my old boss got my coworker fired from her new job, awkward elevator encounter with the CEO, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Should I report malicious gossip about my grandboss?

I work for a large, national company in a career track position, and have a good relationship with my current boss, grandboss, and great grandboss. I recently moved to a new office more than an hour away from my original office, and my boss and grandboss are new to me. I have known Grandboss since I started with the company two years ago, and she was instrumental in arranging my transfer when my family wanted to relocate to a better city. I have a lot of respect for her and so far she has been an excellent manager.

When my transfer was made public several weeks before it went in to effect, a number of my peers, some who are her direct reports and some who aren’t, commented to me that she would not be able to help me advance my career because she got where she is by sleeping with an upper level manager. They all named names and identified the same manager, who is no longer with the company. I have not shared this information with anyone, but as it appears to be widespread, I feel compelled to inform SOMEONE. I really respect this manager and I do not believe these rumors to be true, based both on how promotions are typically handled and on what I know of her.

Should I notify HR? I assume that would require me to name names of the accusers, although that wouldn’t necessarily bother me. Or should I tell her boss, my great grandboss? He is also fantastic and I have a good working relationship with him as well. Or should I tell her? This is my least favorite option and feels the most like “tattling” or gossip. I hate to think that a whole “generation” of employees is rising through the ranks thinking these things, gossiping about her and ruining her reputation. I don’t feel like I can let this ride in good conscience, but I don’t know what to do. Whatever damage has already been done can not be undone, but if I can play a role I’m nipping this in the bud I think I have to. What say you?

That’s awful. Ideally, I think she needs to be told directly; she deserves to know that these ugly rumors are out there. If she were your direct manager, I’d say you should just talk directly to her. You’d explain what you heard and say that you were disgusted by the people who relayed these things and that that you felt you had to tell her what happening behind her back. Because she’s two levels above you, it’s a little murkier — although it really just depends on how much contact you have with her and what your relationship is like. If you have a fair amount of contact with her and a decent comfort level with her, you could just proceed with that plan. If not, though, then I’d talk with whoever in your management line you have the best rapport with.

In doing this, you want to make it very clear that you’re not approaching this as gossip and that you put zero stock in these rumors. Rather, you are relying what you heard solely because you think it’s horrible that people are undermining her in this way and it’s sexist BS that needs to be addressed, and that you felt uncomfortable hearing this and saying nothing.

(You also should counteract this crap when you hear it — as in, “Wow, that hasn’t been my experience with her at all. She’s been an excellent boss and that’s a terrible thing to say.”)

Updated to add since this is coming up in the comments: The litmus test isn’t “do I know for sure that there’s anything she can do about it?” The litmus test is “is this information that might be relevant to her career that she deserves to know about?” Who knows, maybe this will be confirmation of something she already suspected and it’ll allow her to address it in a way she couldn’t when her information wasn’t as solid. Maybe it’s part of a pattern that together adds up to sexual harassment. We don’t know. The person who’s in the best position to decide whether she can or should act on it is the boss.

2. Old boss got my coworker fired from her new job

I’m writing in about something that just happened to a friend and former colleague. We worked together for several years and were both high performers. We worked in separate departments but still very closely together in a small, husband/wife business. We always knew to be wary of the wife because she had a history of holding grudges and just being really mean. Former colleague and I both gave our notices pretty closely together and the news was not taken well (this was expected, which is why I gave the standard two weeks notice – I was told to leave after one week). On former coworker’s last day, she was run out the door as the wife hurled insults at her, including saying that she was going to call the new job and tell them they shouldn’t have hired her.

Fast forward a few months and former colleague gets a text from the wife saying she should watch out and be careful about what she can do to her and her career. That brings us to today where former colleague’s new boss says they received information that makes them not trust her and they fired her. It’s pretty clear to me that this was the wife reaching out and making good on her ominous promises.

Does former colleague have any recourse here? While I haven’t been contacted the way former colleague has, I’ve always been worried about what the wife would say about me or to me if she saw me. I’m also trying to start searching for a new role because the one I left former job for isn’t quite right, but now I’m terrified about the wife reaching out to my current or any potential employer. It’s a tight-knit industry and we’re worried about getting black-balled.

There is a legal concept called tortious interference, which is a legal violation related to intentionally damaging someone’s business relationships. Your friend should talk to a lawyer, because depending on exactly what happened, it’s possible that she could pursue that angle — and if nothing else, the lawyer can probably put the fear of god into your old company and get them to restrain this manager. You might want to talk with a lawyer about how to protect yourself too.

3. I had an awkward elevator encounter with the CEO

I ran into my boss while waiting for the elevator and things went south. Our company is huge, and our CEO is a very important figure. Everyone seems to always be on their best behavior when she comes around the corner. Out of nervousness, after she asked how my day was going, I replied that it was going well, but that “Mondays are always slow and droopy.”

Our CEO is very big on productivity and positivity. She even preaches about the importance of productivity under any circumstance on a weekly basis during our massive company meetings. The look on her face when I said this seemed alarming. She followed my statement by changing the subject to mention the weather. Is this just paranoia brought on my extreme anxiety or did I really just mess up? Our CEO is great at remembering faces and I’m worried that this will affect how she sees me or, worse, she will tell my direct supervisor what I said. Should I be worried? I feel as though I’m the only idiot to have ever said something like this to her. Help!

It wasn’t a great thing to say, but it’s not horrible either. That kind of comment about Mondays isn’t exactly unheard of; I’m sure she’s heard similar things before (and I’m sure you’re not the only one to make an awkward remark to her out of nerves either). I doubt that she was still thinking about this even 10 minutes later, but hey, if she does mention it to your boss, your boss will hopefully tell her that there’s no reason to worry about you (assuming that’s true), so that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world. Give yourself permission to laugh at what happened and then put it behind you.

4. My boss keeps saying we’ll discuss a raise “later”

I keep asking for a raise at work and I always get the response of “we’ll discuss later” and later never happens. It’s been about a year since I first asked to discuss this. I hate bugging my managers about this, but I feel like I deserve a raise. What is the limit of asking for a raise?

