early on so you can try to avoid that stuff.

    7. Anon for Reasons*

      And, the tendency of people to believe their beloved man (son, friend, brother, what have you) over the woman is why it’s such a pervasive problem.

      When I was assaulted by a friend of friends (I met him at a gathering hosted by my core group of friends at the time), I told them about the incident because obviously I didn’t ever want to see him again and I wanted them to know that he had done this so they wouldn’t set up anyone else with him.

      They blamed me for the attack and didn’t really believe my version of events at all after asking Assaulter about it, and then they ghosted me. Before I unfriended them all on Facebook, I saw that they’d just had a big party for Assaulter “Because We Love Him.”

      Before you decide that she’s lying, OP, you need to consider that she might not be.

  10. LBK*

    Most people in your office are going to want to move on, not sort out what did or didn’t happen in this relationship.

    This is really the crux of it, I think – you’re the only one who has a vested interest in adjudicating the situation and trying to get some kind of justice for your brother being fired and Jill staying. As far as the rest of the office is probably concerned, the matter is now settled because the exes have been split up. You need to treat this as though you’d never met Jack a day in your life before you started working together.

    Whether Jill’s behavior was or continues to be egregious enough at the office that she also deserves to be fired, there’s no way in hell you’re going to look like an objective witness to the situation, so you really don’t have standing here to do anything. Frankly, this is one of the reasons it’s not a great idea to work with a sibling (and “it was fine up until now” doesn’t really matter because…well, now it’s not fine). I’d consider this a lesson learned and move on.

    1. Antilles*

      As far as the rest of the office is probably concerned, the matter is now settled because the exes have been split up.
      And frankly, if Jill continues to bring it up herself, it won’t take long for the rest of the office to get sick and tired of endlessly hearing her complain about her ex.

    2. LouiseM*

      Agreed. OP, I get that this is a big deal to you, but it probably isn’t to your other coworkers.

      1. Triple Anon*

        I think it’s hard to tell. Who knows how close Jill is with the co-workers. Who knows what their thoughts are on all of it. I’d just ask her to stop involving the OP in it. I think that’s all you can realistically do.

  11. Let's Talk About Splett*

    If Jill really was causing as much drama as Jack than there’s a pretty good chance your coworkers are taking what she says about him now with a grain of salt anyway.

    1. Trout 'Waver*

      Totally agree. I get the urge to set the record straight, but reasonable people don’t judge other people based on what angry exes say about them, absent other information. If someone is so flippant as to have their impression of Jack irrevocably changed by an angry ex, they probably aren’t that consequential in the grand scheme of things.

  12. MuseumChick*

    OP, let me share a (non-work related story)

    I have a brother, Fergus, who was a married a very sweet but slightly ditzy woman, Jane. They dated for five years before getting married and presented as a very solid couple. Not one year after the wedding they were getting divorced. It turned out the Jane was cheating on Fergus with a close friend. My whole family immediately deemed Jane the bad guy and were glad to be rid of her….until a few years later. It came out that my brother, who presented as such a stand-up guy had, on at least one occasion hit Jane. We have reason to believe it happened several times over their 6 year relationship.

    You just don’t know what goes on between a couple unless you are in the relationship. I’m not saying that your brother did anything bad, but you just can’t say either way for sure.

    This is why it’s a bad idea to work with family even when you are not in each others management chain. How would you view this situation if it was just some random male co-worker and not your brother?

    1. CMDRBNA*

      ^^ This. The only people who really know what’s going on in a relationship are the people in that relationship.

      MuseumChick, I’m really sorry – that’s an awful thing to learn about someone you love.

      1. MuseumChick*

        Thank you. It was honestly, devastating to learn that a male family member who I had grown up with and who had been so the opposite of how you think men who hit women would act turn out to be an abuser. Due to this and several other GIANT things we found out about my brother (he had been lying to the family about a lot of stuff for years) most of the family doesn’t speak to him anymore.

        But back then, if I didn’t have the evidence I have, I would vehemently defend him from any accusation of abuse.

        1. Super Duper Anon For This*

          I feel for you. My brother was taken under my abusive father’s wing and I’ve noticed he’s picked up some unfortunate attitudes from him. I don’t know how he’s treated his significant others. He is a nice guy in a lot of ways. But some of the things he says and the views he holds . . . It’s heartbreaking because he was such a sweet kid and I watched my father teach him to be a certain way.

        2. Mayati*

          Hey, you’re not alone. My brother too. I believed the allegations right away (they echoed patterns from our childhood, and my work keeps me aware of just how rare false allegations of this kind of abuse are), but I’d never have guessed he was an abuser up until that moment — he was my sweet little brother who’d never hurt a fly, right?

          Abusers are just ordinary people, often charming ones who are well-loved in their communities and extended families. They’re usually not movie-style psychopaths (not that you can tell who’s a psychopath all that easily) or indiscriminate ragebeasts. If abusers weren’t likable, even lovable, nobody would get close enough to them to get abused in the first place, and nobody would have a reason to stay. And yeah, false allegations about abuse happen, but they’re quite rare. Abuse itself is pretty common.

          You have my deep sympathies. It’s a hell of a thing to go through and our culture really doesn’t have much of a way of talking about this sort of…loss, I guess.

          1. Triple Anon*

            I think that’s very well put. But there is a pattern where abusers accuse the abused person of whatever they did to them; they tell the story but reverse the rolls. Or they describe the other person’s defensive reaction as if there was nothing to provoke it. I’ve seen that happen a number of times. So now my initial reaction to those kinds of stories is, “It sounds like there was abuse, but who knows what actually happened.”

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              I have experienced this reaction, and I get it. My path now is to offer sympathy and recommend separation and a therapist, to the point of ‘here’s some good ones in the area’.

              And then I spend some time thinking about all my interactions with the people involved. I’ve usually found some supporting evidence – a man who doesn’t stop giving me a ‘friendly massage’ even though I’ve told him repeatedly I don’t like it and don’t want him to touch me; a man who gets aggressive or argumentative when drinking; a woman who throws mean nicknames or back handed compliments, even after being asked to stop. There haven’t been many, and I’ve had an unusual amount of access to at least one of them, but I’m learning to see the pattern.

              The hard part is seeing those as a pattern despite the charm. I have become very distrustful of charm.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      I’m really sorry you had to go through this. My abuser’s family still thinks he’s a saint and was my victim, even though the police were involved and sided with me.

    3. BadReference*

      We found out my cousin’s wife was an abuser. We loved her like family. Helped her through everything.

      He had PTSD from being in the most violent conflicts in the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Whenever she got mad at him, she would hit him and yell at the top of her lungs until he had a full on panic attack. Then she would make fun of him.

      He was afraid to say anything because he’s been raised that men are Men and can’t be abused.

      We had no idea. None. It was heartbreaking. I wish we could have been there for him.

      1. Samata*

        That is absolutely heart wrenching. I am so sorry for your family and most of all your cousin.

    4. Coywolf*

      I’m very confused as to how this can happen, did you not grow up around your brother? I grew up around my brothers and know what they are capable of. I can never understand how siblings can blindside each other with this type of thing.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        The only person you ever really know is yourself. You never see the totality of someone’s personality. And some things you don’t share, or know to hide. And people sometimes change for the worse, regardless of upbringing.

        There’s things my sister does I didn’t know, and that have surprised me (completely for the good!) when I found out about them.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        Some behaviours only show up in certain dynamics. Think of folks you know who are lovely to their friends but nasty to customer service staff, or who are wonderful to you but rude and sarcastic with their parents. Particularly when you add some of the toxic messages people can pick up about romantic relationships, it’s easy for me to imagine someone who is different in most other contexts.

  13. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    Do. Not. Intervene. That will only guarantee that the drama will go on for much, much, MUCH longer.

    It is one of the hardest things to do, to listen to someone bash someone you love and are close to. But don’t get drawn into this. Drama like this has a way of sucking people in so that it lives on. Stay strong and avoid it. That’s the only way to make sure it withers up and blows over.

  14. Just my 2 cents*

    I agree with Alison that this one is not yours to handle, especially at your workplace.

    But I also want to add that accusations of abuse and sexual assault are a very serious matter. I think you should tell your brother what is being said about him. If he is as innocent as you think he is, then he might want to pursue legal actions for libel. If he is innocent then this can very seriously damage his reputation and make it difficult to find another job, especially it your professional circle is small.

    1. The Original Flavored K*

      A) Jill’s actions would be slander, not libel.
      b) Pursuing this as a slander issue is a bad idea — he not only has to prove that it isn’t true, he has to prove that he has been injured in some way. As he has already been fired from this job for cause, the idea that she is damaging his reputation any more than he already did and that he is right now somehow being penalized for it would be laughed at.

    2. pennilynnlott*

      I’m not sure that this is helpful. It’s not illegal to talk about having been abused or sexually assaulted, and I’m not sure what action the brother could take that wouldn’t make things worse?

        1. What's with today, today?*

          Slander. Libel is only applicable if you are a public figure, and is extremely hard to prove.

          1. Cordoba*

            Not true.

            Slander is oral defamation, libel is written defamation.

            Both are applicable to public figures and ordinary people.

            The bar to *prove* libel is actually higher for public figures.

          2. Ray Gillette*

            That’s not true at all.

            Slander is spoken. Libel is written. That’s the difference.

            There are different burdens of proof for public versus private citizens, but they absolutely apply to everyone.

          3. TootsNYC*

            the reason they’re not the same thing is that stuff written down lasts longer and has a greater reach. So it’s a bigger deal.

            Otherwise they’re identical.

      1. randomcomment*

        I don’t think legal action would help him. But if he is innocent, he should know she is saying these things about him and it may affect his job prospects. He may want to directly address it, that he made the mistake of getting involved with someone he worked with and he has learned from it and won’t date anyone he works with again.

    3. Thlayli*

      This. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not. Either way it’s probably going to affect Jack’s references and possibly his reputation within the industry.

      I think OP absolutely has the right to tell Jack what’s being said about him in the office.

      I agree with Alison and other commenters though – don’t confront Jill yourself. If your brother wants to take legal action against her let him do so.

      1. Luna*

        How would that help the OP though? Everyone in the office would know that the OP was the one who told her brother about it. It would only escalate the situation, and they might decide to fire OP.

    4. Cordoba*

      It seems like that the most likely outcome of this approach will be to turn what will likely be a short-duration accusation that only a few people know about into a permanent public record that will be the first thing that comes up when somebody Googles Jack’s name for the rest of his life.

      It will also likely cost a lot of money.

    5. Observer*

      Jack probably needs to know what Jill is saying. But suing her for slander is almost certainly a terrible idea – even if he could make the case stick, which is unlikely. Remember, he’d have to prove that she’s lying, and that’s not easy to do, even if she really is.

      Take, for instance, the accusation that he tried to rape her. Best case for him, it would be her word against his. Given that his public behavior was far from spotless and an event like this would have been private, it would be extremely difficult to prove that he actually didn’t do this.

      So, he’d be out a LOT of money, the accusations would now be far more visible and findable, and he’d come off as vindictive or worse. For what?

      1. Turquoisecow*

        I don’t think he needs to know.

        He’s not in a relationship with her. He’s not working with her.

        Unless Jill is doing something to harm his professional relationship (ie, discussing his behavior with vendors or clients), this information is just going to upset him. Or, if he is an abuser with an anger management problem, put Jill in danger.

        It sounds like right now, coworkers say “how are you?” and she says something like “oh, much better since my abusive ex got fired!”, that’s not nearly as bad as her walking around talking about it nonstop.

        The job is over. The relationship is over. Jack needs to move on from both.

    6. Circus peanuts*

      I think that will stir things up again because if Jack contacts Jill about it, the situation would have three people to gossip and wonder about in the office. Jill would then be talking both the sister and the brother.

    7. Just my 2 cents*

      I will respectfully disagree with some of the comments above. The point I was trying to make is that if Jack is innocent then he ‘might’ want to pursue legal action. So OP should loop him in on what is being said about him rather than keep him in the dark.

      I 100% agree with his firing because his actions warranted it. But a few commentors made the argument that Jack would just be making things worse for himself and should let it blow over. I personally believe that being labelled as an abuser and sexual predator is a lot worse than being fired for yelling at coworker/ex-girlfriend at work. If their industry is small, these rumours could very well get around and destroy any chance he has at finding another job. I also think the idea that people should stay quiet because they “wouldn’t want more people to know” or because “there’s no chance of winning” is a damaging attitude to have. This is why we have had such strong movements to encourage the voice of sexual assault and abuse victims. Of course in this case we’re dealing with the scenario of someone being potentially falsely accused, but I think the message should be the same.

      Also want to add that pursing legal action doesn’t mean taking a case to court. The majority of legal cases are resolved long before that point. If Jack isn’t pursuing monetary damages and just want to protect his reputation (Get Jill to stop discussing their relationship, making sure nothing about these rumours are mentioned if the company is contacted for reference, etc.), then a lot of times a letter from a lawyer can be enough to achieve that.

      1. Anion*

        Yes, agreed. Normally I am very, very firmly on the “Don’t tell them” side, to the point that I advise my children that if someone ever comes to them to pass on a “So-and-so said this about you,” they should view the passer-on as suspect.

        But this isn’t just gossip, these are allegations that could seriously damage his life and career. All it takes is for one job to pass on him because they’ve heard he assaulted his girlfriend (assuming it isn’t true for the sake of this particular point), and there’s a big problem.

        LW, have a serious talk with your brother. He may not want to consider legal action (I wouldn’t, either, and I doubt it’s the best idea in this situation), but forewarned is forearmed, and who knows–maybe it will encourage him to stop all contact with Jane and move on, or maybe he can somehow fix the reason for all the anger from Jane and they can both move on more peacefully.

        And if it is true, well, his reaction might give you some insight into that.

        1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend*

          The OP asking their brother to consider legal action is NOT the way to “encourage him to stop all contact with Jane and move on.” This only ratchets up the conflict to a point that it doesn’t need to get to. OP, do not do this.

          1. Chatterby*

            If Jack is aware of Jill’s behavior, he can guard against further accusations by not contacting Jill except through neutral third parties so there is always a witness or record–and he should be strongly encouraged by the LW to take such precautions. Plus, that 3rd party person would act as a filter for a lot of the emotional stuff which will aid in encouraging good behavior from both Jack and Jill.
            The LW is not neutral and should not volunteer for this position.
            Jack should discretely reach out to his references and check in to gauge whether his career aspects are being harmed and he needs to do damage control, or if the incident will blow over.

        2. CarolynM*

          I agree with you completely. When my ex husband made some wild accusations to me about my father, I told my dad. Now, my ex had known mental health struggles, the accusation that my father tried to kill him could have been shot down by any number of facts, and no police or authorities were involved … but I felt strongly my dad needed to know what was being said about him. I didn’t share that info with my dad to gossip or stir up drama – he is the least dramatic person I know and I told him to keep it between us since the rest of my family didn’t need to know. It was good information to have in case more came of the situation and if he had any interactions with my ex, he would know to be very guarded and careful.

          You ever get the feeling that you are the only one in the conversation who doesn’t know the whole story and you are operating from a loss? Telling people important* things that are being said behind their back can prevent them from experiencing this.

          *Important, as in the information can have serious implications and not knowing it could cause more harm, not petty snipes like what someone thinks of their new haircut …

      2. Luna*

        I mean, as we’ve seen from recent news even known serial sexual predators were able to maintain successful careers for decades, so the idea that Jack’s life/career would definitely be ruined by a few vague comments made by an ex is really not very plausible.

    8. Yorick*

      I don’t think OP needs to tell Jack what Jill’s been saying, unless she spreads it so far and it’s so well believed that it affects him directly, for example, if she told potential new employers and he’s having trouble finding a job. Even then, you could simply tell him that Jill knows someone at New Company and might have said something.

      Telling someone what others say about them is just a way to increase the drama.

    9. Mad Baggins*

      If I were OP I might talk to my brother, not to warn him or suggest he take legal action, but to see if those accusations were true. I don’t know if that would get me the full/true story because I doubt it feels like abuse to the abuser. But I couldn’t listen to someone badmouth a family member, and I couldn’t live with myself wondering if they were right.

      1. Observer*

        Even if Jack were an abuser and KNEW it was abuse, the odds of him telling his sister would be low, so this is not a useful tactic.

  15. Susan Sto Helit*

    If Jill knows you’re related, it’s a little insensitive for her to continue to say things like this in your hearing (unless that’s the point, and she’s hoping you’ll repeat all this back to your brother). But it’s hard to see how you can say anything, beyond a brief “I don’t want to be involved, and I’d prefer it if you’d avoid discussing this in front of me.”

    You can’t question the truth of what she’s saying, or stop her from talking about it, but you can perhaps remind her and your co-workers that some discretion when you’re in earshot might be more appropriate.

    1. Snark*

      That’s a great script. “I can’t get involved in this, so I’m going to step out of this discussion” is another. You simply cannot come out swinging to defend your brother.

      1. Snark*

        “Hey, I’ve got a dog in the fight, so I’m just trying to keep my head down and stay out of it,” is also a totally legitimate thing to say.

        1. LBK*

          I like this a lot – I think acknowledging that the OP can’t be objective is a much better move than trying to appear neutral, which will fool no one and still ultimately takes Jack’s side by not agreeing with Jill’s side.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          I agree with the comments above, that ‘dog in the fight’ is pretty aggressive.

          You’re calling Jill a dog, which is not a good look.

          1. Snark*

            No, I’m not. I’m using a ubiquitous colloquialism for conflicts of interest or an inability to be objective, broadly and reasonably construed as such. It’s really a reach to characterize that as calling Jill a dog, or to construe it as aggressive, unless you’re inclined to parse all colloquial speech with rigorous literalness.