Your next move here is not just to ask again, but to explicitly call out the fact that you’ve been told “later” for a year now. Say something like this: “I’ve asked about revisiting my salary several times now and you’ve told me we’ll discuss it later. It’s been a year since I first raised this, and I’d like to nail down a time for discussing it. Can we schedule a meeting about this in the next two weeks?” If you’re put off again, say, “What kind of timeline is realistic for me to plan on?”

And if it still doesn’t happen, assume this means you’re not getting a raise any time soon and decide what you want to do about that. Would you want to stay if you knew you weren’t going to get a raise for the next year? Or would you want to job search? Proceed accordingly.

5. Should I accept a rejected candidate’s LinkedIn connection request?

I’m responsible for recruitment at a nonprofit and we recently interviewed for a vacancy in our team. One of the rejected candidates has now sent me a LinkedIn request. Should I accept? My instinct is not to, as I am worried they will bombard me with questions about the rejection or future opportunities (which I do not currently see arising, they were just not a very good match for our organization). They were a very interesting person though, so I’m tempted to accept the request more out of a personal interest in staying in touch. What would you recommend?

If you’re interested in staying in touch, accept the connection request! A lot of rejected candidates ask to connect on LinkedIn, figuring that in some sense you’re now a part of each other’s networks (you’ve met in a business context, after all). It’s fine to ignore or decline these, but it’s also fine to accept them. Candidates who are going to use it a way to contact you about the rejection or future jobs are pretty likely to find a way to do that whether you accept the connection request or not, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

{ 452 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, if you feel assured enough, you may also want to say something to your peers in the moment. For example, “In all my experiences working with Grandboss, she’s an excellent manager and has really helped me with my development. I know my experience with her is limited, but I’m uncomfortable with perpetuating the narrative that she’s not qualified or capable.”

    If people get really nasty about their comments (which it sounds like they are), you can rotate through the following scripts:
    “Wow—I have to throw a flag on the play. That’s a really problematic comment, and repeating it sounds malicious and personal. I know you probably didn’t mean it that way, but it could affect how others weigh your observations.”

    “Please don’t talk like that in front of me—it’s really sexist and problematic.”

    1. attie*

      I’d be tempted to remark that if sleeping with a higher-up is the only way that someone so obviously qualified can get promoted, that’s a problem with the company, not with her!

      Probably best not to get into that, though.

      1. Tau*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t go this route because it sounds as though you’re accepting the premise (that the boss slept with the higher-up and got promoted as a result). In general, best to shut it down harshly instead of getting drawn in.

      2. The Cosmic Avenger*

        I like the general idea, that you can’t prove a negative, but I agree with Tau that agreeing with it is going to not make it uncomfortable for those spreading the rumor, which should be part of the goal in combatting rumors and gossip. I was thinking of something like “That sounds like gossip and rumor, but honestly, who cares? I haven’t seen her act unprofessionally in the least while I’ve been working with her. In fact, she’s been a great boss and supervisor to me.”

      3. Specialk9*

        “I respect you, so I want to give you a heads up that people will think badly of you if you repeat that gossip because it sounds sexist. That is the kind of slander that is so often used to undermine women of authority. I don’t think it’s true, but even if it were true, the problem there would be with the boss who abused his authority. But either way, it’s going to look bad for you. I’m going to go get a coffee, you want one?”

      4. Observer*

        I would be tempted to ASK “Are you really saying that the only way a qualified woman can move up the ranks is by sleeping with her managers?!”

        Then maybe add “Wow! That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen!”

        I don’t think I would actually say it, but I think it’s valid to point out what the premise of the rumor actually is.

        1. neverjaunty*


          I mean, note that nobody is gossiping about the guy she supposedly slept with. “Oh, Fergus is the worst – he promotes based on whether someone will sleep with him, not whether they’re good at what they do.”

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Yes! Because if this is what Fergus does, this is classic quid pro quo sexual harassment and is illegal – illegal for *Fergus* to do to other people.

          2. LCL*

            That’s because he’s gone. Though given the usual double standard, if he was there I’m sure he would be receiving the ‘attaboy, what a player’ from some quarters.

          3. Anon for this*

            In middle school, some of my classmates started a rumor that I was sleeping with our band teacher and that was how I got first chair.

            Don’t get derailed by the fact that this was in middle school. That only serves to highlight the point that the target of these rumors is always the woman. In the workplace, the waters can be muddied by questions of consent. Was the boss sexually harassing his employee, was the employee a seductress seeming only personal gain, or were they two adults who entered into a consensual sexual relationship? Don’t muddy the waters. These types of rumors are sexist. They are meant to call into question whether successful women deserve to be successful.

            Take away the potential for consent. Make the rumor about a 13 year-old girl and a 50ish year-old teacher, and you see that this had nothing to do with the man in the position of power. No one was even thinking that side of things through – that if he really slept with a student, that would be illegal and he would go to prison. It was strictly a way to call into question whether I deserved success.

            It’s the same in the workplace. These types of rumors are never used to call out men in positions of power. They are only used against women who are seen as undeserving of success. (And, probably these are women who do deserve that success but may be disliked for other reasons. I was really good at my instrument and was either first or second chair all through high school too. But I was weird and nerdy and poor and honestly kind of annoying, so I get why other kids would want to make fun of me.)

        2. Formerly Arlington.*

          I agree with calling out the gossip vs. focusing on whether this specific rumor is true. I have unfortunately had to do this MULTIPLE times at various jobs–what I say when I hear these rumors is, “Ugh, I am SO OVER this narrative of women sleeping their way to the top. It’s such a cliche.” If I know the woman being rumored to have done this, I will speak up about something she’s done well, and if I don’t, I will say something like, “It makes both people involved sound so sleazy!” I say it this way to call attention to the fact that they’re also maligning the man, which seems to be a shock to them. I prefer to call out the gossip vs. the people involved, though…it shouldn’t be socially acceptable to imply that someone got the role because they slept with someone, period. If I knew with 100% certainty that someone had slept with her/his superior, I wouldn’t pass this info on anyway.

        3. doreen*

          When I heard someone say that another woman had reached her position “on her back”. I asked a question alright. But not quite yours. I myself had been recently promoted , so I asked “Who’d I f–?” Never heard him make that sort of comment again.

    2. Gen*

      I like this wording best where the focus is on whether she’s a good performer now, possibly because I have worked with someone who had a very public relationship with an upper level manager and got promoted before he left. It wasn’t against company rules in those days and she never directly reported to him but because there /had/ been a relationship a lot of lower level people decided that was the only reason she got the promotion. She was completely competent and a star performer so it wasn’t undeserved but she had a hard time refuting it because she had previously dated someone with clout. She did get two more promotions before she left but there was definitely an impression that she had to work much harder to prove it was all above board.

      1. Jess*

        I came to say the exact same thing. I like this wording better too because it’s the undeserved implication of incompetence that is problematic, not the truth or falsity of the rumor. What if it was true? It doesn’t change the fact that she’s a great manager or make her any less fit for her job. Maybe it was just the coincidence of an ill-timed relationship that created the appearance of nepotism but had nothing to do with her promotion, or maybe she was promoted out of favoritism but still turned out to be a star. Neither one means that she deserves to be actively undermined by colleagues now. And even though nepotism does not always mean the beneficiary is incompetent, it’s clear that was the person’s intended meaning from sharing this “information” now in the way that it was. So that’s what I’d focus on responding to.

        1. Anonymouish*

          “It’s the undeserved implication of incompetence that is problematic”

          This this this. While I don’t ever condone gossip about who women are sleeping with (because, as everyone has pointed out, this is only ever negatively lobbed at women), the point here is that sleeping with anyone up to and including with Beelzebub has ZERO impact on whether someone is excellent at their job, and the vague comments about ‘it demonstrates questionable judgment’ that usually result are utter bullshit and creating doubt where none ever needs to exist.

          1. Matilda Jefferies*

            the vague comments about ‘it demonstrates questionable judgment’

            You could always respond to that with “yes, well – so does gossiping about one’s coworkers” and see where the conversation leads from there…

      2. What's with today, today?*

        Yes. I’ve worked with a woman who survived two massive department cleanings then got promoted because she was having an affair with the market’s Program Director, or second in command. I mean, she was literally the only air personality at the station not to get swept out. Twice. It was common knowledge when it was happening, (think PDA in the hallways) and then she announced her pregnancy and he left his wife. This was a medium market in a part of a major media conglomerate. She had great talent, but was totally hard to work with, and people still resent her.

        1. What's with today, today?*

          P.S. I was at another station in the company and watched this all happen. I’m not one of the ones that was upset about being swept out.

        2. Specialk9*

          So… You’re defending sexist gossip that undermines women’s authority at work based on things they do with their genitals, because sometimes it really appears to be true?

          You sure that’s where you want to end up on that story?

          1. What's with today, today?*

            Meh. I had a friend get fired and she stepped into his job completely unqualified. I’m stepping into the position that his firing was wrong, unjustified and happened because she wanted his spot. It happened during the recession, he never got a job again. I worked there, I saw it happen with my own eyes. I’m a woman and it was frankly insulting to have that play out infront of our eyes and have everyone up top act like what was happening was any form of normal or okay. In this instance, she took full advantage of her favor and pull. End of story, I have no interest in further debate.

            1. Still sexist!*

              Maybe instead of slandering her, though, you can place the blame where it really belongs — on the man who cheated on his wife and promoted an unqualified person. It’s not this woman’s fault. She benefited from the affair; however the man involved is the one to place anger with.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                The woman behaved badly also. Having an affair with a married supervisor and using it to her advantage instead of advancing by doing good work. She has some blame here too.
                It sounds like they were both jerks.

                1. MotherRunner*

                  But, no. That’s not true. The superior has the responsibility to not get involved with subordinates and to not promote based on that criteria. It’s literally the definition of sexual harassment for a superior to trade/require sexual favors for career advancement.

            2. Ann O.*

              Your story has literally nothing to do with the post in question, which is about someone the OP has had excellent interactions with who is subject of nasty rumor that may or may not be true but is definitely be told for the purpose of undermining a woman’s reputation.

              In your story, while it is of course sucky for an undeserving person to be promoted or kept on for any reason, you seem to be focusing exclusively on the woman whereas I would put the lion’s share of the blame on the man in the higher authority who actually fired your friend. (and I’m going out on a limb and guessing that the “everyone up top” were generally male as well)

            3. DArcy*

              You’re moving the goalposts dramatically — first you claimed she had great talent, but now you’re claiming she was unqualified and incompetent. More to the point, you initially claimed to be fair and objective because you were at a sister station and had no personal stake in the matter, now you’re saying you’re convinced she stole your bestie’s job.

          2. Observer*

            Let’s get real. This kind of thing DOES happen. The reason for rules against nepotism have a good basis. And those reasons apply just as well to relationships between people in supervisory chains.

            In general, making the argument that one can NEVER make that claim and that even when that’s clearly what’s happening, “it’s not what you think” is counter-productive. It’s not credible, and easily disproved.

            That doesn’t justify the rumors in this particular situation, or the ease with which people jump to that conclusion. Even worse, too often people assume that something like that “must” be a factor, or “wonder” about it.

            1. Gaia*

              It may happen but again the issue is with the man in charge abusing his authority (or, far more rarely, the woman in charge abusing her authority). If they were not abusing authority, it wouldn’t happen.

            2. Jessie the First (or second)*

              “Let’s get real. This kind of thing DOES happen.”

              What kind of thing? That sometimes, a woman will have an affair and get promoted undeservedly because of it?

              The point is that it is very, very common for women in positions of power to be the subject of gossip like this – that they don’t deserve their position, they only have it because they slept with someone. If fighting against this kind of pernicious and malicious sexism is met with “but sometimes it is true! I saw it happen!” then we will make no progress. Are we not allowed to talk about the prevalence of this particular brand of sexism because it happens for real sometimes?

              The point is that often, this is simply sexist slander. That sometimes it might be true of an individual person does not transform the societal pattern of undermining women in authority with sexist gossip into a valid thing.

              OP said the grandboss is competent. Unless we want to second-guess the OP’s evaluation of her boss’s ability to do her job, it is 100% irrelevant that one time in band camp someone knew a woman who slept her way to the top.