    2. J.B.*

      Perfect response. If it continues then OP has something specific to take to her manager and focus on getting the talk around her to stop.

    3. Not a Blossom*

      The only time I can think that the OP could possibly say something is if Jill is saying something that the OP knows for a fact to be true because she was there, and even then the strongest thing she should say is “That’s not how I remember it.”

      However, I agree with everyone that the best thing to do is just stay out of it. It will be better for the OP in the long run in terms of both her work reputation and her mental health.

    4. sunshyne84*

      That’s what I’m thinking. She’s probably hoping to get OP riled up and fired as well. I would just go to my manager and have them stop all discussion regarding the situation and ignore her.

      1. Kathletta*

        That’s a really harsh thing to say – all we know is that Jill and Jack had a volatile relationship, not that she’s on some vendetta to destroy his family.

    5. Mulher na selva*

      OP has to take responsibility for her own responses, and this is equally true whether Jill is lying or not. I would advise OP to respond to any conversation about jack in the way I would anyone who was being upset by some conversation that stirred up some really difficult emotions – make a simple she cannot participate in the conversation, walk away, and speak to the boss about it if it continues.
      The other thing is, this speculation that Jill is perhaps doing this so OP will go back and tell her brother, well, to put it succinctly, seems like an iffy strategy with many potential negative outcomes, and DOES NOT change the advice for OP one whit.

      1. Susan Sto Helit*

        I absolutely agree that it shouldn’t change the advice, and she shouldn’t get involved. I also, unlike many of the other commenters here, think it would be kinder not to tell Jack what Jill is saying about him. The situation is already bad enough for him, so don’t say anything that might make him feel he needs to continue involving himself.

        I do, however, have some experience with the strategy of ‘continue a conflict by proxy’. I broke off contact with a guy for various abusive behaviours (including, ironically, him yelling at me in public). He started engaging in various petty revenges. I ignored them, so he started telling my friends and/or talking loudly within earshot of my friends about what an awful person I am and how he’s going to get his own back.

        Luckily none of his plots so far are anything that’s actually going to harm me, only annoy me, so I continue to ignore them. When people are angry they do a lot of things that don’t necessarily make sense, though. (And caveat: I don’t want to suggest that Jill is making anything up, either. This is an anecdote about one of my experiences, not intended as a direct analogy with the OP’s situation here, which I don’t know enough about to cast judgement on.)

        1. Lehigh*

          That’s a good point, but I would add one caveat: If Jack starts to make any trying-to-get-back-together-with-Jill noises, then I think the OP should level with him.

  16. Snark*

    First off: I realize this is your brother and you’d rather not consider him an abuser, but a) it’s a bad look for someone with a dog in the fight to reject the claims of a possible abuse victim out of hand and b) historically, claims of abuse or mistreatment get the angry and defensive reaction you’re experiencing, and so are not generally levelled trivially and casually. Yelling at a silent woman in the workplace is a sufficiently bad look that I’m not inclined to automatically agree with your assessment that she’s just talking shit and spreading dramas, even if I don’t have any direct evidence.

    Second: an angry, one-sided couple fight at work is 100% a reason to fire someone. It shows a depth of poor judgment and ill-defined boundaries that would not make me want to continue to employ them, particularly in the age of #metoo and its rousing demonstration of how standing idly by while an abuser abuses can come back to haunt the bosses and coworkers. I don’t know whether your brother actually abused her or not, as noted above, but. This is the kind of thing dudes now get fired for. And he did that all by himself.

    Third: Do not involve yourself. You’ve so obviously got a dog in the fight that any attempt to confront Jill is going to make you look awful. Stay out of it, stay quiet, and let it blow over. His name is not yours to clear, and you stand an excellent chance of burning your job and career if you make this a Thing.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Yes, he definitely got fired for his own actions. Whether or not Jill also deserved to be fired is not relevant to whether Jack himself did, and from what you’ve described, OP, he did.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I would also add that if OP is worried about Jack’s future employment prospects, the best thing she can do is be supportive with his job search. I doubt he’ll be unemployed forever more. Plenty of resources have advice on how to frame his firing in interviews, including this website.

    3. So long and thanks for all the fish*

      I’m sorry if this is too off-topic or seems nit-picky, but Snark, could you please stop using that expression in this thread (with a dog in the fight)? It’s making me cringe every time I read it on this thread, and seems like unnecessarily violent imagery for the OP to use, especially given the allegations of domestic violence against her brother.

      1. Snark*

        It’s a commonly-used enough phrase in this sort of situation that I honestly didn’t think twice about it, but I’m happy to pick another phrase.

            1. Siobhan*

              It seems you did my dude. You have liberally littered the comments with the phrase even after knowing of the discomfort it was causing to others.

      2. Kathletta*

        I agree, I think the imagery is too aggressive when her “dog” is being accused of abuse.

    4. Genny*

      Agree with your points, but it wasn’t an argument with a silent woman. Both of them were arguing, the exec just happened to walk by while Jack was the one yelling. I don’t disagree with the decision to fire him (and I’d be willing to bet this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back), but it doesn’t sound like Jill was the victim of that argument.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          Nor do you, despite stating it as “an angry, one-sided couple fight at work” and ” Yelling at a silent woman in the workplace”.

          1. Snark*

            @bawab and trout ‘waver: The letter states they were arguing, not that they were both yelling. And I’m comfortable with assuming that “talking heatedly” is equal to yelling, or at least a berating, angry tone, because frankly I think OP is using minimizing language throughout the letter.

            1. Trout 'Waver*

              I’m just taking the letter writer at their word and not inferring based on my own biases, as we’re asked to do in the commenting rules.

            2. PSB*

              The letter doesn’t say anyone was yelling. You’re pointing to the wording of the letter where it helps you and ignoring it where it doesn’t. If you get to make assumptions, so does everyone else.

              1. Snark*

                The letter says they were both arguing, and he was “talking heatedly.” As I said, given that the letter tends to use minimizing language, and given that his behavior was enough to get him fired on the spot (!), I am comfortable with my assumptions – and they come with the bonus of not assuming the accuser is lying or equally culpable, which are not assumptions I am comfortable with these days.

                1. LouiseM*

                  What minimizing language is the OP using? She said the breakup was as bad as the worst possible office romance gone wrong you can imagine.

  17. Lara*

    “I know that she is just angry over the breakup and this is her way of getting “revenge.””

    Do you?

    Additionally office gossip can be a scourge; unless you’ve heard this directly from Jill’s own mouth I wouldn’t assume she even said it.

    1. SheLooksFamiliar*

      So very true. Post-breakup gossip is always questionable, and office gossip is particularly so. OP, please don’t make too many assumptions about Jack OR Jill. I wish I were not the voice of experience on this.

  18. MakesThings*

    Many abusers have siblings who love them very much.
    I have no idea whether Jack is an abuser, but just because you love him, doesn’t mean he is or isn’t.

  19. Cordoba*

    Getting fired is a foreseeable reasonable outcome of having a shouting match with an ex at work; I don’t think Jack is being treated unreasonably. I’ve dated co-workers, and fully expect that if a colleague observed me yelling at them at the office I’d be fired immediately.

    Good for your higher-up who apparently has no patience for that sort of thing.

    LW should not get involved. The gossip mill will move on to something else in the near future.

    Regardless of what happened in their relationship there is no benefit to trying to defend Jack’s “reputation” at a place where he no longer works, it will only make LW look bad and prolong the gossip.

    If Jill approaches LW about it LW should de-escalate in a way that is unambiguous and polite. I’d recommend something to the effect of “I’m not my brother and don’t want to be involved with this. How about we just try to give each other space when we can, and work together like professionals if we have to.”

  20. Ice and Indigo*

    “I know that she is just angry over the breakup and this is her way of getting “revenge.””

    You really don’t, you know. You may *believe* it, but you can’t know it. And you certainly can’t prove it.

    Look, if it’s true, confronting Jill and demanding she admit she’s lying is traumatizing someone who’s been abused. And if it’s not true, Jill must be comfortable enough with deceit that confronting her and demanding she swear to something you can’t possibly prove won’t do anything other than make you look bad.

    I’d say it was perfectly fair to tell the manager that you feel caught in the middle because Jack is your brother and you’d like the subject kept away from you, but clearing his name? Since he’s been fired, his reputation is no longer the workplace’s problem. If you really can’t cope with that, then looking for another job with no family drama associated with it is probably your only option.

    I understand being on your brother’s side, but look, even if he wasn’t abusive, he’s not guiltless in this. Jack and Jill both made their office romance a big, notable issue, both when it was going well and when it was going badly. That’s on him as well as on her. He put the subject of his relationship with Jill on the table, including his conflicts with her, just as much as she did. If you decided it wasn’t your business to tell him to cool it, it’s equally not your business to try and control Jill’s narrative. You’ve stayed out of it so far; that was your best strategy, and I’d stick to it.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Jack and Jill both made their office romance a big, notable issue, both when it was going well and when it was going badly.

      Yes to this. Ideally, nobody but the OP would have known they were dating, or maybe a few very close coworkers who knew how to keep their mouths shut. Dating at work is fraught with so many perils that it’s usually best to keep it on the down-low as much as possible. Hopefully Jack has learned this lesson, and/or will avoid it completely in future.

      Best not to add to this situation. The drama monster will eventually die if it’s not fed.

  21. Ainomiaka*

    The only person you really have standing to talk to in this case is Jack, as a sibling. The instinct to say cool it may have been helpful before if it was done outside of work. But at this point bringing more relationships to work is going to be the opposite of helping. There is nothing you could say about the relationship that wouldn’t at the least look like a huge conflict of interest. And the people pointing out that you can’t know if Jill is lying.

  22. Roscoe*

    I’m going to slightly disagree here. I think when someone is slandering someone to the point of accusing things like abuse and sexual assault, at some point that has to be dealt with. Like, of course OP can’t say for sure what did or didn’t happen, but I think its fair to speak up in the moment saying he isn’t here to defend himself, so maybe they shouldn’t be discussing this. I mean, this is something I would do for a friend as well. If my friend no longer worked at the company, and people started accusing him of actual crimes, I’d totally have no problem speaking up in the moment. So no its not “confronting” Jill, but it is a level of respect I feel is owed to people being gossiped about. I don’t really see how its any different than anyone being talked about behind their back and someone speaking up saying how its not right and it makes them uncomfortable. I think its odd that many times I’ve seen advice that if you aren’t comfortable with people trash talking the boss behind their back, then its fine to step in and say how its not right, but when its someone’s sibling and crimes being discussed, then its just supposed to be left alone

    1. Snark*

      “I think when someone is slandering someone to the point of accusing things like abuse and sexual assault, at some point that has to be dealt with. ”

      Maybe, but not by OP. She’s not impartial enough to decide where that point is, becuase she’s got a serious conflict of interest in the situation. Their bosses can clamp down on it if they see fit, but OP can’t make that call.

      1. Ainomiaka*

        +1. To steal a line from dear prudence, the OP is uniquely unqualified to do anything helpful here.

      2. Trout 'Waver*

        Strongly disagree. If you gossip about my loved ones in front of me, I will shut that shit down right away. You don’t have to be impartial to request people not gossip about people you care about in front of you.

        I’d probably start at, “I don’t think it’s a good time to be discussing that, what do you think of the Turner account?” and work my up if it continued, though.

        1. Snark*

          Your latter script about the Turner account is workable, and I agree that OP can decline to participate in such conversations, but “shutting that shit down” is absolutely going to come off as shutting down a potential abuse victim, not shutting down gossip about a loved one. There’s only so far she can insist without it looking so bad that it could damage her reputation, never mind protecting his.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            But the script about the Turner account is the first step of shutting that shit down. Reasonable and polite people recognize it for what it is and are respectful of the request. There is no compelling reason why Jill should be discussing the matter with the OP, and there is even less reason anyone should be relaying what Jill is saying to the OP.

            1. Snark*

              Right, but it’s also diplomatic and not aggressive. Escalating to aggression, even to defend family, would be a misstep here, I think. Particularly if this is a prelude to her taking legal action, which it may be.

                1. SCAnonibrarian*

                  Personally, ‘shut that shit down’ sounds pretty aggressive and hostile to me, but maybe it’s more of a catchphrase sort of thing?

          2. randomcomment*

            The LW isn’t an abuse counselor or HR. Even if what LW is saying is completely true and accurate, she has to be polite and civil to Jill because Jill’s a co-worker. But she doesn’t have to listen to or support Jill when Jill talks about her brother. As long as it’s delivered calmly and courteously, the Turner account approach is perfect.

    2. Captain S*

      Well for it to be slander it has to be false and damaging and I’m not sure that’s the case here for either.

      And even if Jill is spreading slanderous lies, OP simply cannot be the one to intervene. She has a dog in this fight and anything she says will necessarily be viewed as partisan as a result.

    3. Drew*

      I think its fair to speak up in the moment saying he isn’t here to defend himself, so maybe they shouldn’t be discussing this.

      Almost any other coworker would have the standing to say this. I don’t think the OP does, because of her close personal ties to the situation. I think the most she can do is ask Jill not to shit-talk Jack in her presence, and even that request would have to be made very carefully. (There are several good scripts above.)

      OP, I’m sorry; this sounds like a terribly uncomfortable and painful situation for you.

      1. Roscoe*

        See, but its still the OPs workplace as well, so she does have a right. Just like if I was just constantly shit talking any former co-worker, I think it would be fine for a current co-worker to say how its not appropriate. Its not about her being related, its about how appropriate these things are to talk about at work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s not that she doesn’t have a “right” to ask it in a vacuum. It’s about being aware of how people will perceive it because she’s Jack’s sister.

        2. Snark*

          Of course she’s got the right to, but nobody said she didn’t. We said it was a bad idea. You can always shoot your mouth off, but that doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea to.

        3. Buckeye*

          It’s a “you have a right to do whatever you want, but know that there are consequences” situation. In this case, the consequences are that the OP runs the risk of damaging her professional reputation because of her personal connection to the situation.

    4. pennilynnlott*

      Someone being accused of things like sexual assault or abuse is different than griping about the boss, though. Given the cultural shift that’s going on right now surrounding these issues, it feels pretty tone deaf to remind people that a possible abuser “isn’t around to defend himself”, especially when they were fired for abusive behavior.

      1. Snark*

        And….FFS, this isn’t Judge Judy. An abuse victim, if that’s what she is, is 100% free to speak their truth in public without making an airtight federal case out of it or allowing bystanders to cross-examine the accused.

        1. Alice*

          What does “their truth” even mean? If it’s the truth, it’s the truth. If “her truth” and “his truth” conflict with each other, then one of them (or maybe both of them) are not actually true.

          1. SCAnonibrarian*

            “Her truth” is an effort to acknowledge that what she is remembering as abuse may not have been intentional or purposeful on the other party’s side. It’s used when people are trying to head off long pointless arguments about ‘intent’ and ‘mutual abuse’ and other armchair internet quarterbacking.

            It’s still abuse, it still was damaging to her, but it tries to leave room for situations where people’s malformed coping methods or mental health status or horrid childhood examples (or whatever) are in play, as opposed to the stereotype of a raging dude in a ‘wife beater’ shirt with bloody fists.

            Jack may well be remembering things much differently, and that doesn’t make either of them ‘wrong’ – it just means that all people’s memories are highly influenceable, highly emotional, nearly endlessly malleable, and therefore not capable of being ‘objective truth’ and never will be.

    5. The Original Flavored K*

      And you know, if he were still at the company, I can see how this might be the company’s problem. As he is no longer employed there, resulting from his own very bad decisions, it is not the company’s problem.

      Furthermore, it’s possible (if unlikely) to be objective about a boss. It’s impossible to be objective about a sibling. So while saying, “Hm, that hasn’t been my experience with Fergus” is non-dramatic and pretty reasonable, saying, “Jack, my brother, was always nice to me, and what Jill is saying is very unlike the person I know,” is just going to give the impression of Oh God More Drama From This Family.

      At most, in public, I think the OP could get away with saying, “Hm, this sounds like something Jill should be talking to the police about,” and only if gossip is relayed directly to them.

      1. LBK*

        So while saying, “Hm, that hasn’t been my experience with Fergus” is non-dramatic and pretty reasonable

        I don’t think you can really say that if what’s being said about him is that he abuses his girlfriends unless maybe you’re his ex-girlfriend. Usually abusers are not equal opportunity, and part of their system of control is maintaining a flawless front to everyone outside the relationship because it makes it harder for the victim to convince people to help them.

        1. The Original Flavored K*

          Yyyyyyyyyeah, I must not have been clear there, because that was my entire point.

          Co-workers griping about our boss, Fergus: “That hasn’t been my experience with him,” that’s totally fine.

          Co-worker saying one’s brother, Jack, was abusive and may have sexually assaulted her: there is no way in hell one can actually say “that hasn’t been my experience with him” because one has never had a romantic relationship with one’s brother (I hope). And even saying, “That doesn’t sound like the Jack I always knew” is not going to go over well. It’s tone deaf, it’s continuing the family drama, and the truth is, Jack’s own public actions have made Jill’s story seem pretty damned plausible.

          1. LBK*

            Oh, gotcha, I was misunderstanding your comment – I thought you were saying that as long as the OP kept it to something very mild/vague like that, it was fine for her to say.

        2. The Original Flavored K*

          I’m sorry, I just realized that I honestly hadn’t been clear. I thought it was obvious I was talking about Roscoe’s example of co-workers complaining about each other/about the boss in past letters AAM has fielded. Those were all work related complaints, or at least fairly minor.