              1. Observer*

                I agree that this is a common problem, and “But sometimes it really happens” is not a defense AT ALL. But, claiming that it NEVER happens is not an appropriate response, because it’s just not true and reflects poorly on the credibility of the person making the claim.

                Far more useful, in my opinion, is “So what? That’s such an outlier that I wonder why you bring it up.”

                . Claiming that WWTT did not see what they saw, and what happened did not happen, is not useful, at all. On the other hand, I *do* question the relevance of this particular incident to the conversation and I think it’s worth pointing that out.

                1. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Oh, I don’t read Specialk9 as saying that, or claiming WWTT didn’t see what she says she saw.

                  I read the comment as saying, basically, “why, as an answer to “this pervavise form of gossip is sexist! Stop it!” would you feel the need to jump in with a story about how you know of a time the gossip was true?” Issue: this form of sexism is incredibly harmful, and even when true it is problematic because as multiple people have noted elsewhere, it is targeted at women and not at the men who are abusing power, and it undermines competent women (like the OP’s grandboss.

                2. Observer*

                  The language that Specialk9 used is pretty clearly denying the reality of what happened. “really appears to be true” is quite clear.

                  Far more useful is to say what you just said. If that’s what they really meant, they should have just said so.

                3. Not A Morning Person*

                  Who’s reality is being discussed? The OP? WWTT? I also find it annoying, disrespectful, and gross to gossip about someone “sleeping their way to the top”. Has it ever happened in the history of employment? There are most likely people who gained some advantage through that kind of behavior, but only because someone in higher power encouraged it and rewarded it or at a minimum allowed it and didn’t discourage it. So the blame lies with the person or persons with power over jobs and promotions. That’s not helpful to the OP ‘s question.

                4. Jessie the First (or second)*

                  Observer, I think you are being nitpicky (especially since, frankly, all WWTT can speak to is what appears to be true, not All The Things That Are Objectively True, so why is “appears” a wrong word choice anyway) and missing the forest for the trees a bit. As has been discussed at length in this whole thread, this particular strand of gossip is sexist. It’s misogynist. It places the blame of illegal quid pro quo sexual harassment at the feet of the woman who is experiencing it. It is also a bizarre irrelevant tangent, which is what it seems clear to me Specialk9 was objecting to in the first place (what, exactly, does WWTT’s post have to do with anything? Except to jump in to call out that sometimes in other situations WWTT thinks a woman is to blame for something?)

                5. Observer*

                  Actually, it doesn’t look like you read what I wrote here on anywhere else on the thread.

                  Calling out the misogyny of the accusation is appropriate. Calling out the inappropriateness of bringing up this particular anecdote in this context is appropriate. Claiming that what happened did not happen is both inappropriate and counterproductive.

                  Claiming that only someone who buys into the misogynistic premise of the gossip the OP mentions would believe WWTT is incorrect.

                  It’s clear that you don’t care if that’s offensive. But it’s also a good way to convince people to bury their heads in the sand. If you care about moral indignation, that doesn’t matter. If you care about effectiveness, that should matter.

                  Calling out misogyny doesn’t require pretending that women are always perfectly innocent, not does it require peddling a narrative that women never make their way up the ladder for reasons that have nothing to do with their competence. Although it doesn’t hurt to point out that lots of men do the same thing, even if it involves other “inducements.” (Iow, I don’t think it’s worse for a woman to move ahead because she’s having an affair with her boss that it is for a guy to move ahead because his boss believes that a guy should really have that job etc.)

                6. Specialk9*

                  I used “appear” because WWTT is repeating a second hand account influenced heavily by being friends with the aggrieved male. I don’t take their account as impartial.

                  But even if it’s 100% accurate, so what? Defending a sexist trend by a claim that once it certainly seemed to be true is… problematic.

                7. Observer*

                  Defending a sexist trend by a claim that once it certainly seemed to be true is… problematic.

                  More than problematic. It’s a lot more straightforward to say that – it’s true and it’s not something that an honest person can really discount.

            3. Anonymeece*

              But if the woman is competent, presumably then it would make sense that she got promoted, so why would nasty rumors be started?

              And if she’s incompetent, there’s no reason to speculate on how she got promoted. Instead you can just focus on the fact that she, you know, sucks at her job, not what she did outside of it to get it.

              Most of these rumors are created out of jealousy, mean-spiritedness, and good old fashioned sexism. These kinds of things may happen, sure, but that’s no reason why anyone should be spreading these rumors, when they could be saying, “I have problems with X because she does Y, Z, and A badly”, if that’s the case. And if it’s not, and she does her job well, then why would you be talking about her in the first place?

        3. Jessie the First (or second)*

          “But you guys, one time, a woman really was having an affair with the boss! And she didn’t get laid off! So spreading rumors that are sexist and misogynist is totes cool” is what I get from your comment here.

            1. Gaia*

              I mean you did put 100% of your blame on the woman and not the man who abused his authority. So it does read as seriously problematic.

              1. Bigglesworth*

                In reading the comments, I wonder why not “put the blame” on both parties? Yes, it can be an abuse of authority for a supervisor to sleep with a subordinate, but the subordinate doesn’t have to sleep with the supervisor. It seems to me that a false dichotomy is being set up here where it is either the supervisor’s fault or the subordinate’s fault but not both.

                1. Still sexist!*

                  It’s the supervisor’s fault because they are the one with the power to stop it/prevent it from starting. It’s on them to be the more ethical party. They are the manager.

                2. Observer*

                  It sounds like both to me. But, to be honest, I still agree that bringing this up here is problematic. Because the existence of people who do things like this doesn’t make it ok to assume that anyone who doesn’t fit your notion of who “should” be successful is doing stuff like this regardless of the facts.

                3. LarsTheRealGirl*

                  Because by definition, a supervisor sleeping with a subordinate is an abuse of power.

                  “The subordinate doesn’t have to sleep with the supervisor”

                  Often, that’s exactly what she has to do. To keep her job. To not be black listed. To not destroy her career.

                  The onus is on the person with power to control the situation.

                4. strawmeatloaf*

                  True the subordinate doesn’t have to sleep with the boss.

                  The subordinate could also then be fired for not doing so.