          If somebody accused Fergus the Boss of being abusive, that’s a whole different thing, and still not something any of the boss’s employees should be part of.

          1. LBK*

            I’m with you now (and FWIW I use “hmm, that hasn’t been my experience” all the time for the minor stuff – it is my favorite weapon against chronic whiners).

    6. LBK*

      I think it’s tough because dismissing it as gossip or just “talking about someone behind their back” happens SO often with sexual assault, and often women have no other recourse because there’s no remaining evidence and/or courts are notoriously terrible at actually punishing men for sexual assault.

      I agree that just allowing her to continue to talk about this ad nauseum isn’t the right answer, but I think it’s more fraught than simply defending a friend/sibling, especially when you don’t actually know for sure that they’re defensible.

    7. Kate 2*

      Thank you! I was wondering if anyone was going to bring this up. Doesn’t anyone think it is utterly bizarre, inappropriate, and downright creepy that Jill is letting it all hang out at work? I mean, she is openly accusing Jack, in front of OP and a bunch of coworkers, of serious crimes. Her behavior is wildly inappropriate and shows serious bad judgement, and OP has the right to ask HR or the bosses to make her stop.

      1. Snark*

        It shows a lack of discretion and boundaries, but I think you’re way off base calling it “bizarre, inappropriate and creepy.” People are asking how she is after her ex and coworker berated her at high volume at work. It’s not unthinkable for her to answer that question completely.

        1. Kate 2*

          But it is. It’s like the cashier asking you how your day is. They don’t really want to know, they are just being polite, and I bet OP’s coworkers are getting a heck of a lot more information than they really wanted to know.

          By the way, I think you are forgetting that Jill also yelled at Jack at work. This is just one instance when she happened to be silent.

          1. Snark*

            I’m not forgetting that because OP didn’t actually say Jill yelled at Jack. She said they had disagreements and threw barbs back and forth. Let’s not invent facts to support a false equivalency.

            And maybe she’s taking the TMI train to Blabtown. Still doesn’t mean she’s lying, still doesn’t entitle OP to wade in, still doesn’t mean she merits your highly unflattering adjectives.

          2. Specialk9*

            Kate 2, are you the OP? You seem really invested in Jill being extremely out of line in all ways, and being a liar. It feels like you have a dog in this fight somehow.

            1. Snark*

              Watch out. I learned above that some people actually construe this as calling Jill a dog. :|

              1. Specialk9*

                Haha that’s just asinine. Aside from the fact that it’s a colloquialism, if one were pathologically literal, one would assume the brother was the dog. But most of us know how colloquialisms work.

                1. Oranges*

                  I can see both sides since it doesn’t get used in my neck of the woods that often. It immediately brings up dog fighting in a very visceral way for me. However, that’s me. I cringed when I read it but assumed that it was in common usage around Snark’s woods therefore I didn’t ask that it stop since it didn’t bother me that much. Hmmmm… Venn Diagrams are fun.

                  It did bother other people so I do appreciate that he stopped when asked.

            2. Leesha*

              Hey all, I’m the OP of this question. I’m not going to confront Jill because, even though I want to, I know it’s not the most rational thing to do.

              The situation actually resolved itself a little after I sent the question in to Alison. Management sent out a notice and asked people to stop talking about the “Jack and Jill” stuff and make sure we focus on work. We are usually a quiet office with little drama, so this definitely became the thing to talk about. Management finally noticed and nipped it in the bud.

              Also, I know many people think that I am potentially biased against a possible abuse victim. Believe me, if I actually thought Jill had been abused in any way, I would 100% be on her side. There was a lot of other info that I couldn’t fit into my letter, but Jill has a history of lying and making things up when it suits her, particularly when it comes to abuse.

              This even was part of the reason for her breakup with my brother. She had told him that she didn’t speak to her older sister because she had been abusive to her. It would take too long for me to explain details here, but Jack found out by accident that Jill had lied about being abused by her sister.

              Ugh, there is just so much drama that this girl brings. I am not happy about her employment here, but I am trying to remain professional.

              Also, one last point I wanted to make. I know my brother is not completely innocent here. He acted very badly at work, and he probably deserved to get fired. I wasn’t angry over that, I was angry because of Jill attempting to make things even worse than they were for him.

              1. Anon for this*

                I believe you. I had a friend when I was younger who used to make up stuff about being abused – things she later admitted were complete lies. I suspect she was actually abused by someone, but definitely not by everyone she accused. I also know another person who was abused by a family member and then accused another innocent family member of abuse as well.

                It’s considered unacceptable nowadays to question any accusation of abuse, but I know that false accusations do happen. In both cases i know of Im pretty sure the accuser was an abuse victim, but that they accused more people than were actually involved. Also just like your brothers ex, both the people I know seemed to be making the false accusations for drama/sympathy, and didn’t make a legal accusation. I don’t know anyone who took a false accusation to the level of making a legal complaint. I wonder if Jill actually has been sexually assaulted by someone else in the past. It would fit the pattern I’ve seen in my experience.

                Im glad your situation resolved itself. In my experience when someone is this much of a drama queen eventually people figure it out and stop believing them so Jacks reputation should not be too tarnished by the false allegations.

                It’s a sad situation when this happens because from what ive seen it seems like eventually after accusing multiple innocent people the victim becomes able to accuse their actual abuser, but by then no one believes a word they say, or the abuser is long dead by that point. This is one of the times when I feel a lot of sympathy for the person but really disagree with their behaviour.

                Sorry for rambling comment!

      2. LBK*

        But the point is that the OP’s standing to raise the issue is compromised because of her being related to Jack. There’s no way for her to appear objective when complaining about her brother’s ex right after he was fired – even the best, most objective manager in the world is going to raise an eyebrow at the optics of that. And given that no manager seems to have noticed and/or cared about all the fighting leading up until this point, I don’t think we’re working with the best leadership here.

      3. Kate 2*

        ETA Even if it is true, which we don’t know EITHER way, it still isn’t okay for her to be telling everyone at work about this. And quite frankly, her bad judgement in this matter makes me think she is lying deliberately to smear Jack.

        Victims can and do have bad judgement, but the efforts Jill seems to be going to to tell *everyone*, even in front of OP, makes me suspect she is lying.

        If she wanted, say, Jack kept off the premises because she felt in danger, that could have been quietly discussed with the bosses and told to security.

        1. Mulher na selva*

          If only victims were perfect and graceful, then we could believe them. /Sarcasm
          Serious response: all forms of bad judgment are not equivalent.

          1. Snark*

            Right? Even if she’s erring on the side of blabbing more than she should, that doesn’t mean her word is worthless. And it doesn’t mean she’s lying.

            1. SarahJ*

              “And if you ever wonder why abuse victims historically were silent and cowed, [describing complaints against abusers as blabbing] is a big reason why.”

              Fixed your comment!

              1. Turquoisecow*

                Yeah, thanks. If she said nothing, and her abuser turned out to be an abuser, she’d be chided for not speaking up. “Why didn’t she say something sooner?!” is a common tactic used to discredit victims.

                Now she’s saying something, and she’s criticized for saying things?

        2. Snark*

          I understand that we’re not used to possible abuse victims being forthcoming and fearless about their accusations, but I think you’re mistaking that for the aberrant condition. If people are asking her how she is, and she’s answering fully and honestly, that’s actually the way it should be, not an indication of dishonesty. OP doesn’t say she’s sauntering around telling everybody she can about it.

          And if you ever wonder why abuse victims historically were silent and cowed, your reaction here is a big reason why. It’s actually rather rare for people to falsely accuse blameless exes of abuse, because the reaction is usually disbelief and accusations of dishonesty, not acceptance and swift action.

          1. Tuxedo Cat*

            Hell, I’ve had moments where I was considering writing my abusive ex’s parents and telling them details about their son’s actions. I didn’t and I’m glad I didn’t, but I can understand why a victim might feel the urge to overshare. There’s something that feels cathartic about being believed after enduring abuse and being told it’s in your head, you misunderstood what happened, you exaggerated, etc.

            1. Raven*

              I could have sworn I had read elsewhere on this site itself (maybe not, but it was definitely somewhere career-related) that said that oversharing after leaving an abusive relationship is normal, because you want to hear that you will be taken seriously and believed, unlike when you were with your partner.

              1. Raven*

                Wait, my bad, I just realized that’s pretty much exactly what you said, Tuxedo Cat. My bad. I just meant I had seen it elsewhere too, so I second your statement.

              2. Specialk9*

                I found this to be true. For 2-3 years after crawling out of my abusive relationship, I couldn’t talk about it except in taciturn headlines (“it was emotionally abusive”) because I had no filter and no structure. I could say nothing, or I said EVERYTHING. It was all so much, and so confusing, and so full of a universe of emotions, and I didn’t have the distance to edit. So for most people they got very little; for a few very close people, they got everything. I am so thankful for the excellent therapist who helped me through. But yeah, oversharing was seriously a thing.

            2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              Yes; it’s remarkably common for abuse victims to overshare (or to shut down and not share). Assuming Jill is an abuse survivor, then telling people what happened can serve as a cathartic and validating process because survivors are so often gaslighted or told that the abuse is their fault, they’re not really being abused, etc. That doesn’t make it always work-appropriate information, but I think we have to be a bit more patient and gracious with survivors (and alleged survivors) instead of assuming everything is a lie and responding from that posture.

              Honestly, I hope one of her coworkers (not OP) refers her to EAP. It’s true that the information is a lot and probably not

          2. palomar*

            “And if you ever wonder why abuse victims historically were silent and cowed, your reaction here is a big reason why. It’s actually rather rare for people to falsely accuse blameless exes of abuse, because the reaction is usually disbelief and accusations of dishonesty, not acceptance and swift action.”

            +1. +1,000,000 if I could, because WOW, “she’s talking about it a lot therefore she’s lying” is the kind of backwards thinking that keeps women from reporting abuse in the first place. Yiiiiiiikes.

        3. MakesThings*

          1. We don’t know how often she has mentioned it, or to whom.
          2. She’s allowed to talk about being assaulted. Being a victim does not equal being unprofessional.

        4. Observer*

          Well, since she’s only responding to people who are asking how she’s doing, it’s a bit hard to claim that she’s making a major effort to tell “everyone”.

          A lot of people are making a lot of assumptions here, but the reality is that NONE of what we’ve been told indicates that she is lying OR that she’s telling the truth.

          And, from watching at least one case where this happened, I know some people who DO make a very real effort to tell EVERYONE, in season and out, about the abuse they suffered once they got out of the abusive situation.

        5. hbc*

          You’ve kind of set up a trap here, where real victims don’t talk about their abuse, so anyone who talks about their abuse isn’t a real victim. Then, of course, when Jack is banned from the workplace, everyone can be all, “Why is Jane freaking out about a little lover’s spat?”

          If I had been Jane and barely holding it together in the office where my abuser worked, it might be a great relief to feel vindicated by his firing and let out a “You don’t know the half of it.” Especially if I sensed that people thought maybe he was just unlucky that he got caught in the middle of a rant and I didn’t.

          1. Specialk9*

            “You’ve kind of set up a trap here, where real victims don’t talk about their abuse, so anyone who talks about their abuse isn’t a real victim.”

            This is excellent. You’ve really nailed why this is problematic. I couldn’t pin it down.

        6. Lara*

          I was trying to figure out why i was uncomfortable with this. I think it’s because you’re basically saying that even if she was assaulted, she should keep it to herself? Because it’s tacky and embarrassing for you to have to think about her being assaulted?

          Statistically, she’s likely telling the truth. But as I’d like to reiterate; from the wording of OP’s letter, we have no idea if Jill said this *at all*. It could be just office gossip.

          1. Specialk9*

            It’s wrongly applying ‘don’t talk about your sex life at work’ to actual criminality. It’s like saying that one could talk about getting mugged on the street by a stranger, but if you’ve ever slept with a person who later hits you, it’s inappropriate to mention because sex. Which is seriously F-ed up.

          2. Jessie the First (or second)*


            If Jill is telling the truth, she is not talking about “personal relationship stuff that you shouldn’t talk about at work! Gross!” – she is talking about a crime perpetrated against her. Do we ask victims of other crimes to shut up about it all?

        7. galatea*

          for a long time I internalized my abuse as something I deserved. then when I started talking, I COULD NOT STOP IT. it was like I had been wrestling with a stuck faucet and broken it off entirely and then suddenly the words were falling out of me if I wanted them to or not. I overshared MASSIVELY about my mother’s treatment of me, in front of family, in front of friends, in front of complete strangers (I look back at this point of my life and cringe — I needed it, but jeez I really wish I’d had a better outlet). it would have been gutting to have someone accuse me of lying solely because the concerted effort to break me as a person nearly worked.

          1. Yeah....Anon*

            This is so true for me too! I have managed thus far not to completely spill to everyone who says hello, but several of my friends and family who would probably rather not know have been told, and just yesterday some venting about my dad being crappy morphed into another discussion about my childhood abuse from others’ hands while I was telling a friend that I need a therapist!

      4. Troutwaxer*

        I have the right to yell “Fuck the cops!” while a group of police are occupied with taking down an armed and dangerous suspect. But I’m not going to do that because I have some clue of the consequences… the OP needs to quietly and calmly talk to her manger, then shut the heck up.

      5. Specialk9*

        I’m pretty darn discreet at work, but I tell coworkers who are also friends that I was in an abusive relationship, and might add that it was emotionally abusive. I don’t get into details, but it’s important to me to let people know that abuse happens, and even to people who are confident and have their shit together.

        It took me years to recognize what was happening because I had some vague ideas that abuse only happened when a partner was an alcoholic or addict, and mine wasn’t either. Because of this, it’s important to put it out there in a matter of fact way.

    8. KHB*

      So people who’ve been sexually assaulted can’t talk about it at all unless their assailants are in the room to defend themselves?

      1. Roscoe*

        This case is definitely different because they worked together and the sister is there. I’d argue bringing this up in front of the sister is a really awful thing to do to someone who does still work there. So this isn’t “random person A did this thing to me” this is “Jack, who you all know and like, isn’t the nice guy he pretends”. Its all very specific. Even if he didn’t work there, I’d still think its a bit inappropriate to be publicly discussing this at work. If you need to talk to a co-worker, manager, HR person in private about your concerns, I think thats fair. I don’t think its a workplace conversation at all, even moreso with that person’s sister right there.

        1. Lara*

          And yet, after people were forced to acknowledge that Weinstein was guilty of harassment and sexual assault, the *very first* reaction was to harass his victims for not speaking out sooner and protecting other women.

        2. Louise*

          If she is an assault survivor, it’s not her job to manage the feelings of the people who love her abuser.

          1. Kathletta*


            It’s not different at all because he used to work there, that’s such a strange idea.

          2. bonkerballs*

            But as a coworker of OP, it is her job to be respectful, civilized, and professional. If she is talking about OPs brother to such a degree that she is making the office environment untenable for OP than she needs to stop.

            1. Louise*

              Under the assumption that Jill is telling the truth: Jill is being asked questions and is answering them honestly. If OP doesn’t like the content of the answers because she doesn’t like thinking that her brother is an abuser, tough. You seem to be implying that if someone has been abused, telling the truth about it is “unprofessional,” which is exactly how decades of workplace harassment and abuse have happened.

            2. SCAnonibrarian*

              If OP’s feelings about her brother are influencing her strongly enough that she wants to silence Jill from talking, then the OP needs to step back and realize her hurt feelings don’t trump Jill’s right to discuss her actual life experience with an actual (former) coworker with other coworkers at her workplace.

              Fixed that for ya.

        3. Ice and Indigo*

          If my brother or friend were sexually assaulting people, I’d be very upset, sure. But I’d rather know about it than not, so I didn’t have to waste loyalty on someone who didn’t deserve it. Letting me keep my illusions would not be doing me a long-term kindness in the real world. It would just mean I was on the wrong side without knowing it, and that doesn’t benefit me.

          Either Jill’s lying or she’s telling the truth. If she’s lying, she shouldn’t be saying these things. If she’s telling the truth, she has every right to say them, because it’s important information about the kind of person he really is, and the fact that it would be painful for the OP wouldn’t make it information the OP needed to know.

          It really does come down to whether it’s true or false, and we can’t know that.

    9. Kathletta*

      I think it’s really disgusting that so many people on this thread have used the word ‘gossip’ to describe someone telling colleagues she’s been abused.

      1. Lara*

        I think you might be misinterpreting why people are using that word. OP (and some commenters) have assumed that Jill is lying in order to malign an innocent man. If Jill said it, I believe her. However due to OP’s phrasing I think it’s important to note that Jill may not have said it at all. Some people on this thread have jumped to OP’s brother suing Jill for libel.

  23. k.k*

    Your instincts to stay out of this are right. You should continue keeping your head down and out of the conversation. Since everyone knows he’s your brother, some might be on the look out to see if you do or say anything. People who like drama will find a way to make even the most innocent comment you make seem like juicy gossip, and will only reignite interest in the topic, preventing it from blowing over sooner. Staying out of it only makes you look professional and responsible.

  24. Cordoba*

    The opportunity for LW to intervene was a while ago, when they considered “telling Jack to cool it”. Depending on their relationship with Jack, that might well have been a good idea.

    Having missed that opportunity I can see where it would be tempting to try to “fix” this on the back end. It’s far too late and the situation can’t be fixed.

    Just hunker down and ride it out as peaceably as possible.

  25. Hmm*

    OP, you’re writing that your brother *who got fired for yelling at his ex at work* is *definitely* not abusive… I realize you love him, but no one else is giving him the same rose colored lenses as you. I’d be very careful how you approach this, because while I know you believe you brother, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else doesn’t. Not to mention, denying claims of abusive is a *terrible* look. You need to stay out of this as much as possible.