                5. Totally Minnie*

                  In some cases, yes, a subordinate chooses to sleep with her supervisor because she wants to. But in a lot of cases, it’s framed as a choice when it actually wasn’t. We talk about that on this blog a lot when it comes to topics that aren’t sexual. It’s really easy for an employee to see that their boss wants them to do a thing, and even though the boss has never directly come out to say “YOU MUST DO THE THING OR NO JOB FOR YOU,” the employee really doesn’t think they can refuse the request. So, if it’s easy for people to see how this happens with things like planning the Christmas party or going to weird teambuilding events, why is it harder for some people to see that it also sometimes happens with sex?

                6. Erin*

                  Let’s not forget the Weinsteinian aspect of these stories — women might feel forced to sleep with their skeezy bosses in order to keep their jobs, or to keep a foothold in their career/field. It’s never just a simple matter of no means no when there is a creepy power dynamic. She’s between a rock and a hard place – fired because she refused sexual advances, or subject to nasty gossip because she supposedly slept her way up the ladder. No way to win.

                7. TootsNYC*

                  because the person who has less power is presumed to not want to volunteer for unemployment.

                8. sap*

                  All of the above describes why not put the blame on both parties.

                  This is also true even when it comes to loving, committed relationships that develop. The employee STILL may have initially felt obligated to accept the date invite, even if 10 seconds into the date s/he realized the supervisor didn’t intend it to come across as an obligatory request and is actually a great person.

                9. Ann O.*

                  In the case of hiring/firing, the responsibility is on the person doing the action. Also, as a person higher on the food chain, the supervisor usually would have an easier time doing the ethical thing and finding a new job or being reassigned.

                10. Lara*

                  “subordinate doesn’t have to sleep with the supervisor”

                  Sure, unless she wants silly things like getting to keep her job, a roof over her head, food to eat… it’s not always as straightforward as her being a conniving courtesan.

        4. neverjaunty*

          Why doesn’t anyone resent the second in command, or think he was difficult to work with?

        5. stgts*

          Maybe this is something that happens a lot in the industry, but you’re being specific enough that I’m pretty sure I worked with the guy in question a couple years late. I’m pretty sure this is enough information to find out who he is if you’re decent at Google, so I’m not sure it’s appropriate to leave this comment up/uncensored.

            1. sap*

              Stgts may be identifiable if stgts names the specific person and may not want to be identified.

  2. Sami*

    Re letter #1– Is there anything the woman can DO about that terrible gossip (assuming it is false)? That’s just ugly.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      If it’s widespread or linked to a few particularly malicious people, it could fall under sexual harassment. But otherwise there’s very little that GrandBoss can do except to ignore the awful gossip and continue to be awesome. If other managers are paying attention, they should nip this bullshit in the bud. And OP can try to interrupt the narrative or can opt out (e.g., ask questions that require people to spell out why they’re being awful, call out the statement as problematic, physically walk away), but doing so can also have costs/risks associated with it.

      1. Specialk9*

        In this kind of situation I sometimes start a whisper campaign. Talk to people I know well, and get the idea out. For this, I’d act like I assume that of course they’re upset about something so sexist being spoken about so casually, and ask for their advice on how to give people the heads up that they’re unintentionally passing on a smear campaign. That kind of framing can change behaviors of multiple people and create a tipping point.

        The trick is not to have too many of these whisper campaigns.

    2. Engineer Girl*

      It could become gender based harassment/discrimination, especially if they refuse to follow orders. It certainly meets the pervasive part.
      And I’d like to submit that alerting HR might be an appropriate response.

    3. Rhymetime*

      At the large nonprofit where I used to work, the CEO was getting a divorce and a rumor was going around that it was because he was having an affair. When that news made it to the chief of my division, who reported to the CEO, she immediately called all her department heads in. She told them to communicate to all teams in no uncertain terms that if she heard this was being discussed again, it would show up in our performance reviews. That put an end to the conversation pronto. Perhaps something like that could be implemented at OP’s workplace.

      1. DArcy*

        This is how it SHOULD BE. I’m not gainsaying the advice of a whisper campaign if your bosses won’t handle the matter appropriately, but you shouldn’t need to — how it should be handled is you report it up the chain, and the big bosses drop a nuke on this misogynistic, unprofessional behavior.

    4. Specialk9*

      Does it being true make it less so sexist gossip?

      An ideal conversation would go like this:
      “She’s not very competent because of her sexual behavior out of work.”
      “WTF is wrong with you?!?!”

      But the idea that a woman’s competence is undermined by her genitals – just existing, or the behavior related to them – is so pervasive.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, I agree with Alison. It sounds like defamation may be at play, as well. I’m not impressed that the New Boss fired your friend without doing independent due diligence, but at a minimum, a lawyer can write a scary letter that may convince the vindictive ex-Boss to stop harassing her former employees and trying to ruin their lives.

    1. MK*

      Frankly, I find the new boss’s reaction very strange. If this had happened during the hiring process, I could understand that they might not want to take the chance of hiring an untrustworthy person; and they don’t have any first hand information at that point. But if someone has been working for you for some months, surely you have had the chance to form your own opinion about them? Firing them on a former employer’s say-so sounds extreme; at worst, I would take the input into account and watch the employee more closely for a time.

      OP, can your friend find out for sure what their employer was told and by whom?

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        Same. Does the new boss know the old boss and have reason to trust what they say? What could the old boss have possibly said?

        LW#2 – I would suggest that your friend have a lawyer contact new boss first to find out exactly what was said before reaching out to old boss.

        1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Some 25 years ago I had a vindictive & abusive ex BF call up the place I worked & tell them I was stealing- I got fired, and I’d worked there for two years! When I tried to explain to them that this ex told me exactly what he’d done (he’d also tried to do this to my brother at his job, and called animal control on my mom alleging false animal abuse/animal welfare issues), they sputtered & tried to make up another excuse…but called me back a few months later for rehire when they realized how badly they had screwed that one up.

      2. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        Well, someone in our industry was fired from a 3 month+ gig as president of a company, after theft at their previous job was uncovered. The previous company reached out to the current company before charges were filed or the theft became widely known. So first he was fired and then the “why” was revealed a few months later.