    The most you can do is try to keep the discussion on work, but as Alison said, only if it’s genuinely distracting. You’re blinded by your love for your brother about how bad this can make *you* look. Not everyone necessarily believes he’s as innocent as you. As said, he got fired from a job for yelling at his former partner.

    1. The Original Flavored K*

      Yeah, this is where my brain keeps hitting a wall. Every relationship is its own country, and nobody but the people who were in it know what it was like… But a man who is willing, in public and at his office, to yell at a silent woman?

      I would be a lot less certain about what he would or wouldn’t do in private.

      1. Kate 2*

        But as OP states, this is ONE TIME when Jill was silent, for a few minutes at least. She yelled at Jack too.

        1. KHB*

          Actually, what the OP states is that “they both have been guilty of being passive aggressive, shooting verbal barbs at each other, and causing drama at work.” She never actually says that Jill raised her voice at Jack.

          1. Ice and Indigo*

            And even if Jill had yelled, it wouldn’t necessarily make Jack non-abusive. Lots of abused people try to defend themselves, sometimes loudly. It doesn’t mean they aren’t abused, any more than fighting back means you aren’t being bullied.

              1. Ice and Indigo*

                No, Jill might be lying. But she might not be. That’s the point: the information available proves nothing either way, so OP insisting on a retraction isn’t going to work.

        2. The Original Flavored K*

          Doesn’t change my point: if someone’s willing to scream at their ex in front of god and everybody, “that person hit me when we were alone” is not a big or surprising leap.

        3. Lehigh*

          Yeah…I’ve definitely yelled at my husband, but I would never hit or sexually assault him. It’s fair to say we/the OP just can’t know for sure what happened behind closed doors, but “heated mutual argument in which she was, for a moment, quiet” =/= obvious abusive relationship.

            1. essEss*

              I’ve been married for almost 25 years and I’ve NEVER yelled at my spouse. I’ve gotten angry and told him that I was angry but I’ve never physically raised my voice and yelled at him. Yelling is something a person does to prove they have power over the other. A marriage is a partnership where you are equal participants and should not be yelling at the other person.

              1. MakesThings*

                Okay, so sometimes yelling happens because people feel like they are not being heard at all, and they yell out of powerlessness.
                Not always, obviously, and things are clearly bad if they get to that point.
                But I wanted to add some nuance to your “yelling = dominance display” analysis.

              2. Lara*

                We were yelling at each other. Yelling doesn’t always equal power play or abuse. I actually think it’s important to be able to yell at each other. Far better than passive aggressive psychological abuse and repression. Please note I am not saying that that is what you do. Please extend that courtesy to others in future, rather than assume that mutual frustration / healthy fighting = me abusing my partner.

              3. Specialk9*

                Enh, that’s a cultural thing. Plenty of cultures have hotblooded discussions that aren’t considered inappropriate. Being fiery isn’t the same thing as abusive, and your way isn’t the only way.

                /I don’t yell at people either, fyi

              4. Lehigh*

                Oh, you’re right, I am an abuser and my spouse lives in fear. I’m sure Lara’s is the same way. Thanks for enlightening us. /s

                My spouse is an adult man with access to at least as many resources as I have. I actually think it would be shameful to yell at someone who was NOT my equal and over whom I DID have power. (I also think it would be a bit scarier to treat your spouse totally differently and worse at home than out in public, but whatever.)

                Of course, this is all a bit of a tangent, since A) we don’t know if Jack even physically raised his voice, just that an exec thought his tone was unprofessional (possibly after the exec grew tired of all their sniping at each other over the days/weeks) and B) Jack was speaking to an ex, not a current partner, and was upset during what seems to be a particularly nasty breakup-aftermath.

            2. Turquoisecow*

              I’ve yelled at several family members. But not in public, and certainly not at work. There’s a part of my brain that stops me, and rational thought takes over and says “we’ll talk about this/scream about this/get upset about this in private.”

              1. Jennifer Thneed*

                Geez, yes. I don’t even like to have *disagreements* with my wife in public. Yes, I’ve yelled in private, usually while also crying. (I think the last time – many years ago now – was “I wish I had a door I could close too” when she retreated to her studio and I knew it would be unfair to lock her out of our bedroom.)

        4. hbc*

          Okay, that means Jane’s not off the hook for abuse suspicion too, especially if she went on a rant long enough for a passerby to think it was one-sided.

          I know lots and lots of people who have never ONE TIME gone off in public like this (to the best of my knowledge.) I know a few who absolutely have. I would never claim any of them is incapable of abuse*, but if I’m playing the odds and bet on an abuser, I’m going to go with the person who can’t control his rage even with witnesses around.

          1. Lehigh*

            “Heated argument” to “rage” (or, as a poster above put it, “scream”) is a bit of a jump. I don’t know, maybe it’s different outside of nerdy circles? Having a heated argument with someone doesn’t have to be uncontrolled or just-steps-from-violence.

            1. Specialk9*

              I think that leap is from “argument” + “talking heatedly” + he got fired for it + how clearly partisan the OP is toward her brother. It’s hard not to read between the lines to yelling or rage.

              1. Trout 'Waver*

                Yeah, but the commenting rules say we take letter writers at their word and don’t “read between the lines”.

                1. Trout 'Waver*

                  They say exactly that.

                  Give letter-writers and fellow commenters the benefit of the doubt. Don’t jump to a negative interpretation of someone’s comment or situation

                2. Specialk9*

                  I read that, it’s not the same as don’t read between the lines.

                  If it were, all the commenters who are saying ‘yeah he’s your brother, but’ would also be violating that rule, because she has the opposite opinion. This site would have to shut down.

                  We’re giving the OP the benefit of the doubt, and believing things happened as she said. We also can figure out when someone is soft pedaling, based on the details we gave.

            2. The Original Flavored K*

              “Heated” arguments do not happen at work — or at least they shouldn’t. For that matter, heated arguments should not be happening in public.

              The optics were bad enough that this dude was fired on the spot. We can conjecture as much as we like and wring our hands as much as we like, but he was fired for raising his voice at a silent woman. Fired. This is not the same as yelling at a partner in your garage because they forgot to close the gate and the dog got out again. This was egregious behavior. The fact that it happened in public, at work, suggests at best a severe lack of judgment and at worst does not provide any character excuses to say that the yelling-in-public party isn’t an abuser.

            3. CMart*

              Talking “heatedly” enough at work that it causes you to get fired on the spot is very, very different than friends having a disagreement around a game table. Losing your cool at your job is the very definition of being uncontrolled.

            4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              It was heated enough for him to be fired on the spot. That makes me doubt that Jack was just passionately arguing in defense of his point of view.

      2. theletter*

        I think there’s a pattern of verbal abuse, and it may have been coming from both parties. It’s a sign that one or both parties don’t know how to shut down fights, and they could escalate, but I don’t think it necessary indicates physical abuse.

        Both verbal and physical abuse count as abuse in my book.

    2. Ann O. Nymous*

      Totally agree re: your first sentence. OP, your brother yelled at an ex AT WORK, which is NEVER ok or reasonable, and clearly it was bad enough that he got fired immediately for it. We don’t know whether Jill’s claims are legitimate and neither do you, but given what you’ve written I’d keep way quiet about this.

      1. Specialk9*

        Your brother yelled at a coworker.

        That by itself is worth firing. Anything else is gravy. Your brother picked up a shovel, dug a wide and deep rectangular pit, and then laid down in it. That grave is all on him.

  26. Steve*

    Your not much of a brother or sister if you let someone say your brother sexually molested them without citing evidence. I would tell the boss it needs to stop. I would also say that you cannot in good conscience stay quite if she continues. She should be told to take her complaint to a the police or hr or a lawyer and not to co workers. You can stand up for people you know and care about.

    Maybe others are different but i could not let people continually say stuff like that about my sisters.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Is Steve’s someone parody account?

        (please say yes even if it’s not true, I don’t think I could handle him being legit)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I really wish it were, but it’s sadly usually sincere screed.

      2. Specialk9*

        I thought Steve was going to stop coming here. Didn’t he have a Rumpelstiltskin meltdown in which he told Alison that he doesn’t respect her, or her whole site, or all of the feminist harridan commenters, and was going to stop coming by and spreading his men’s rights stuff?

        Dangit, Steve, I trusted you to follow through!

          1. Specialk9*

            I wish I could remember which letter. He did his usual, Alison asked him to stop several times, and he lost it and got super aggressive to Alison.

        1. zora*

          That’s was my first thought, too. I was hopeful when he promised he was going to stop commenting. {{{eyeroll}}}

      3. Pregnophobic*

        I wonder if he’s related to that guy who relentlessly argued that it’s ok to used LinkedIn to try to get dates

    1. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Insisting that OP defend their brother’s honor is really not helpful or constructive. And I say this as the sibling that kicked my little brother’s bullies’ asses in grade school.

    2. Buckeye*

      On the other hand, you’re not really much of a brother or sister if you expect your sibling to act in a way that could damage their own employment because you lost your temper and were fired.

      1. Jules the 3rd*

        Usually, people like Steve won’t believe for anything less than broken bones and a police report. Some won’t believe until the victim is dead.

        Even then, it’s the victim’s fault for choosing the wrong partner, or not keeping the house clean enough, or for being ‘mouthy’ or for breathing.

        Per Captain Awkward: You’ll never be able to make yourself small enough to satisfy an abuser. Or their apologists.

        1. McWhadden*

          ” Some won’t believe until the victim is dead.”

          But *then* it’s the victim’s fault for not speaking out sooner.

        2. Specialk9*

          You’re missing a key point. Steve would believe the flimsiest charge if a woman were abusing a man. It’s the reverse he gets obstructive about.

          Justice is having the same standards irregardless of gender or other characteristics.

    3. mrs__peel*

      Defending your sibling to the death, regardless of context, is maybe fine if you’re in third grade. Adults are held to a different standard, especially in the workplace.

      And adults should have enough life experience to understand that people are complex and can sometimes do terrible/surprising things. Even people they care about. Just because a relative acts one way when they’re around you doesn’t mean they’re always exactly the same in private with their partner.

  27. Immy*

    Don’t get involved – stay away from the drama which is already amped up.

    I sympathise with your position and am staying out of whether the accusations are true as it is somewhat irrelevant now (to your work situation) but be careful make sure that, if you do decide to talk to your boss, you don’t make it sound like its worse for you to hear about these accusations than it is for Jill if they’re true. Definitely don’t talk to Jill about it.

    I’d wait a month and imagine it will have died down given they are no longer co-creating drama in the workplace and true or not everyone will be sick of hearing about it by then. I get its hard because this gossip hits closer to home than some might but ultimately that’s what it is and the elements that actually impact you and your work will pass as everyone moves on to a new topic of conversation because this one will become boring.

  28. Observer*

    As others have said, the less you say the sooner this will blow over. And, whatever happens and whatever your decision on continued employment is, your best bet is to stay quiet. You will NOT be able to “make her admit that she is lying”. Best case, you will wind up even angrier and more frustrated. Worst case, it will make your brother look WORSE, and put your job and entire career in jeopardy.

    If things don’t blow over soon, and you really can’t deal with this anymore, it’s fine for you to look for a new job. But, leave on your own terms without getting into the whole situation. Try to find a new job before you quit, because it’s much easier to find a new job while you are still working. Also, if you do say something like “I worked with my brother and it caused a lot of drama that I’d like to escape” that sounds reasonable, but if you’ve already quit over it, you are more likely to come off as the source of the drama, which won’t do you any good.

    1. Jules the 3rd*

      oh no, don’t reference this drama in any job hunt! “I’m ready for a change” and “looking for new challenges” all the way.

      1. Tuxedo Cat*

        I think neutral statements are better, too. Bringing up drama would pique my interest, and not in a positive way.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      If drama is your reason for leaving (and it’s usually not a great one) you need to not be remotely related to the drama. Otherwise it just sounds like you are warning them what to expect with you.

  29. AKchic*

    LW, I get that you want to protect your brother’s “good name”, but right now, your brother doesn’t really have much of a good name left. He chose to act shamefully in the workplace by engaging in bad behavior. Passive aggressive bull, sniping comments, arguing, and “talking heatedly while Jill stayed silent” (sounds to me like he was probably yelling at a silent woman who was either trying to ignore him, or was yet again victim to an angry verbal assault). These are things he chose to do In. Front. Of. Witnesses. His coworkers. Jill’s coworkers. Your coworkers.
    As a former victim of domestic violence, I can tell you that from my perception, this tells me that what went on behind the scenes was a lot worse. He was used to doing much worse in private and he was comfortable doing this in front of people. She fought back (arguing, being passive aggressive back, etc.) because she assumed he’d either back down because there were witnesses when she stood up for herself, or because other people would stand up and defend her. When she realized that nobody *would* help her, she stopped. The victim cycle started again (her silence. Just let him get it off his chest and get it over with quickly and move on) the accomplices to her abuse are now the entire office because not a single one of you stood up and told Jack to stop. Except the one manager who actually fired him. That manager is her hero right now. The rest of you are just bystanders and passive accomplices to her office abuse.

    I get that you want to defend your brother, but you are the last person to do that. What he did was completely out of line. Your moment to speak up was a long time ago and you failed. Now you need to just keep your head down. Sure, go to your manager and let management know that its still a topic, but remember that Jill is still processing her traumas and these people may very well be friends outside of work that she was cut off from during this relationship (I know, it’s a bit of a stretch).

    The gossip will die down eventually. You’re just too close to Jack to see it.

    1. LouiseM*

      Yes, good point. That piece of information we and the OP have about Jack does not look great. Some harassers and abusers show warning signs in public, or to family and friends, but reserve their worst abuse for private.

    2. Raven*

      “He was used to doing much worse in private and he was comfortable doing this in front of people. She fought back (arguing, being passive aggressive back, etc.) because she assumed he’d either back down because there were witnesses when she stood up for herself, or because other people would stand up and defend her. When she realized that nobody *would* help her, she stopped. The victim cycle started again (her silence. Just let him get it off his chest and get it over with quickly and move on) the accomplices to her abuse are now the entire office because not a single one of you stood up and told Jack to stop. Except the one manager who actually fired him. That manager is her hero right now. The rest of you are just bystanders and passive accomplices to her office abuse.”

      Exactly. +1

    3. Specialk9*

      This is definitely a possibility, and those of us who have experienced abuse are hearing major red flags.

      But we don’t know, and neither does OP.

  30. mf*

    I wonder if it would be appropriate to have a conversation with your manager (or Jill’s manager) about the fact that what she’s saying about Jack could permanently damage his profession reputation?

    Something like, “I know I’m biased here, but I’m concerned that Jill will permanently damage Jack’s professional reputation by airing her grievances in the workplace. Would it be possible to ask her to stop talking about him in the office?”

    You could also add: “She’s made some pretty terrible accusations about him. If they’re true–and I don’t believe they are–then she should go to the police instead of telling everyone about work about it.”

    1. Captain S*

      No! OP is undeniably biased and it’s not her place to protect her brother’s professional reputation (which he damaged all by himself by getting fired).

      And telling women they can’t talk about abuse unless it’s to the police is icky.

      1. Roscoe*

        But I do think every conversation isn’t workplace appropriate either. Like sure, you want to talk to HR about this to keep him off the premises? Fine. To do that in the breakroom is different.

        1. Captain S*

          Still not OPs job because of the conflict. If OP is uncomfortable hearing about it in the breakroom, OP should excuse herself from the breakroom.

          1. LCL*

            No, OP is within her rights to ask her coworkers to stop talking about it when she is around. As long as she asks professionally instead of shouting STFU. And it would be appropriate for OP or anybody else who works there to ask management to help shut down this kind of workplace gossip. The accusations may or may not be true, but this much talking about a personnel scandal needs to be quashed. It’s no different even if OP weren’t related to Jack, talk of this level has become its own kind of drama. One of the things HR is supposed to do is provide direction when personnel scandals happen, and part of that direction should be encouraging discretion and professionalism.

            1. Captain S*

              I think politely saying “hey, can we not discuss this when I’m here” is fine. But going to management or talking to HR about it will look bad IMO.

      2. Ice and Indigo*

        I’m pretty sure that a management team that summarily fired a man would not look kindly on a ‘Somebody’s damaging his professional reputation’ complaint. If they thought preserving it was a priority, they wouldn’t have on-the-spot fired him.

        Frankly, it’s likely to make them wonder if OP is going to make similar complaints about them. Not a good career move!

    2. Snark*

      Nope. Her involvment is tainted by her conflict of interests. There’s no way that doesn’t look bad.

    3. Observer*

      Not at all. Because if they are true, Jill doesn’t owe it to jack to protect his reputation, and she’s the one who gets to chose how she deals with it. Also, it’s quite obvious that this suggestion is not made in good faith – it’s going to be almost impossible to get the police involved here, and everyone involved knows it. So, it’s clear that this is not a suggestion on how to handle a situation more effectively but a way to shut someone up.

      1. LCL*

        It’s not obvious to me that this suggestion is made in bad faith. From my personal experience, after listening to story after story of people being clearly victimized then not calling the law because everyone wanted things to go away, I always mention that the authorities should be notified. I get that approach doesn’t work for everyone, but I’m not going to stop saying it. It’s not acting in bad faith to suggest calling the authorities.

        1. Observer*

          The issue here is not that a *suggestion* was made to call the police. But that it was presented as THE ONE ANY ONLY “appropriate” venue to discuss this.

        2. mrs__peel*

          “not calling the law because everyone wanted things to go away”

          There are PLENTY of extremely good reasons why victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse don’t go always go to the authorities. Reasons that have nothing to do with “wanting things to go away”.

          If you actually talked with survivors who *have* reported sexual assault to the police, gone to court, etc., many of them will tell you that the treatment they got was almost as bad as (or even worse than) the original incidents. Many police officers are still in the dark ages when it comes to dealing with victims and openly disbelieve them. And going to trial, being cross-examined, having to sit in court facing the defendant, etc., can be extremely traumatic experiences for many people. All of this rarely rarely results in convictions. Dealing with campus authorities in university settings can be also be deeply upsetting and fruitless.

          This information is all readily available to anyone who bothers to do basic research. So, yes, insisting that all victims *must* go the authorities is very much in bad faith.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Your last line is terrible. There are plenty of very valid reasons why women don’t report sexual abuse/assault.

    5. LBK*

      I don’t think a company that fired someone is going to be overly concerned about protecting that person’s professional reputation.

      1. Observer*


        Really. Of course they shouldn't try to destroy his reputation, but why would they put any effort into protecting it? And, if anyone actually believes the accusations, a request to protect his reputation from the effects of his behavior would radioactive.

    6. McWhadden*

      It’s a bad idea because the reputation stuff is what lots of execs used to bury genuine complaints in many industries. The idea that a man’s reputation is more important than listening to his victims has been a common one (not that Jack has done anything or Jill is a victim in this case specifically but generally that is common.) And that has come to light recently with the #MeToo stuff.

      That doesn’t mean that Jack is guilty or Jill isn’t totally out of line, at all. But that’s what people will be reminded of.

    7. Tuxedo Cat*

      To be blunt, the managers probably don’t care that Jill might be damaging Jack’s career. Jack is no longer their problem, and I imagine being fired from this job damaged Jack’s career.

      I think the OP is better off helping Jack move on in whatever capacity she can and not engaging in this.

    8. AKchic*

      Jack’s actions damaged Jack’s career. Not Jill’s discussion of how she felt about their relationship, or her perception of what happened during their relationship or why their relationship failed, or how toxic their relationship was. His actions are what got him fired. That’s it.
      Even if Jill instigated everything and goaded him into lashing out – he didn’t *have* to lash out. He didn’t have to loudly berate her while she stood silent just when a boss happened to come by. He didn’t have to play the passive aggressive snipe game with her. He could have been the calm and collected coworker, but he chose not to. His actions are his own, regardless of any outside influence.

      It doesn’t matter who discusses what. Anyone and everyone can draw their own conclusions about what happened during their relationship. To censor Jill and tell her that she isn’t allowed to discuss the relationship or the fall-out or what happened in front of multiple witnesses because it will hurt *his* reputation is shades of #metoo.

  31. Aphrodite*

    OP, everyone above me (and especially Alison) has good advice about staying completely out of it–and stated the reasons clearly. Let me add one more: the day your brother was fired had to have been a terrible day at work for everyone. Most people probably now just want the drama to go away so I am guessing here but suspect that anyone involved–Jill as one of the protagonists and you as a close relative to the other–is going to be watched particularly carefully. Defending your brother or speaking to Jill about it or in any way talking to anyone about it may be the match that lights another fire and management/HR may have already made a decision that if that particular fire is re-lit someone else is gone as well. Don’t put yourself in the target range. I would just ignore it, act professionally, and forge ahead with all your dignity intact. Don’t bring anyone’s attention onto yourself; it’s too risky and may result in consequences you do not want.

    1. CG*

      Yes! You’re contemplating jumping into the fray after the fray has died down, in order to back someone who just got fired from their job for actions related to this issue, who was clearly fired for cause. That could do anything from putting you in the management crosshairs too, to drawing more sympathy for Jill, to reminding everyone about your brother and harming any favorable references he might have been able to pull out. What it’s not going to do is convince anyone, especially Jill, that your brother was in the right.

      The odds of this backfiring on you are great, and the odds of this getting Jill to shush up and stop talking about your brother are extremely limited. Alison is spot-on.

    2. Elizabeth West*


      The thing to strive for here is compartmentalization, OP.
      Keep yourself away from the drama.
      Keep the personal drama/family stuff away from work (and Jack no longer works there so there isn’t any).
      Keep a wide berth between you and Jill if possible.
      Keep your interactions with her strictly professional if you can’t avoid her.

  32. wayward*

    Is your employer large enough that you could transfer somewhere Jill isn’t without hurting your career?

    1. anon for this*

      I don’t think its that simple. All women are not saints. Believe children? Yes. I say this as a child and adult sexual assault victim. However, men should not be automatically vilified and due process become irrelevant.

      1. Katniss*

        Due process has nothing to do with this. This is a blog, not a court of law. And the letter is about a workplace, not a court of law. Men are in no danger of being automatically vilified.

      2. Snark*

        One needn’t be a saint or a child to be taken seriously and treated with respect and the benefit of the doubt when taking the enormously difficult step of accusing an abuser. When the prevailing approach has historically been to minimize, deny, gaslight, and slander victims of abuse and to protect the reputations and lifestyles of their abusers from natural consequences, I don’t think we’re actually in great danger of reaching the other extreme.

        And due process doesn’t apply outside legal proceedings.

    2. Specialk9*

      I don’t feel totally comfortable with this. It feels overly simplistic, an over-reaction to another problem (women not being believed in a systematic way) that needs addressing.

      But as a women, I am uncomfortable with the idea that women should be assumed to be flawless and incapable of lying. It feels like that ‘women are on a moral pedestal’ nonsense that ended up being really damaging to women as well. We are human, and have all the usual moral failings. Let’s fix this system without trying to shove women back up on a pedestal.

      1. Lara*

        I believe accusers (male or female) because I am a data nerd. Between 3-5% of accusations are false. Statistically any accuser is likely to be telling the truth.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I don’t know Scully’s take on this, but “Believe Women” started not as a command that we should believe all accusations by any women to the point where we take them as fact (Emmett Till is a good example of why not). It’s a starting point. It’s more about changing how we as a society have historically reacted when these kinds of accusations come out. “But I know Jack, he’s not like that.” “It’s somehow her fault.” It’s not saying “it’s he said/she said, let’s not ruin a guy’s life over this” and ending it there. It’s pointing out that the “I’m not taking any sides because I haven’t seen the evidence” *is* taking sides–it’s saying you believe the accused until you see evidence to the contrary (and how often is the evidence never enough). It’s acknowledging the reality that women rarely lie about this and yet have been rarely believed (and are usually punished for speaking up). What it’s not about is saying that if a woman says it, we end it there and fire the guy or send him to jail.

        1. KHB*

          Since you mention evidence: It’s interesting that with just about any other type of crime, an eyewitness statement by the victim is considered a type of evidence. It’s not airtight or incontrovertible evidence, but it’s definitely one of the building blocks that go into making a case. But with domestic abuse or assault, people will easily jump from “it’s a he said/she said” to “there’s no evidence either way” to “it’d be wrong to punish or even criticize him in any way.”

      3. PlainJane*

        Another +1. Women are no more (or less) morally pure than men. That said, accusers (regardless of gender) should have their reports taken seriously and be treated with respect. That isn’t the same as automatic belief without question or investigation. There’s a middle ground here between, “always believe every accusation,” and “continue to refuse to take credible accusations seriously.”

  33. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP, I hope this quiets down soon–it probably will. In the meantime, you already have spot-on advice from AAM to stay out of it and if it becomes necessary, have the discussion with your manager. I think you just need to plan in advance what to say if you are directly involved in a conversation where your brother is being maligned. You should excuse yourself from the conversation, and there were script suggestions in earlier comments. It wasn’t clear how the stories being told about your brother are reaching you. Are your co-workers telling you what Jill says? Are you over-hearing these conversations directly? I was wondering if Jill said these things knowingly within your hearing, or if it’s coming to you from second-hand reports. Be aware that co-workers (and even Jill) may be wanting you to react, and you should not rise to the bait.

  34. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I’d like to point out that even if Jack admitted to being abusive and LW wasn’t questioning the veracity of Jill’s statements, it still wouldn’t be fair to make her sit and listen to people discuss her brother’s behavior in her workplace. Even if LW was 100% Team Jill, it would still be inappropriate.

    1. Observer*

      I have to agree with this.

      I think that this is something that the OP could bring to their manager if the gossip doesn’t die down. “Regardless of the truth of the matter, Jack’s my brother and this is REALLY painful to listen to. Could we just keep it out of our office?”

      That would be true even if the OP had disowned her brother over the matter.

      1. Amadeo*

        Yep. I was trying to pinpoint the issues I was having with this and I think this is it. Regardless of whether it is true or not, nobody wants to have to listen to people discuss these things about their family member in a place they can’t really get away from and with them in a position where they can’t really respond.

        If it just absolutely must be discussed, don’t do it where OP has to sit and hear it.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      This is true. Even if Jack physically attacked Jill in the office and was escorted out in handcuffs, the OP has the right to say “This is distressing to me and I’d appreciate it if you guys didn’t discuss it in front of me.”

      1. PlainJane*

        I like this wording. It doesn’t make a claim about whether OP thinks the accusations are credible, and it doesn’t slam either Jill or Jack. It simply states the effect of the talk on the OP–who, regardless of who her brother is or what he’s done, is an employee who should be able to do her job without her brother’s personal life being discussed in front of her.

    3. Captain S*

      Ehhhh. I definitely agree that this is not something Jill should be loudly broadcasting. It will hurt her professionally because it will be viewed as a lot of drama and it’s just not something that creates a good working environment.

      But I’m less comfortable defending the “right” of the OP to not hear about abuse (if it is indeed that). She, IMO, does not have the right to be shielded from Jill’s accusations just because she’s Jack’s sister. The perils of working with a sibling is you might hear things about your brother you otherwise wouldn’t. If he were fired for performance and people were discussing how incompetent he was, or how to fix a project he massively screwed up, would OP have a right to be shielded from that?

      So I agree Jill probably needs to cut it out, I think it’s on a different basis than “OP shouldn’t have to hear it”

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        It’s got nothing to do with the fact that Jack is accused of abuse. If Jack were accused of murder, or shoplifting, or anything in between, the OP has the right to ask that people don’t discuss it in her presence. She can’t insist they don’t talk about it at all, of course. I mean, yes, Jill needs to cut it out for her own sake, not for the OP’s sake. But I think the OP can at least say “please, not around me.” And since it’s not related to his work performance, I don’t think the analogy in your second paragraph is apt.

      2. Ainomiaka*

        I think it’s more about wrong target audience than any right to be shielded. The same conflict of interest that makes it a bad idea to defend Jack make them a bad audience for this talk. And saying that isn’t unreasonable or expecting to be shielded and defended.
        And I think that’s true of performance issues as well. OP is not the person that anyone should complain to about how Jack screwed up. Wrong audience for the venting.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Did you mean to respond to my comment? Because I didn’t say anything about Jill “loudly broadcasting” anything nor did I say the OP has the right not to hear about abuse.

        What I said was that OP has the right to a workplace where she isn’t subjected to hearing negative remarks about someone she cares about, regardless of whether she agrees with those remarks or not.

    4. McWhadden*

      Yes, I agree. As much as we want to, rightly, believe women when they speak out this is still a terrible situation to put OP in. And she is an innocent party. She didn’t hurt Jill and has so far remained silent.

      If a transfer is possible then it would be the best.

      1. AKchic*

        I have to disagree about not hurting Jill. She didn’t actively participate in the abuses Jill says she suffered, but when she witnessed abuses happening she didn’t stop it, either. She is a passive accomplice to the abuses Jill says she suffered. Anyone who saw what was happening within the office is.

        It’s like living in an apartment complex and hearing your neighbor beat his wife and/or child(ren). Do you call the police, or do you ignore it because “it’s not my business”? If you answered “it’s not my business” then you are a passive accomplice to that woman’s (and/or children) abuse. You may not want to think of yourself in that light, but if you aren’t doing something to stop it, you are allowing it to happen.

        1. Specialk9*

          Whoa, where are you getting that she was a passive bystander of abuse? The whole point of this letter is that she hasn’t seen abuse and so thinks Jill is lying.

          It sounds like maybe you’re reacting to your own baggage? I get that, especially on this subject, but I don’t think it’s fair here.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          I think you are projecting big time if you think the LW witnessed abuse and didn’t step in to stop it.

          1. AKchic*

            The LW even admits wrote “My instinct had been to tell Jack to cool it, but I remained out of it and didn’t say a word since it wasn’t my business.” in regards to the verbal back and forth within the office that she felt was inappropriate. Because she said nothing and nobody else said anything, Jack seemingly felt safe and secure in escalating his treatment, hence the “talking heatedly while Jill was silent” (which we can probably interpret as closer to berating, maybe even yelling, depending on context) which is what was caught by management and resulted in his firing.

            At any time, coworkers could have easily said “hey you two, this isn’t appropriate” and indicated their mutual verbal sparring was out of line. Anyone could have reported it to management and let management tell the two of them to knock it off and quit talking to each other. Nobody did. LW could have told Jack privately off the clock that what he was doing at work was inappropriate. She didn’t.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              But none of what you said is at all the same as witnessing abuse and not intervening. The point is that OP doesn’t know whether Jack abused Jill. She is not “a passive accomplice to the abuses Jill says she suffered,” because she didn’t know of any abuse.
              We know of bickering, and we know Jack was yelling or “heatedly” arguing enough that he got fired on the spot. He may be abusive, and I tend to believe people who say they’ve been abused, but I don’t blame the OP for not jumping to that assumption about her loved one, and neither do I somehow leap to the conclusion that the abuse should have been obvious to every bystander in the office. (IF ABUSE WERE SO OBVIOUS TO OBSERVERS, IT WOULD NOT HAPPEN AS OFTEN AS IT DOES.)

              You’ve taken big leaps that are unfair to the OP and her coworkers.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Abuse was something that Jill implied. We don’t even know what Jack was saying–OP didn’t tell us. She said they were trading barbs and passive-aggressive language, which doesn’t necessarily indicate abuse. These are common behaviors after a breakup when the two parties still have to have contact with each other. It’s very high school, actually.

          The executive observed Jack “talking heatedly”–OP did not even say he was yelling– to Jill. Her standing silent while he was talking doesn’t indicate anything other than that he was talking and she wasn’t. Unless this is a fairly large company and the higher-ups were too removed from the situation, I imagine Jack got fired because the boss who walked by WAS aware of the drama and had had enough of it. If Jill had been the one arguing with Jack, it might have been her who was fired.

    5. Lehigh*

      Yes, I agree. The LW’s personal life is getting dragged into her workplace in a really distressing way, and she should be allowed out of those discussions.

    6. LBK*

      I agree, but this is the problem with working with someone that you have a known personal relationship with: it’s impossible to ever appear objective, even when you’re in the right. I don’t know how OP can approach this situation in a way that’s not going to look like she’s just trying to protect her brother.

      1. Lehigh*

        I would think that, “It’s difficult for me to hear these kinds of conversations about my brother. Could you not talk about it around me/in my office/during meetings?” would be reasonable IF the OP can maintain her calm while she says it.

        Unfortunately, if Jill really were lying/malicious it would probably just encourage her to needle the OP more.

        This is the difficulty in knowing how to react to distressing things – a nice person who didn’t realize your distress will probably back off if you tell them how you feel. A person who wants to hurt you can use the information to hurt you more.

        1. Lehigh*

          Just wanted to add, Jill could also react badly if there really was abuse and she specifically wants the OP to know about it (i.e. to warn Jack’s future girlfriends).

      2. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think that Alison’s suggestion to mention it to the manager is the best course of action and LW needs to make the request as neutral as possible. “It’s really distracting to hear this talk all the time, would you mind asking everyone to refrain from discussing it when I’m around?” That way she’s not singling out Jill.

    7. Roscoe*

      I think you expressed this better than I did in any of my responses. Without knowing what did/didn’t happen between Jack and Jill, I don’t think subjecting Jill to this is fair. Nor do I think people just expect her to just have to always excuse herself.

    8. Laura Cruz*

      I’m so glad someone said this, I’ve been dismayed that the general tone of the comments here has been to tell the OP to accept her brother is an abuser – something none of us know anymore than she does – and to think of Jill instead.

      OP has the right to a safe workplace as much as Jill does and while she’s obviously personally distressed of Jill’s experience, she has acted in a professional manner and should be applauded for keeping her personal relationships and opinions to herself. When she finally hit a breaking point, her response was to come to an outside neutral third party and not to create further drama – showing she is in fact taking her professional life seriously.

      Jill needs to knock it off – her personal relationships are not part of the workplace. Jack was correctly fired for yelling at a coworker, and that should be the end of it. Continuing to spread gossip about her personal life *at work* is making it harder for another employee to do her own job.

      1. Laura Cruz*

        Furthermore, if Jill is directly trying to interfere with OP’s job, then yes, she has the right to get management involved so stop shaming her with phrases like “silencing a victim.”

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          And if Jill is circulating a petition to get OP fired because she’s Jack’s family member and cannot be trusted… And if Jill is sending OP emails to “meet her in the parking lot to discuss this”… None of this is in the OP’s letter. Why assume that Jill is directly trying to interfere with OP’s job when there’s not a word of it in the letter?

          1. John Rohan*

            The letter says that the constant trash talk is interfering with her job. She said, quote: “I honestly can’t work with this going on.”

            1. LBK*

              That’s a side effect of Jill’s annoying behavior – that’s not the same as Jill “directly trying to interfere” with the OP’s job, which implies that Jill is doing this specifically to try to make the OP quit, and I don’t think we can infer that’s her motivation.