        Entirely different situation and not a defense of New Boss at all, but there are some egregious things that can be said (theft, documented sexual harassment) that will make a new job cut and run. I’m betting that mean wife lady pulled out a doozy of a convincing lie to make that happen.

      3. Ladysplainer*

        IDK if I find it strange. If someone told me my new hire (of a few months) was lazy and spent the day playing on the Internet, eye roll. If they told me she was a white supremacist who trafficked children on the weekend, I’d probably fire first and ask questions later.

        1. MK*

          Unless the person giving the information was one of a handful of people I trust implicitly, I wouldn’t fire a person on hearsay, especially so if it was an outrageous story. Watch them like a hawk for any warning signs, yes, asking for an explanation and firing them if it was unsatisfactory, possibly. But frankly, firing first and asking questions later is pretty irresponsible, in my opinion, unless maybe if we are taling about a potentially violent person. Certainly not after “receiving information that makes me not trust the employee”.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          If someone provided me absolute, irrefutable proof that I hired a white supremacist who trafficked children on the weekend, then yes, I would fire them without questions.

          But if some random person I either didn’t know or only tangentially knew told me something like that, I would do my due diligence before taking action. Firing people based on the word of others is a great way to discriminate against victims of domestic violence.

          1. Specialk9*

            Yeah. You show me the conviction report and other rock solid evidence? Gone. Just rumors? Eff off ex-boss.

            1. Leslie knope*

              Well, just because someone wasn’t convicted doesn’t mean that they aren’t guilty…

              1. DerJungerLudendorff*

                In that case, they must have some ironclad evidence to make such serious accusations. And I think it would be entirely reasonable to ask for a copy of that evidence.

              2. Specialk9*

                So how does one prove one ISN’T guilty, if it’s just rumors and unsubstantiated? That’s impossible. Please tell me you won’t fire someone without solid evidence!

        3. anoniaa*

          Yeah. I think some people don’t believe how damaging words can be. there’s damage in someone telling lies, highlighting flaws, or bringing people together over your flaws. Some people are good at talking s—.

        4. always in email jail*

          I would certainly go to HR if this came up, but my gut says I would tell the person what I was told and ask them what’s going on. It would give someone like OP’s friend a chance to explain and to pull out their phone and show the crazy text messages from former employer, etc.

        5. Triple Anon*

          I agree. People can be very convincing. It’s likely that they talked to someone at this company during the hiring process. That would give this woman an excuse to reach out. Maybe she sent them a fake document making it look like the fired person was doing something horrible.

          But the text messages are good evidence that this was malicious. She’s not making much of an effort to conceal what’s going on here.

          1. RVA Cat*

            This. She sent threats in writing.
            I wouldn’t put it past her to have claimed former employee stole from them and sent new employer a fake police report as “proof”.

          2. Specialk9*

            I took someone to small claims court once, and they created a fake document as evidence. I was stunned that this person had so little integrity.

        6. Emi.*

          And how would you feel when you found out that had been made up by a malicious former boss? This is a really bad policy.

        7. Observer*

          Really? That’s not a terribly responsible way to manage a business. And, it makes you very, very vulnerable to malicious actors.

        8. Nita*

          Really? This kind of smear campaign is not uncommon in some situations, so would you really be inclined to act on it ASAP without any investigation or evidence? For someone who’s a good liar, it’s really not that difficult to claim the other person is guilty of whatever crime they feel will push the listener’s buttons. Think Comet Ping Pong.

          1. Ladysplainer*

            Holy sh*t. Good thing I don’t manage a business. I’m a middle manager at an F500 and I’ve seen people get fired for stupider reasons.
            We don’t even know what ex boss said.

            1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              I got fired from a job I loved because a vindictive & abusive ex called them up and told them I was stealing. They didn’t bother to check into it, they just believed whatever it was he told them. (He called me up to crow about it. He tried the same trick with my brother’s employer, but they blew it off.)
              A few months later they sheepishly called me back in for rehire when they realized what they’d done. Most people wouldn’t have been so lucky.
              So I’ll say I’m also glad you don’t manage a business, since you’d handle this situation as poorly as my old job did.

        9. pcake*

          I wouldn’t fire first. I’d guess the most likely person to tell you – a stranger or bare acquaintance – that someone is a white supremacist who trafficked children on the weekend, would be that an ex-BF, ex-GF or ex-spouse. Otherwise why wouldn’t they reported the child trafficking to the police?

        10. Totally Minnie*

          Firing first and asking questions later is a great way to find yourself on the unpleasant side of a wrongful termination lawsuit.

          1. Ladysplainer*

            Feel free to call an employment attorney and report me for how I’m running my hypothetical business.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              I was not attacking you personally. The “yourself” in my statement was directed at a hypothetical manager in a similar situation.

              Also, I’m just trying to point out that “If you hear a bad thing about your employee, fire first and ask questions later” is not good advice. It’s what you said you would do if you were in a position of management, so it’s not unfair for others to point out that it’s not the best idea.

          2. Natalie*

            I’m not sure that’s actually true, in the US at least. In the absence of a contract, what federal law defines as wrongful termination is fairly narrowly defined, and I don’t think “heard negative information from former boss” would meet it.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              But even if a lawsuit isn’t successful, it could be an enormous months-long headache for the organization, and it could still cost quite a bit of money, time, and public goodwill.

        11. LJay*

          Seriously? You would trust what one person (whose agenda you don’t know) said, over what you had actually experienced with that person, without a shred of evidence?

          Thats… really uncool.

          Especially because the more serious the charges I feel like the more important it is to try and verify some form of proof.

          Like, if someone tells me an employee picks his nose and eats it when he thinks nobody is looking, that’s one thing and I might change my private opinion to think that he’s gross but not really search out to verify it.

          If someone tells me an employee is stealing from the company, I’m going to be checking inventory, checking tapes, and finding some sort of cooborating evidence before I go to fire him. Maybe he is stealing. Maybe there are inventory variances in his area that aren’t his fault. Maybe there are variances that are his fault but aren’t malicious. Maybe nothing is even missing at all.