              1. John Rohan*

                OK, but the specific motivation isn’t important. It’s the effect her behavior is creating that matters.

                1. LBK*

                  I’m specifically replying to Laura Cruz’ comment saying “if Jill is directly trying to interfere with OP’s job.” Jill is not directly trying to interfere with the OP’s job.

      2. Specialk9*

        Mmm, I don’t think you’re picking up on the nuance we’re putting out. We’re mostly saying that OP doesn’t know the truth and neither do we, but there are some red flags in her own account that have us concerned. But ultimately OP isn’t going to win by going after Jill like she so clearly wants to.

        1. Jules the 3rd*


          * Engaging with Jill is totally no-win for OP, no matter what really happened.

          * It would be fair for OP to disengage from a social discussion, or to redirect a professional discussion. It’s fair for OP to ask that mgmt ask people to redirect to professional discussions.

      3. Lynn*

        Yes, this. And moreso, even if it’s true (which we don’t know at all), that does not mean it needs shared at work ad nauseum with increasing levels of personal detail. This wouldn’t be appropriate in any other situation.

    9. smoke tree*

      If what Jill is saying is true, though, she may be trying to warn her coworkers about Jack, who works in the same industry as them even though he’s no longer with the same employer. She may also not have much support left outside of work if Jack has cut her off from friends and family. I still don’t think it’s necessarily wise if Jill is broadcasting this information around the whole office, and I don’t think the LW makes is a good audience for it, but if Jack really is abusive, I think her actions are understandable.

  35. Bea*

    Nothing good will come to you by speaking to Jill. Even calmly and rationally, you’ll be the bad guy who is telling a victim to be silent.

    By all means ask the boss to intervene but you’ll still run the risk of the boss not wanting anything to do with this. He saw a man yelling at his co-worker in an argument and fired him. The person you’re complaining about was being abused in the office. I don’t care if she yelled back at any point, men hold more power in just about every situation.

    They suddenly broke up and were nasty with each other in public. That sounds like an abusive relationship any way you cut it, I wouldn’t be so quick to tar and feather this woman as a liar because of how bad it feels to have an aggressive family member.

    My cousins dad nearly murdered her mom. Thankfully my aunt got out and it wasn’t a stalker issue. However I had to sit and hear about him being terminally ill for a couple years before he passed away. Cousin is wrecked, that’s her dad. Yet I’m over here only knowing him as the reason my beloved aunt had her face shattered.

    I know that’s extreme and I pray your brother is only being slandered but for heavens sake don’t blindly go into this and risk your own reputation in the end

  36. Upstairs Downstairs is tiring*

    The article is 100% right that saying anything would be a major mistake.

    It’s also fascinating to read the comments here and then wonder how people would react were the genders reversed and the remaining story the same.

      1. Upstairs Downstairs is tiring*

        I continue to agree with the article’s advice completely. I doubt the *comments* would be remotely similar.

        1. LBK*

          The comments seem pretty in line with the advice? I’m not super clear what you’re specifically seeing in the comments that you think would be different if the genders were reversed. Is it the defensiveness about believing Jill’s sexual assault accusations?

          1. Upstairs Downstairs is tiring*

            It’s extremely unwise to get involved with relationships of others in a work setting, period. The assumption in many *comments* here is not that OP should refrain because it’s a bad idea in general, but that OP’s brother is probably an abuser because Jill has ‘implied that he tried to commit’ (OP’s phrasing) sexual assault.

            Jack was deservedly fired for bringing his relationship into the workplace and causing an effect on coworkers. OP shouldn’t say anything about it to avoid a similar mistake (worse, arguably – relitigating the case). The extensive commentary below the article is driven almost entirely by the gender dynamics of the male being fired. I don’t believe the feedback would look remotely similar with genders reversed.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              The relationship I witnessed had a female verbally abusing a male (extended yelling, name calling, multiple nights / week).

              Yes, that absolutely delayed my recognition of the situation. If the genders had been reversed, the first ‘argument’ would have been enough for me to see it. I very much had challenges discussing this within the social group.

              That said, this is a pretty thoughtful board. I think the overall feedback / discussion might have been a little more dismissive, but not a lot.

              Except for Steve. He’s just the worst.

            2. LBK*

              The assumption in many *comments* here is not that OP should refrain because it’s a bad idea in general, but that OP’s brother is probably an abuser because Jill has ‘implied that he tried to commit’ (OP’s phrasing) sexual assault.

              I’m not really following this – are you saying people are suggesting the OP should let it go not because the firing was absolutely justified based on Jack’s actions, but because Jill’s accusations are probably accurate? Because I’m not seeing that at all in the comments, so I’m struggling with where you’re picking it up.

              1. Upstairs Downstairs is tiring*

                “[A]re you saying people are suggesting the OP should let it go not because the firing was absolutely justified based on Jack’s actions, but because Jill’s accusations are probably accurate?”

                Yes. There is a comment slightly above mine literally says nothing but “Believe. Women.” It is not that that statement is inaccurate. Just that I find it hard to believe if the genders were reversed there would be a comment in its place saying “Believe. Men.” And “Believe. Women” is honestly immaterial in this case – it doesn’t MATTER if Jill is lying after the fact, the advice should not change.

                1. Upstairs Downstairs is tiring*

                  Sorry, re-reading this, I should clarify. It of course matters whether or not Jack was acting abusively in the broader sense. In the very specific band of advice to OP from a workplace perspective, however, the advice doesn’t change whether or not Jill is telling the truth.

                2. Technical_Kitty*

                  Honey, men are already believed. Women are blamed and shamed for reporting abuse and assault all the time. Granted I haven’t been involved in a report like that for a few years, but I’m guessing the world hasn’t turned into a utopia while I was playing with the cat. It’s only in recent years in Canada that police officers are reprimanded for handling sexual assault complaints like assholes and only in the last year was Robin Cook being tossed as a JUDGE for his misconduct in a rape trial. (look him up he literally asked a rape victim during the trial why she “didn’t just close her legs”, ffs)

                  Hell, Brock Turner got 6 months for raping a woman, he was caught be two other guys, apprehended by the same two guys when he ran, and he GOT 6 MONTHS. Yeah, men need so many more advantages, poor things, must be so hard.

            3. mrs__peel*

              I’ve been reading comments on this blog for years, and I’ve seen absolutely no evidence that the commenters wouldn’t take it seriously if a man said that a woman tried to sexually assault him. I think you’re projecting your own biases here in a serious way.

    1. Cordoba*

      That would really only be fascinating or relevant “were the genders reversed” for the preceding 10k+ years of human civilization with respect to access to power, the dynamics of abuse, and the degree to which a typical male represents a physical threat to a typical female by virtue of significantly greater strength and size.

      Without accounting for all those things you don’t learn much from just switching the genders around.

    2. hbc*

      This is not rhetorical: How do you think it would be reversed if Jill was fired for yelling at a silent Jack, Jack was talking about how stressful and abusive the relationship was, and OP (Jill’s brother?) was wondering whether to say anything?

      Because the only thing I can think of is that a few of the people who believe there is a Fake Victim would suggest punching Male Fake Victim in the face instead of using words to get him to stop.

      1. Upstairs Downstairs is tiring*

        I strongly doubt there would be 400+ comments, most of which would be arguing OP should not believe her sibling and that it is ok for OP’s sibling’s (male) ex to make public claims regarding their relationship.

        1. Student*

          I think the benefit of the doubt in this encounter belongs squarely to the person who didn’t get fired for screaming at somebody at work in front of their supervisor. Regardless of the gender of the screamer and screamee.

          1. Upstairs Downstairs is tiring*

            I think the benefit of the doubt should be given to neither party given that none of the commenters have any more information than what’s provided in the post. The person who took the problematic actions was appropriately fired. On what basis is ANY further assumption made?

        2. LBK*

          There hasn’t been an identical letter with the genders reversed, but here’s one that involves exes in the workplace with 500+ comments that were pretty squarely not in the female OP’s favor:

          The fact that commenters here are pretty cognizant of how gender dynamics can affect a situation doesn’t equate to always siding with the woman and hating on the man, no matter how much MRAs would like to believe it does.

          1. Upstairs Downstairs is tiring*

            It’s not a question of always siding with the woman or hating on the man – I don’t think the advice or suggestions here would or should change (not that I’m an expert). My point is the reaction seems heavily biased based on gender, and that’s true in the example you provided as well, I would argue.

            Again, imagine the scenario is reversed. A (purportedly crazy) man has joined the company of his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend, and makes it a point to seek him out and make a statement. You honestly believe the commentariat would equally treat those actions as mature decision-making and proof that the GF’s ex has moved on?

            1. Zillah*

              My point is the reaction seems heavily biased based on gender, and that’s true in the example you provided as well, I would argue.

              Well, gender and domestic abuse have a lot to do with each other. That doesn’t mean that men are never victims and women are never abusers, even in heterosexual relationships, but the idea that we shouldn’t even consider the broader societal paradigm in evaluating individual situations is a bit much, and it’s also not something we’re asked to do in pretty much any other context.

    3. Amber Rose*

      I’ve been thinking about this for a while and can’t find the fascinating bit. Both Jack and Jill participated in poor behavior to what sounds like equivalent amounts, which means with genders reversed nothing changes. They’re both still behaving poorly and the LW just has to deal with someone badmouthing their sister instead of brother, which is still none of their business.

      What do you actually find fascinating about switching the genders in this scenario?

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I think the gender change thought experiment usually works better if you pretend everyone is a same-sex couple. (Or not, if that was their starting configuration.) And by that standard, nothing interesting happens. Jacquelyn screams at Jill, Jack screams at Giles, Jacquelyn screams at Giles–in all cases, the screamer gets fired by a manager who just isn’t interested in whether the quiet person was being, like, super annoying first.

      (And J’s close work friends–or close work family members–think it’s unfair and G wasn’t innocent and J is a good person. At no point here have I typed something that would count as an original spin on a story that would draw in fascinated viewers.)

    5. Kathletta*

      How is that fascinating? Do you think people only side with women and that men are so badly done by?

    6. Student*

      It is wrong to resolve problems at work by screaming match.

      I’ll add a twist to your gender bending.

      Pretend this was a guy screaming at another guy at work. Do you think the guy getting screamed at would be considered: “tough guy who doesn’t take that kind of BS” or “vengeful and spiteful” for getting the screaming co-worker fired?

      I think no one would bat an eye at a guy who wouldn’t put up with this behavior from someone. He’d be seen as “alpha” and “in control” and “no-nonsense” and such. A guy who didn’t do anything about the yelling would be considered a “wimp” or “beta” or some such minimizing cruel thing who gets what he deserves. But from the OP, a woman getting yelled at by a guy that she formerly had a romantic relationship with is expected to just accept that being yelled at is the price to pay for the rest of her life because she dared to date him briefly; conversely from the commenters, she’s a poor battered SO who can’t be expected to take care of herself.

  37. Ann O'Nemity*

    This one is so hard. I know the best advice is to stay out of it. But I would have a very difficult time sitting around overhearing Jill talk poorly about my brother and watching the rest of my coworkers turn on him. It sounds distracting and demoralizing. Part of me would want to look for other job options just in case – just in case the gossip doesn’t die down quickly enough, just in case the OP starts to get the cold shoulder from coworkers because of her association with Jack, just in case this causes the OP to miss out on job-related opportunities (special projects that involve Jill, promotions, etc).

    This isn’t the OP’s fight… but she’s affected by it, and her relationship with Jack means that she is the only one who can’t defend Jack or shut down conversations about it. That would be unsustainable for me long-term.

    1. Amadeo*

      These are all good points too, and I do agree that if it were me, I’d also be looking for another job. Because even if I’d stayed out of it, I’m still affected, I still have to hear my coworkers discuss my brother’s accusations (true or not) and stand a really good chance of ending up associated with it in my coworker’s minds anyway, regardless of any efforts to avoid the subject and stay out of the conversation.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Agree with all this. But if I were the OP, I’d also be seriously pissed off at Jack for dragging his relationship drama into the office in the first place.

  38. McWhadden*

    Just from an emotional stand point if this were my sister I would also be seething and have a lot of trouble staying silent. Whether or not what she says is true it’s hard to hear about a loved one.

    So, emotionally if it were me what I would focus on is what Alison says about your brother not being wrongly terminated. He wasn’t fired because of anything Jill said. He was getting into a loud argument at work. Even if Jill wasn’t innocent she still didn’t force that on him.

    I think it’s really destructive to have the mindset that she cost him his job. She didn’t. I think it’s really important to focus on that.

    1. McWhadden*

      Not that you DO claim/think your brother lost his job because of Jill. But I think if it were me the firing and her comments would all blur together in an angry swirl. I think for your own sanity it’s best to really keep those things separate in your mind.

    2. Lehigh*

      Yes, this is a great point!

      OP, your brother is going to have to learn not to yell at coworkers, even if provoked. (And perhaps that means not dating them!) Whether or not Jill is a nasty piece of work doesn’t change the fact that he needs to up his professional game in order to succeed in the long term. Hopefully this firing will teach him that, and he can move on to better things.

    3. Mulher na selva*

      Yeah, it may be more productive for OP to hold the focus you suggest – he chose to do the thing that got him fired. What anyone else did or said does not matter. Focusing on that may make it easier to get to a place where saying she can’t be involved in conversations about this in a brief, firmly polite way and exit left until she has a chance to see if things will die down.

  39. Suzanne Fox*

    As other commenters have said, you’re in a really hard position. I feel for you, and I hope Jill will start controlling herself very soon; if she doesn’t, in any case, she’s only going to weaken her own reputation and standing—whatever the truth of the matter, as others have said, it’s inappropriate fodder for workplace discussion. I think the advice to stay WAY out of this is spot on–this is one of those situations where getting involved can only lead to Even Worse Things–but I also know it’s difficult. My brother is my business partner, and I bristle inside at even minor criticisms of him! And though I haven’t been in your precise position, I’ve been in workplaces where close friends had similar dramas; trying to “fix” things or support them or [fill in the blank with some action], as I sometimes did early in my career, only made things worse. I gradually learned that weird as it felt, remaining neutral and consistently disengaged was the only thing to do—and that’s all the more true here given the loaded quality of the issues at hand. That said, I hope you’ll take very good care of yourself while this drama plays out; just staying out of a whirlpool of drama takes a surprising amount of energy, and keeping yourself well-nurtured and supported elsewhere is definitely recommended.

  40. Cait*

    OP, you need to hold yourself to a higher standard than Jill. Keep your head up, don’t engage and above all else, maintain a perfect, professional attitude. Learn from your brother’s mistake – bringing drama into the workplace does not end well.

    Jill is only making herself look bad at this point – gossiping in the workplace has its limits if that is what she’s doing. You know this already but your brother did get fired in a rather dramatic moment so it’s only natural that 1. People will talk about it and 2. It will hurt his professional reputation. But none of that is your responsibility.

    It sounds like this situation is still new…give it time to die down. But you will have to think about if working with Jill is something you can maintain in the long run. Play the long game here, stay professional, stay out of drama.

  41. Bea*

    I’ll point out that I’ve seen and been the one to fire someone over this kind of interaction. It wasn’t a couple of exes, just guys thinking it was appropriate to get into a screaming match at work. So when you’re struggling with the termination issue, remember unless you’re screaming to tell someone to jump out of the way of a speeding bus, you don’t yell at anyone in a professional environment.

    My experience with all that is in timber and they’ll cuss all day long or raise voices because screeching equipment. Verbally or physically attacking, nope nope nope right out the door.

  42. Falling Diphthong*

    I want more than anything to … make her admit that she is lying.

    This is just not possible. You cannot make another person do anything.

    Unless Alison’s headline had led into “… by using a magic spell” this hope was doomed from the start.

    Just know that it’s possible your coworkers are as tired of hearing about Jill’s breakup with that guy in Shipping as they would be any other breakup.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yeah. It’s human nature to want. And it’s completely understandable that you want this to be a lie, and for her to come clean about it. You’re going to have to let that go.

  43. Tea*

    I mean, am I jumping the gun here to say OP should look for another job? The gossip may die down but who knows what Jill might say about the OP herself. Like, a new hire could come in and say to a crowd, “Oh, OP is very nice!” and Jill or someone might say, “Oh, yeah, but her brother was such and such, just a heads up.” The brother’s actions might reflect poorly on the OP, whether the brother innocent or not. Not everyone as we can see, is as level headed enough to separate people out. It may just be best, if she’s in the position, to start fresh. Even if this all dies down, OP may not just have bad feelings about being in a place where this all went down, especially as long Jill works there.

    Meanwhile, Jack was right to be fired. Is it entirely fair that Jill didn’t have consequences for behaving badly?
    Not really, but he could have been the bigger person and ignored her at work. Anyone who takes the risk of pursuing an office romance needs to step back and think about how they should behave at work during the relationship and after, should it end. The answer is be professional and low-key as possible and be amicable, not have heated arguments that make everyone uncomfortable. They were the “office lovebirds” when they were together, so clearly they were super obvious and maybe that was unprofessional as well.

    I would also point out, you don’t know if Jill WAS taken aside after Jack was fired to talk about this or if they had been spoken to in the past. If they were getting into regular arguments at work, I’m sure there must have been warnings prior or management was aware of this peripherally at least. Jack might have been fired and HR said to Jill to keep the drama out of the office and you never would know. I was once in an office relationship that caused a bit of drama-not on my part, the guy and I, in different departments, broke up amicably and he began dating someone under my supervision without my knowledge. Of course this employee, knowing he and I once dated, was acting really hostile and passive aggressive at work. When it all came to a head, she was terminated and he was suspended, but ultimately got to come back. While an office romance had not been the best choice on his part, he didn’t let it affect his job or his team and he *acted* professionally-in fact, until she had a few public meltdowns, nobody knew he had ever dated anyone inside the office. She had disrupted my team and was openly disrespectful and crying at work. Even I got a slap on the wrist for being minutely involved in this situation-but she was never going to know nor none of the other employees. (Today, I date exclusively OUT of the office.)

    (I’m answering at face value btw, not ignoring the implications of abuse or who was right, etc.)

    1. Specialk9*

      OP has been keeping it together at work. I think she should be ok if she can keep doing that.

      1. Tea*

        I admire OP for keeping it together but it’s obviously a breaking point for her-I hope she can continue at that pace.

  44. PSB*

    This may seem like an overreaction, but just get out. The path to improving the situation at work for yourself without making things worse is incredibly narrow and relies on too many things out of your control. You might say something to your boss about how Jill is impacting your work, and your manager might be able to deal with the situation in a way that gets Jill to stop discussing it around you. That’s a superficial fix, at best. Whatever opinions your coworkers hold about Jack, Jill, and you are unlikely to change because of her sudden silence. If word got around that her silence was a result of your complaint, whether that word came from assumption or actual knowledge of the situation, it’s likely to hurt your own reputation and tie you to Jack and this situation in a way that you might not be so far.

    Doing nothing is equally problematic for you because the resentment you feel toward Jill isn’t likely to go away, even if she stopped talking about Jack on her own. Nor will whatever resentment you feel toward those who now think of Jack as abuser, or toward the company for firing him.

    This is a bell that can’t be unrung. You can’t turn your work environment or your feelings about it back to a time before Jack and Jill’s breakup. As hard as it is, you need to focus on the potential paths before you instead of your feelings about Jill. Do any of them realistically lead to you both letting go of your own resentments and feeling completely comfortable in your work environment again? If they don’t, or if they’re very unlikely, you’re probably best to move on, if you can.

    I’m not addressing the potential veracity of Jill’s accusations against Jack here because (1) that’s been well covered by others and (2) it’s not entirely relevant to the career decision you face. There’s absolutely no path to having Jill publicly retract her accusations. None. And your dilemma is the same either way.

  45. Lauren*

    Oof this is a tough one. I really feel for the OP here, I imagine if I was in a similar situation I would also be very upset and struggling with how to handle this.

    One question I have is, will Jill’s badmouthing of Jack affect his reputation? Especially going forward to future jobs and if they work in a small industry. IF what Jill is saying isn’t true, then I imagine having those kinds of rumors surrounding you could be pretty devastating for future job searches.

    If what she’s saying IS true then Jack deserves to have his professional reputation ruined.

  46. STG*

    As a victim of a false sexual assault accusation, she could be doing serious additional damage to his already damaged reputation not to mention the subsequent hit from people thinking that you are an abuser. However, you don’t really have any way to know whether it’s true and honestly, I’m not sure how you handle the situation changes based on that.

    I would tell my brother personally so he’s aware because it’s a serious accusation. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask that relationship drama be left outside of the workplace and I would talk to my manager about it personally. I don’t think you should confront her directly but it’s unreasonable to expect that you should have to listen to that in the workplace either.

  47. Tea*

    Definitely see Allison’s point about not really being able to say anything much to management. Talking to the manager could go a few different ways-the manager believes Jill and will think OP is insensitive for trying to shut Jill down or biased or will be sort of aghast at what could be perceived as a lack of support for an abused woman, or the manager sympathizes with Jill but will ultimately decide it’s too sticky to really deal with or struggle how to address this with Jill.

    In a perfect world, OP would be able to say to her manager, “I don’t really know what happened with Jack and Jill, but he’s my brother and all this is upsetting to hear and affecting how comfortable I am at work-I wish this personal business could be left out of the office. I don’t want this situation to reflect poorly on me, my ethics, and my job performance.”

    However, I don’t even know what the manager or anyone could possibly say without Jill becoming upset. It’s likely anything anyone says to Jill, manager or not, she will take offense and it can cause an even larger situation at work. The only way a manager would be able to do or say anything on behalf of OP would be if Jill begins to outright ‘retaliate’ against OP for what happened with her brother. If OP plans on staying, she needs to start documenting those instances, if they do happen. But right now, being that it’s just Jill sort of blowing off steam or venting or whatever, the OP can only choose to cover her ears and keep working or just find something else.

    1. John Rohan*

      So if a fellow employee is slandering your mother, let’s say, you shouldn’t be speak up to management about it?

      There’s nothing wrong with telling an employee to keep their personal opinions on other people’s family members to themselves. It doesn’t matter if the slanderer takes offense or not. Slander is not part of what they were hired for.

      1. Tea*

        It’s not the same situation. The manager can talk to Jill to keep her personal business outside of work but then Jill could accuse the manager and OP of supporting her abuser. And if Jill wants to, she can escalate this situation and make it worse for OP and her brother and the company. This isn’t the same thing as say, a coworker calling your mom a lying cheating thief.

        1. John Rohan*

          Jill could accuse them of that, but it would be specious, and blow up in her face. Asking her to stop trash talking an employee’s brother is an entirely reasonable request.

          On AAM, I have seen several letters about co-workers who won’t stop talking about religion in the workplace, and/or trying to convert other people. The advice always is that their supervisor should tell them that religion is not part of their official duties, and it’s creating a hostile work environment. Full stop. Same thing here.

          1. Jules the 3rd*

            No, dating relationships are a lot more nuanced than your example. Jill’s answering questions from coworkers, and it seems like OP’s overhearing that. It’s a lot different than ‘Jill comes to my neighbor’s cubicle to vent every break’.

            Also, religion is a protected category, which can lead to a hostile work environment. Heterosexual dating relationships are not protected.

  48. Anon For This, I'm sure you understand*

    OP – I feel for you, this is a horrible situation to be in, and I’ve been in something similar (between a friend and a random person in the office, not a sibling). It also probably feels like management isn’t bothering to be fair, whether or not they were (which I’m far too removed to be able to comment on in a way that’s not completely arbitrary), and that is incredibly frustrating.

    I’ll say that if you try to character witness for your brother, people are far more likely to take it as you coming from a place of being his sister and not you coming from a place of knowing that the facts aren’t out there, even if that’s the case. I think it’s somewhat like the advice AAM gives about being a maanger and not having obvious friends/favorites among the people you manage. Even if you’re making the effort to be as unbiased as possible, other people will see the relationship and it will be very hard for them not to read bias into these situations.

    I do think it’s fair to talk to your manager and say “Everyone here knows that Jack is my brother, I don’t find the negative discussions about him here to be necessary or helpful at this point, especially now that he no longer works here, and obviously as I am his sister it’s a different situation for me to hear all of these things about him than other people in the office. Can we look at having the atmosphere here get back to a more work-focused environment, or one where people’s families aren’t being discussed like this?” I definitely encourage you to document the things you’re hearing, maybe even dates and people although I’d hold on to those and only give what you’re hearing, unless specifically prompted to provide the others or you might come off as vindictive. If Jack and Jill were both arguing and being passive aggressive but management didn’t know about it to the extent that they only saw Jack’s behavior, it’s possible they don’t have any idea about how bad the gossip has gotten either.

    Good luck, LW. And as awful as this is, please don’t quit until you have an offer elsewhere unless your work is in high demand! I think experiencing unemployment right now would only make a bad situation worse.

    1. Anon For This, I'm sure you understand*

      Actually didn’t mean to be anon for this but it was left in my name box and I don’t see a way to edit, if anyone wonders why I felt that was necessary to use “anon” for!

  49. John Rohan*

    This is one of the rare times I STRONGLY disagree with Allison. The OP’s own brother is being slandered here, and she has the right to say something!

    This isn’t about interfering in an office romance, that’s a red herring. Forget the romance for a moment. What would your advice be if a fellow employee was constantly slandering someone’s mother/father/sister/son/daughter, etc? Especially to the point where it was making it impossible to work? You would advise them to talk to that employee, and if that failed, speak to their supervisor. Seriously, why should this be any different?

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Ah, but the point is, the OP has no way of knowing that it’s actually slander. Jill could be telling the truth.

      1. John Rohan*

        Even if it is the truth it doesn’t matter!

        Let’s say my mother had a drinking problem and got a DWI. It would still be inappropriate for a fellow co-worker to constantly be talking about what a drunk my mother is. That’s not part of their job description, and it creates a hostile environment for another employee.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Even if it is the truth it doesn’t matter!

          You can’t accuse someone of slander and then say “even if it’s the truth, it doesn’t matter.” The literal definition of “slander” is that it’s not the truth.

          Also, this situation is not the same as someone talking about your drunk mother. Jill is talking about something that happened to her, not some random gossip she heard about your drunk mother. Now, I think Jill needs to dial it down for different reasons, but if you want to start policing whether people are allowed to talk, in the workplace, about things that are not included in their job description, you might want to calm down and think about the implications of that.

          (My apologies to your mother, who I presume is not a drunk. I’m sure she’s a very nice lady.)

          1. John Rohan*

            Yes, but it doesn’t matter for the purposes we are talking about here. It doesn’t matter if Jack is a saint, or he’s the worst abuser ever. There is no reason why the OP must endure constant trash talk about her own brother. It’s not part of what she signed up for when she took that job.

            Whether or not it meets the legal definition of slander is only applicable if Jack decided to file a civil suit, and that’s not the issue here.

            1. Jules the 3rd*

              I think you’re mis-characterizing what OP’s hearing.

              “When coworkers ask how she is, she implies that she was being abused by Jack and says she is glad to be free. On one occasion, she even implied that he had tried to sexually assault her, which made me see red.”

              That’s not ‘constant trash talk’, that’s ‘Jill answering questions.’

              It sounds like OP is overhearing; it’s fair for OP to want to avoid this, but it’s not the same as ‘Jill walks over to my neighbor’s cubicle at every break to take every chance she can get to talk about my brother.’

              1. John Rohan*

                Your interpretation is possible, but unlikely. The OP said: “She is clearly happy that Jack was fired but not her and has taken the opportunity to slander his name even further”. It sure doesn’t sound like she is reluctantly talking about Jack, and only when other people ask.

                1. Starbuck*

                  “she is reluctantly talking about Jack, and only when other people ask.”

                  But that’s what OP is describing, when you look at the actual details they’ve presented. I think it’s probably accurate to assume that OP’s interpretation of Jill’s conversations as attempts at “slandering his name even further” is OP’s own high emotional stakes in this issue clouding their rationality in giving us an unbiased account of Jill’s behavior. If OP believes so strongly that her brother is totally innocent, then anything she overhears from Jill that would imply otherwise sounds like “slander” to her.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              I agree that the OP shouldn’t have to listen to it, and said elsewhere that I think it’s fair for her to ask that Jill not discuss it around her. But that doesn’t mean Jill should be forbidden to discuss it at all.

            3. Falling Diphthong*

              If you go to work where a friend or relative works, you ARE signing up to hear other people give the occasional unflattering evaluation of them.

              1. Manager Mary*

                This completely. You’re at work. He wasn’t your brother; he was your coworker. She’s not your brother’s ex; she’s your coworker. If this happens to your mutual friends at book club or pilates class, then by all means, point out to her that he’s your brother and you’d prefer not to hear it! But I’ve never heard anyone say “it really helped my career when I got mixed up in some interpersonal drama at work” or “I’m so glad I got involved in other people’s relationships.”

          2. Lara*

            It’s more like if your drunk mother hit Jill with her car, and you insisted Jill was a liar and that she had no right to tell people your mother ran her over.

    2. JoJo*

      Jack was fired after an executive observed his behavior towards Jill. Any attempt at defending Jack will be seen as a sister blindly defending her brother? She should stay out of it entirely.

      1. STG*

        Telling Jill that she needs to keep her relationship drama out of work isn’t defending Jack’s actions though.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          OP saying it will be seen as defending Jack’s actions, because of the context of their sibling relationship.

          As stated above, OP is uniquely unqualified to address this.

      2. John Rohan*

        I never said she should necessarily defend her brother – at least not to Jill. But she can ask Jill to make her comments on her own time.

        1. LBK*

          That’s the thing – there isn’t really any way she can do that that’s not going to look like her defending her brother.

        2. Starbuck*

          It doesn’t sound like Jill is making any of these comments directly to OP, though. It’s going to come off as a pretty bizarre overreach if OP tries to make rules for Jill’s conversations with other coworkers.

    3. Snark*

      The truth is an absolute defense against slander, and given that neither you, nor I, nor anybody in this thread is privy to it, I think you’re on thin ice accusing her of slandering him.

      1. John Rohan*

        I never said anyone should accuse her of slander.

        As I said above, and even if she is telling the truth it doesn’t matter. Jill is engaging in activities that are definitely not part of her job description, and creating a hostile work environment for another employee. That’s the issue right there. Full stop – do not enter.

        1. Captain S*

          That’s not what a hostile work environment means and this is really really really unlikely to rise to the level of that.

          1. John Rohan*

            This is an issue that doesn’t belong in the workplace, and the OP says that she can’t work with this going on. How is that not a hostile work environment?

              1. John Rohan*

                I respectfully disagree. The EEOC doesn’t have a specific definition of “hostile work environment”. Instead that is the EEOC’s definition of “harassment”, and so that is the federal standard.

                There are numerous other state and local laws that apply to hostile work environments, and even if there are none where the OP lives, it’s still not right to allow this type of environment to fester at work. Not everything has to meet a legal standard before action can be taken.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  “Hostile work environment” does have a specific legal meaning. It needs to be based on race, sex, religion, etc. I’m not away of any state that makes generally hostile conduct at work illegal.

                  Certainly a workplace can take action even if something isn’t illegal, but your use of the term is what threw people off here.

                2. John Rohan*

                  That might throw people off here, I suppose. But in actuality, the terms “hostile work environment”, or “hostile workplace” don’t appear anywhere on the EEOC’s web site. So I wasn’t stealing any legal jargon.

                3. John Rohan*

                  Well, you got me there, I suppose. It appears in some side articles on the EEOC site. It doesn’t appear in the article you linked to originally, which defines harassment.

                4. Snark*

                  This is not something you can respectfully disagree about. The definition is the definition. It has a specific, defined legal meaning.

            1. LBK*

              That’s what it means if you look up each of those words separately in the dictionary, but “hostile work environment” as a phrase has a specific legal meaning that’s not applicable here. It does not just mean a work environment where there’s hostility.

            2. McWhadden*

              “This is an issue that doesn’t belong in the workplace”

              The brother made it so that it was at the workplace. Expecting everyone to stop talking about this now is just unrealistic.

    4. Millennial Lawyer*

      The point is that OP is not sure that it’s slander. Defending her brother would be partaking in office drama in which she could put her career at risk – especially if there’s truth to it, but even if there’s not! It may be emotionally unsatisfying for OP, even extremely difficult emotionally, but this is a workplace advice website and the purpose of the advice to help OP with her career.

      1. John Rohan*

        Again, I never said anything about defending the brother in front of Jill. Jill is creating a hostile work environment for another employee and the OP has every right to ask her to knock it off.

        1. Lindsay Gee*

          But is Jill really doing that? Even if we take ‘hostile work environment’based on your understanding and not the legally defined term, I don’t necessarily take from the letter that Jill is doing that. You’re taking OPs feelings towards whats happening as absolute and that Jill is doing it TO OP as opposed to just doing it at all (if that makes sense). It seems more about how OP is feeling/interpreting what is being said. We don’t truly know how often these comments are made, or if they’re only within earshot of OP, the tone, context of the conversation etc. We can’t know whether Jill is doing this TO the OP or if the OP is just highly sensitive to whats happening.

    5. Tea*

      Allison isn’t even saying don’t interfere in the office romance, that’s the most minuscule part of the letter-she’s just saying stay out of it entirely because nothing really is going to work in OP’s favor. Even if the manager is sympathetic to the OP’s plight, the manager is going to have a tough time intervening on behalf the OP-the higher ups will want to deescalate this situation, not turn it into a giant lawsuit. This “slander” could very well turn into real criminal charges. I’m not going to assume either way whether the boyfriend is guilty or not-but do you want to open that can of worms? This is just one of those things you can’t touch. If Jill’s behavior escalates and she begins to become hostile toward OP, then it may have to go to the place you’re thinking.

  50. Chef D*

    Good luck OP

    I admit now I’ve only read about 2/3 of the comments (over 400 now). I’m going to comment on gender bias. There are many women who manipulate a scene to their advantage and do inflict emotional and physical abuse on men. Many men do not know how to deal with this. They have the shame and guilt. It’s possible the brother is there. That Jill is reveling in the attention plays into this type of behavior.

    The sister might not know her brother well enough to say if he or Jill were the problem. It could be her.

    1. Snark*

      Except that doesn’t actually happen all that often, my dude, and it’s vastly more common for men to be the ones manipulating a situation to their advantage and inflicting emotional and phyiscal abuse. False accusations are really rare, mostly because women know to expect somebody riding in to suggest they’re manipulative harpies and defend their abuser. Men’s rights bullshit very much aside, it’s not that likely to be the case.

      Does what you’re talking about happen? It’s a wide world, so of course it does. But I am no longer comfortable ever making the assumption that it’s operative unless I’m aware of something that would tend to exculpate the guy, because the assumption you’re making has the effect (intentional or not) of defending garbage dudes.