          If they tell me he murdered his girlfriend and buried her in his backyard, I’m not equipped to handle that so if it seemed at all credible I would probably loop in my boss, HR, and the police. But I would at least determine some sort of credibility first – has girlfriend been reported missing at all for one? If she’s alive and well obviously it goes no further. Though even if I didn’t think it was credible I wpuld encourage the reporting employee to contact law enforcement if they did.

          Like, my ex was abusive. He seems to have moved on, but if you were my boss and he contacted you out of the blue and said I was dealing drugs on the property and slut-shaming actresses on Twitter you would just fire me without examining what you knew of me or what the actual situation was at all?

      4. Michaela Westen*

        I worked for a small business owned by a woman who enjoyed hurting people, who went way out of her way to start fights and cause trouble, and who especially didn’t like me because I set boundaries and didn’t let her disrespect me. Much.
        I got laid off – after two months she tried to have my unemployment comp cancelled – and then got a much better job.
        I would never have told her where my new job is. I’m sure she would have tried something.

  4. Lperry*

    I disagree with the advice to letter writer one. Really, nothing good can come of telling this woman what people are saying behind her back. What is she going to do if she’s told? She’ll feel uncomfortable, certainly. She can’t call everyone into a meeting and tell them that she knows what they said- deny it, be mad about it… No matter what she does she will look like she’s being defensive. And the colleagues will be upset with the op. I think the best course of action here is to remove yourself from the gossip, be sure not to participate in it in the future, and continue to treat your grandboss with respect.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But what is the Grandboss supposed to do? These are pretty nasty rumors, and it sounds like they’re going to impact her success and ability to recruit and advance people who fall under her umbrella.

      1. ctstud2008*

        I agree the rumors are nasty. However, any company that would make decisions about you based on rumors and supposition instead of evidence isn’t worth working for in the first place.

        There is no way you can stop workplace gossip. If you crackdown on it in the workplace, employees will still do it outside of work on their own personal time.

        I learned this as a 17-year-old at my very first job.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Of course you can’t stop workplace gossip, and if you try to be draconian, it won’t work. But it’s just not true that any company that makes decisions based on rumors isn’t worth working for. That seems like a really limited approach on how a large number of employers operate.

          1. Julia*

            I agree. Plus, morals are nice and all, but people have to pay rent. And why should the nice grandboss suffer for what the gossiping employees did?

      2. Triple Anon*

        Successful people get gossipped about a lot, especially if they’re people who aren’t expected to be successful (women, minorities, etc). Some people do get places by riding coattails. Sleeping with someone can be part of that. It can also be separate. And it can also backfire – the person can create problems for you because they don’t want someone they slept with to advance in the field.

        Who’s to say what’s actually going on here. But the grandboss probably knows by now that successful people get gossipped about, and she probably has a strategy for dealing with it. Usually, the best way to handle it is to prioritize doing good work and avoid getting caught up in the negativity. So I would mentally take note of who the gossippers are, stay out of it, and stay away from them as much as you can. They are probably people who enjoy cutting other people down, whether they’re aware of it or not. Keep your nose clean. Give a dismissive response like, “Thanks for the info,” and focus on your work.

        1. Nom Nom*

          If all those people are gossiping about grandboss to a newbie she totally already knows. I also noticed this only started when OP got transferred ‘for family reasons’ with the blessings of grandboss. Usually ‘family reasons’ are only a thing when it’s competent women doing the transferring then it’s seen as unfair. even if grandboss slept with the cleaner to get her job who cares. It’s not like the ‘merit’ system promotes women, POCs. disabled etc. OP1, sit, wait for a while and see what happens, check out where the toxicity is coming from so you know how to cover yourself (unless tis is a step too far for you then maybe look elsewhere. Grandboss had the power to get you transferred for family reasons. She’s already got your back. The whiners are probably threatened cos they know she has your back and they don’t. If she seriously only got her job from sleeping with someone, it would be unlikely she would have had the power to help you out with the transfer.

        2. Wrenn*

          It read to me like such a cliche that it was hard to take seriously. “Woman who slept her way to the top” is such a tired trope that I’d probably have laughed when told about it. Like, really? In moments of frustration with those above me, I’ve had thoughts along those lines myself. “Who’d you have sleep with to get that position? I absolutely hate the way you’re doing your job.” I didn’t voice said thoughts, but I did have them. It’s not hard to imagine some disgruntled person saying, “I bet Jane slept with the CEO to get that position”, another person going “oooohhhhh, juicy!” and it took off from there. Not hard to imagine. Also not hard to imagine that Jane knows this is being said about her.

          And if it’s true? Well, does that actually change *your* position? No, it does not. She’s still your boss, or your boss’s boss, with everything that comes with that position. It doesn’t really matter much if it’s true or not. Shut it down in the moment, or act extremely bored and unimpressed when told about this scandalous happening. The problem with rumors is that the harder you try to squash them, the more traction you give them. The only way they die is if everyone shrugs their shoulders and doesn’t care.

    2. Vermonter*

      Someone spread rumors that I was sleeping with a colleague – someone known for being sleezy – and I’m really glad I found about it, so I could go to my boss and say “if this gets back to you, it’s 100% untrue.”

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She deserves to know, so that she can decide for herself what, if anything, she wants to do about it.

      The litmus test isn’t “is there anything she could do about it?” The litmus test is “is this information that might be relevant to her career that she deserves to know about?” Maybe there is something that can be done. Maybe this is the confirmation of something she already suspected and it’ll allow her to address it in a way she couldn’t when her information wasn’t as solid. Maybe it’s part of a pattern that together adds up to sexual harassment. We don’t know. The OP doesn’t know either. The person who’s in the best position to decide whether she can or should act on it is the boss.

      1. ctstud2008*

        The chances are very high she already does know, especially if the gossip is widespread.

        I would not very comfortable whatsoever telling anyone anything like this.

        1. Mad Baggins*

          It sounds like, based on your past experience(s), you are confident that she already knows and that nothing can be done. Do we know that is the case? I think there might be value in OP swallowing their discomfort and tipping her off, just in case she doesn’t know and there’s something that can be done.

        2. Unseelie Courtier*

          This isn’t really about your discomfort. Sure, you can decide that not wanting to feel mildly awkward for a few minutes is more important than doing the right thing over nasty rumours that are negatively impacting another person’s career, but, well, that’s a pretty crappy thing to do.