    2. Millennial Lawyer*

      Are there women who are the aggressors or inflict abuse? Absolutely. (“Many” is an overstatement and unsupported but I’m choosing to ignore it.) But there’s just not enough information to say Jill is doing that, considering the source. Additionally, abuse of women in the workplace is common. Therefore, the advice is that she take Jill’s allegations seriously, even if she doesn’t believe it, and stay out of it so that she does not wreck her own career. That’s not being biased. That’s specific advice to help OP.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      There is so much wrong with this comment that I’m not even sure where to start.

      1. Yes, some women do abuse men. And yes, those men often face a tougher time being believed because it’s less prevalent.

      2. Women are statistically more likely to be abused than men and yet society is more likely to question a woman’s integrity when she does speak up.

      OP doesn’t know for certain what happened between Jack and Jill. And the bottom line is that it doesn’t really matter because the advice to her is the same either way. She needs to keep her head down and stay out of it.

    4. Student*

      So your argument is:

      The sneaky conniving woman, Jill, tricked Jack into shouting at her, at work, in front of their supervisor.

      Jack, as a man, can’t be expected to control his urge to shout at his ex-girlfriend at work, especially if she says something to him that makes him unhappy. The Jills of the world should instead know their place – to cheerfully agree with their ex-boyfriends at all times, lest they say something that sends a Jack into an uncontrollable rage in front of his boss, and gets him fired.

      Um, no. I hope you can see how bad that sounds when you walk down your argument like that. Men aren’t inferior creatures who can’t manage their emotions and reactions when face-to-face with a woman. Every day, the vast, overwhelming majority of men manage to get through life without uncontrollable screaming fits. The few who can’t manage that deserve either medical intervention or to be treated like the pariahs they are. You likely wouldn’t (and shouldn’t!) tolerate a guy screaming at you at work – don’t expect me to put up with it because of my gender.

      If Jill said something so terrible to Jack that it merited a workplace response, he should’ve talked to work management about it. Report her bad behavior, like you would with any other co-worker who says something terrible to you, and ask management to make it clear that’s not acceptable. If merited, like a personal threat of harm, report it to police too. Screaming at her at work is never an acceptable option. It’s not acceptable if he’s yelling at a man, a woman, an ex-girlfriend, a child, or heck, any form of vertebrate animal with capacity to hear.

    5. Captain S*

      The number of women who are abused is far and away higher than the number of women who lie about it and “manipulative” is a classic misogynist code word to paint women who are telling the truth as crazy or irrational.

    6. Technical_Kitty*

      Do you watch a lot of soap operas? Because that might be impacting how you see the world Chef D.

      Did you mean to say “Women often have a high EQ and as such express themselves more easily in emotion in situations. When in a conflict with an intimate partner men may find their own reactions stymied by social norms and what is and is not socially acceptable behaviour, insert all the stereotypical behviours expected of “men” while being “manly”. In this context, without a valid emotional outlet available to them, men can sometimes react in an aggressive manner which is not socially acceptable within romantic relationships.”? Because being all “she’s a manipulative bitch” when some guy can’t keep his shit together is sexist as fuck.

    7. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “I’m going to comment on gender bias by displaying an enormous amount of it in my comment here, so that you can see some real bias on display.”

      There, fixed it for you.

    8. mrs__peel*

      ……. so your argument is that maybe she “provoked” him into losing his cool and yelling at her at work?

      Yeah, no. HE made the choice to do that.

    9. Starbuck*

      ” I’m going to comment on gender bias. There are many women who manipulate a scene to their advantage and do inflict emotional and physical abuse on men. ”

      Did you mean you were about to make a biased comment based on the genders of people involved? Because that’s how your comment reads. Regardless, this doesn’t seem helpful to OP- as others have outlined, anything negative coming from OP about Jill is going to look pretty suspect right now.

    10. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Totally anecdotal, but last year I had the bad fortune to interact with two different men, who live in different states and do not know each other, who each had a domestic violence record: arrest, two days in jail, in one case the charge was eventually dropped, in the other, it wasn’t. Both men swore up and down that they were innocent. “We had an argument, she was getting in my face, I accidentally pushed her out of the way very lightly, and she all of a sudden fell down”. Interesting how they both just ended up marrying the women with no sense of balance.

      I would not be surprised if both these men really and truly do believe they are innocent. They had been provoked, one could even say manipulated, and either way, it is not their fault that she accidentally fell. But knowing them, and having friends who know them, at least in these two cases, I don’t believe they were innocent at all, except in their heads.

      Both wanted to date me. HELL NO. I’m getting too old and fragile for accidental falls.

      Is it gender bias? Looks like it on the surface, since most of the abusers are men. But could it be, not because everyone has a gender bias, but because most women are just not in the business of accidentally(?) knocking their male partners off their feet? This is something men do. This is something men have historically done. It’s in the Bible, for crying out loud. It was 100% normal and socially acceptable to beat your wife as recently as in the early to mid-last century.

    11. Falling Diphthong*

      To actually take gender out of it:

      Claiming that another person subtly “made” you have a screaming meltdown is like claiming that they “made” you hit them by being so subtly annoying, or “made” you embark on a pyramid scheme that defrauded millions by looking at you funny, or “made” you steal Air Force One because they didn’t laugh at your joke right. Most adults manage not to get into these conundrums because we don’t put the blame for our behavior on other people.

        1. Observer*

          That or Toddler 101

          The thing is that this is not what Jack said, so lets please not draw any conclusions from this.

  51. Jessie the First (or second)*

    This is what the OP says Jill is doing now:

    1. When people specifically ask her about the situation, she responds in a way that “implies” she was being abused.
    2. Once, she “implied” that Jack attempted to assault her.

    This doesn’t sound like a person on a mission to destroy anyone. It sounds like she answered questions honestly but somewhat vaguely, and once implied a very bad thing happened.

    I get that OP is really convinced her brother is totally innocent, but a) she doesn’t actually know that he’s innocent, and b) Jill isn’t walking around slandering him at every opportunity, at least based on what OP actually wrote in the letter. OP’s emotions may be getting in the way of seeing this clearly – unless there are details about what Jill has said and how often that OP didn’t share.

    1. Captain S*

      Yep. It also doesn’t sound like she’s blabbing in the break room or otherwise behaving particularly unprofessionally.

    2. John Rohan*

      But you left out the part where the OP said: “She is clearly happy that Jack was fired but not her and has taken the opportunity to slander his name even further.”

      It really doesn’t sound like Jill is just quietly keeping things to herself. I agree that the people characterizing Jill as an “abuse victim” are stretching things a bit, since Jill didn’t accuse anyone of assault.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        They are perfectly congruent. You can only speak about someone when other people bring them up, and yet appear pleased that they are gone. Whether it’s slander depends on whether it’s the truth, which we, OP, and anyone else listening to Jill don’t know.

        We’ve had a few letters along the lines of “My friend was fired for something they did, which okay technically was a wrong thing. BUT a person is being happy about it, and that’s not fair.”

        1. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

          Exactly. Plus, it makes sense that Jill would be more inclined to be more relaxed and forthcoming about her feelings about the relationship once Jack was gone. It’s the same as if a boss no one liked got fired and so then everyone feels freer to share their true opinions openly. It’s a very human reaction to have. It’s also very normal for it to come off to LW as egregiously malicious joy since she loves her brother, but without knowing the exact details I’m inclined to say Jill’s not acting especially bad or abnormal after a bad relationship and break up.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        So she’s happy he was fired. Her being happy does not mean she is slandering him, and the only evidence of the supposed “slander” we have, again, is that Jill responds to questions in a way that “implies” abuse, and one time “implied” assault.

        That she is happy he is gone doesn’t mean her answering questions vaguely is suddenly a slander campaign. That’s my point. A lot of comments seem to take as a given that Jill is talking about this constantly and directly calling him an abuser, and we actually do not have anything in the letter that supports either of those ideas.

      3. Lindsay Gee*

        I’d be super happy my ex didn’t work at my company anymore. There have been several letters I can think of about working with exes after a breakup, exes applying to the same company after a breakup…most of the writers were not super pleased about having to work with an ex. That doesn’t sound like an unreasonable reaction.

  52. NoDramaLlamasAllowed*

    I’d be inclined to tell her that if Jack had in any way hurt her or frightened her, that she should absolutely inform the police, a trusted friend/coworker/manager, or someone else. But otherwise it’s just workplace drama and slander, and that she has no right to drag others into it at work, in a forced situation, where no one knows what really happened and may/may not agree with her (like sis, you know?). I’m in no way for shutting down victims of abuse, but since Jill was only implying abuse and not claiming it outright, it seems…less genuine. If she feels freely to talk or imply abuse but doesn’t report it, well that just isn’t the way survivors act. And either way, trauma doesn’t give you the right to force everyone into your trauma or your personal life at work. She has the option to report it or she has the option to leave the whole mess alone, but, I’m sorry, she doesn’t have the option to holler about it in the workplace, at least not in such an obvious manner that people who don’t want to partake have to listen.

    1. NoDramaLlamasAllowed*

      Let me clarify before the drama llamas rip this comment apart: typically, survivors aren’t willing to report abuse because they don’t want to talk about the situation or draw attention, or they’re scared for their safety. Because of how freely she speaks to it, she’s not fearing for her safety or well-being. She should have no problem telling a manager if she was concerned about him being rehired (for the comments that say that may be a reason for her speaking up). And regardless of what happens, you don’t get a free pass for bad behavior at work. If you want to inform all of your co-workers in hopes they’ll stay away from him, you have private conversations with those people, you don’t constantly talk about it in an office. Because ultimately, people you work with are free to make their own decisions, and if you repeatedly talk about someone to keep other people away from them, it’s sort of like harassing people that are his friends are family who choose to keep in contact. What if it never stops? At what point does it become harassment? Victims of abuse don’t get to follow their abusers around for life and harass them, because unfortunately, abusers still have rights. She’s going to cross the line at a point and it’s going to hurt her credibility. That’s the last thing that needs to be done on behalf of abuse survivors.

      1. Lara*

        Um, what? You are not the arbiter of how abuse victims ‘get’ to behave in order to be taken seriously. A person can quite easily be able to talk to friends in a casual context, but not want to talk to management or the authorities. It’s a lot more common for Jill to quietly warn Jane about Jack than it is for a Jill to storm into management’s office demanding her ex boyfriend be escorted off the premises.

      2. Jessie the First (or second)*

        “Because of how freely she speaks to it, she’s not fearing for her safety or well-being.”

        So a victim who talks of her abuse is not concerned about her safety.

        That is completely nonsensical, completely baseless. That many victims do not talk about it does not actually mean that a victim who does talk about it is not scared.

        (Also, see my comment above about how she hasn’t actually said anything directly anyway; she has answered questions with answers that imply abuse, but the OP doesn’t state that Jill directly said anything, or even that she has said anything at all about it unsolicited. So even if I suddenly believed that victims who speak out are not afraid – and I do not believe that – here we don’t have much evidence that she IS speaking out in a meaningful way.)

      3. Lindsay Gee*

        I know lots of abuse/sexual assault survivors who talked about it with friends, therapists, parents and never went to the authorities. Beacuse often you have to make the decision of whether to put yourself through the system: police, prosecutors, defence attorneys, being put on the stand, people implying you’re lying etc etc. and that’s even if you’re initially believed and the person gets charged in the first place.
        Deciding to go to management or talk to coworkers is easier, because if she did disclose abuse to them, there is no obligation to go to police. They can just say “okay, we’ll ban him from the property nad make sure he’s never rehired.”

    2. Clarice Fitzpatrick*

      I’m in no way for shutting down victims of abuse, but since Jill was only implying abuse and not claiming it outright, it seems…less genuine. If she feels freely to talk or imply abuse but doesn’t report it, well that just isn’t the way survivors act.

      I’m not…sure I get this? So Jill is suspicious because she’s not TMI-ing or lying to people? I mean, I know when I’m talking about sensitive issues/stuff that’s very emotional for me, it’s difficult to straddle the line between being genuinely honest and politely vague when I sincerely want to be open but not overwhelming. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jill might be hitting a weird balance here too.

      Also, survivors don’t report but tell others stuff all the time. That’s where whisper networks come from. The ordeal of reporting abuse/assault is huge. Plus, sometimes there’s people who have done very bad, harmful things but things that would be too difficult to bring forth as a viable case and allegation.

  53. This Daydreamer*

    I work at a DV shelter, so I’m sure that’s coloring how I see this whole thing.

    Still, it seems to me that there are only two likely scenarios here.

    First, the one that you don’t want to see as a possibility and I really don’t blame you for that. Your brother may have abused her. You say that she is implying that she has been victimized, and that doesn’t surprise me. People who are abused tend to minimize what was done to them. The fact that she was silent while he yelled at her at work makes it sound like she didn’t feel that she had any way of protecting herself from the verbal abuse. Yelling at someone, unless you are yelling something like “FIRE” is verbal and emotional abuse. Doing so in public only adds to the humiliation.

    The second possibility is that Jill is lying. If that’s true, she is trying to destroy Jack’s reputation because she’s mad at him about something. It is not a good idea to confront someone who is willing to do that. If she is capable of going that low, she will quite cheerfully do whatever she can to destroy your reputation and get you fired.

    In either case, I really don’t believe you have a way of making things better by confronting her. If Jill is trying to talk to you about Jack, it might help to tell her to leave you out of it because you are not comfortable talking about your brother like that. But be polite. Take the high road.

    I am so sorry you are dealing with this. I can’t imagine how I would have reacted if someone had talked about my sister like that.

  54. Rachel*

    Regardless of what happened between Jack and Jill, Jill’s conduct is unprofessional. Bad mouthing a former coworker is bad, but bad mouthing a former coworker who you also had the poor judgement to openly date is even worse. If Jack was still working there, then Jill would be guilty of bullying/harassment. I’m confident that NO ONE (except OP for obvious reasons) in that office cares or wants to hear about her personal life, and continuing to bring it up is quite inappropriate.

    Of course, this is not to excuse Jack if he did what she’s accusing him of. It’s just that Jill’s behavior is 100% not okay either.

    1. Lara*

      “I’m confident that NO ONE (except OP for obvious reasons) in that office cares or wants to hear about her personal life,”

      Except that this is only happening because, and I quote – “When coworkers ask how she is,”

      1. Rachel*

        I took that to mean a general question – like “How are you?” “I’m doing well, thanks.” kind of question. Not spill the beans on your entire relationship.

  55. JSPA*

    Given how many people have their own issues or jangled nerves that don’t need re-shaking (up to and including trauma & PTSD), all high-emotional-content, bad-relationship discussion should be opt-in, not opt out. And that includes the person on the other side of the partition, or the other stall in the bathroom. It’s not “silencing” to distinguish between “important, heavy conversations suitable for a private space or off-site location” versus “water cooler talk.”

    Of course, this does not include bare-bones safety statements, along the lines of, “Jack has been asked to stay away; if he [enters the building / appears on this floor / drives into the parking lot], please notify the following.”

  56. Lady Phoenix*

    Mind your own beeswax. Some serious sh*t went down between your bro and the new coworker, and it was bad enough to be brought into the office. He got fired for behaving unprofessionally and I am giving him serious side eye for dating a NEW employee.

    If you get involved, you will be fired. You are his sister, so the new employee can just say that the you are retaliating for your brother.

  57. TootsNYC*

    I think the OP had two opportunities to butt in.

    First, when they started dating and got the office involved. That’s the time that a coworker or sibling can say, “You need to cool it. And keep it out of the office.”

    The second was when they broke up and started sniping at each other. That’s the time that a coworker or sibling can say, “You need to cool it. And keep it out of the office.”

    In fact, the OP’s actual instincts WERE correct, and she blew it by going against them.

    My instinct had been to tell Jack to cool it, but I remained out of it and didn’t say a word since it wasn’t my business.

    When it affects the office, it is your business. When it’s your sibling, and he’s damaging his reputation, it’s your business.

    Now, there’s absolutely no upside to saying anything in the office beyond, “Look, this is difficult for me. Would you guys not talk about this while I’m around?”

  58. Lady Phoenix*

    Op makes this sound like Jill is this evil Eris goddess spreading discord and chaos.

    I see a victim survivor who had to deal with her jerkhole ex until he finally got fired. Then people are asking (because the break up was nasty, and so were the argumentz) if she is ok, and now she can tell them what really went on.

    Meanwhile, OP is hyped up on the “faaaamily” thing to not work properly without wanting Jill to crash and burn.

    OP, I would either ask for Jill to be transfered due to a conflict of interest, or to start job hunting. Whichever story is true, you and her are not gonna get along and it would be bad for you to have any power over her.

    Also giving your bro the biggest of side eya for not just dating a new employee, but also dating YOUR employee. Bwcause you are willing to believe him over the new girl that you have power over.

  59. Owler*

    Jack and Jill
    Went up a hill
    To “fetch a pail of water”

    Jack’s a nob
    He lost his job
    And Jill’s last word lingers after.

  60. Belle8bete*

    What a cruddy situation. Do your best to stay out of the discussion, OP. I hope management tells everyone to stop the gossiping. A thing happened, people fired, everyone should work to move past it and management should realize that Jill’s continued discussion about it must be challenging for you to hear.

    I would encourage you to approach your boss to say “I’m not saying who was right or wrong, or make any judgment on the situation. I am just struggling to focus on work with this topic being continually trotted out in the workplace. It’s inevitably a painful topic as it involves my family member. Is there a way to help cut down on that discussion or enable me to be around it less often? Do you have any ideas on how I can continue to stay out of the conversation? I really do not want to cause any more drama, but this is interfering with my work.”

  61. Belle8bete*

    And whatever you do, don’t let anyone pull you into giving your opinion on the topic. Keep all your metaphorical critters firmly out of the ring (much easier said than done).

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