          1. Kittymommy*

            Exactly. This is about the person being gossiped about and unless I knew unequivocally that they knew about the rumors (meaning they told me they knew) I would say something. She has a right to know this.

            1. Pollygrammer*

              My first thought it: there are times when kindness has to take precedence over discomfort.

              This may be the (very much justified) straw that breaks the camel’s back for her in any number of ways–it may tip her into reporting harassment or looking for a job at a less toxic organization. She, or someone she trusts, may be able to pinpoint the ringleader of the rumors and impose appropriate consequences. She deserves to know.

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          I find this rather contradictory. If she knows the gossip and that it is widespread, then she’s not going to be shocked that OP heard it. Either you’re warning her about something damaging she already knows, or you’re warning her about something damaging she doesn’t know. If, as OP says, she’s a good manager, then she’s unlikely to shoot the worried messenger who’s trying to give her a heads-up.

        4. JB (not in Houston)*

          I’m not sure how you can say the chances are very high. That depends highly on the organization. Often the people at the top don’t hear these kinds of rumors. I know at my current job, people at the top* are always out of the loop on office gossip. Most of them don’t do friendly chat with each other and we are all always on our best behavior around them. And in any case, everywhere I’ve worked where there is gossip about someone higher up, people are always careful about gossiping in a way makes it unlikely to get back to the subject.

          *With the exception of one person who has an employee who is very weirdly and inappropriately in other people’s business. We assume, though we don’t know, that her employee tells her things. But none of us talk to her about anything but work, so she only knows what she can pick up by snooping.

          1. LJay*

            Yup, especially if there is physical seperation (works out of a different location, or on a different floor, or in an office while everyone else is in open plan or cubes).

            I don’t know if my employees gossip about me. I wouldn’t know. Presumably they would be trying to keep that behind my back rather than saying it to my face where I could actually do something about it.

            I definitely don’t even know all the work things that go on that affect my employees. Once it reaches a large enough consensus it seems to trickle up to me, but it takes awhile for me to hear about frustrations etc that they’re experiencing with other employees because they don’t want to “tattle” or whatever.

        1. rldk*

          Not necessarily. If it’s “new” gossip, it may not have circulated outside the lower levels or outside of their location. Regardless, you’d go back to what Falling Diphthong says above – either it’s so widespread she already knows, and telling her won’t be an issue (and if anything, it’ll show her that OP really respects her), or she doesn’t already know and finding out could give her many options to respond.

      2. Maddie*

        She may already know. I would go to direct Boss with this vs Grandboss. GB may be very embarrassed and uncomfortable speaking about this with someone so far down the chain. It may negatively affect the relationship on some level, conscious or not.

    4. Leela*

      I’d want to know. I don’t know what I’d do once I knew but I’d hate to think people knew these rumors about me and were keeping me in the dark. I once had to tell my boss something incredibly uncomfortable that I’d heard and she was grateful to me for telling her.

        1. Four lights*

          I think she needs to know. Who knows how far these rumors will go. Better to know than to be surprised five years from now finding out everyone in the industry has heard about it.

          1. Birch*

            Exactly. If she doesn’t know, that information could help her combat the rumor in the future. If she knows, and someone brings it up to her, it’s easier for her to laugh it off and say something like “oh yeah, you heard that too? Isn’t it nuts the things some people will make up about you?” then shrug, chuckle, and it looks like there’s no way the rumor is true. If she gets blindsided by someone who’s willing to believe and spread nasty rumors, a (totally understandable) reaction of discomfort, hesitation and embarrassment might convince them that it’s true and hurt her career further!

      1. PersonalJeebus*

        I once revealed to a close friend that some other friends were discussing private information about her that they weren’t supposed to know. Think medical information. There wasn’t a lot my friend could do about it besides express her displeasure to the gossipers, but I never regretted speaking up (although I’d change some of the details of how I handled it). She deserved to know her privacy had been breached.

        The Grandboss in this situation may not even be able to express displeasure to anyone. Or she may be able to get the gossip shut down entirely. We can’t say. But it doesn’t matter–she has a right to know that something this sensitive about her is out there. At the very least it can help her decide in the future who to trust–and the OP will likely be on that short list.

    5. Lynca*

      Coming back from rumors is extremely hard and will undermine her ability to lead. It doesn’t matter if OP and her boss don’t buy in. If she’s lost the support of her reports she can’t succeed at all. And it’s pretty clear they don’t support her. I disagree there is nothing she can do. If she doesn’t address this it’s just going to continue.

      I don’t agree there is nothing she can do. We can argue whether it would be effective, but there are options. Personally I would take it up the chain, not down. Not to get people fired but to make sure it wasn’t affecting my performance reviews.

    6. MLB*

      I would 100% stay out of this as well. I have a hard time believing that if so many people said the same thing to LW, that grandboss doesn’t already know about the rumor, if it is in fact a rumor. Even if the LW has an enormous amount of respect for grandboss, and really doesn’t believe the rumor, there’s still a possibility that it’s true. I’ve seen and heard about many people who have done stupid things with other employees at work, and some have surprised me. And that’s exactly the kind of thing I want to stay out of in the workplace.

      1. Cat Herder*

        Just because a lot of people at lower levels are repeating this gossip does not mean the grandboss knows about it. They aren’t saying it to *her*, after all.

        OP should tell her. If grandboss doesn’t know, it’s helpful. If grandboss does already know, telling her does no harm.

        1. Myrin*

          Just because a lot of people at lower levels are repeating this gossip does not mean the grandboss knows about it. They aren’t saying it to *her*, after all.

          I absolutely agree. I get where that thought is coming from, but I also think it’s undererstimating how sneaky gossip can be, even if it’s wide-spread (at the same time as overestimating how close people are actually working together; we’re talking about a grandboss here, who’s probably quite a bit removed from regular employees both physically and regarding work tasks).

          When I’ve seen similar things play out, vicious gossipers are usually very careful to not mention anything in front of people they know the gossipee is close to, much less the person themselves. Twice, the gossipers were actually found out by the gossipee (and got taken to task for it) – once because they actually got overheard randomly by the very person they were bashing, and once because of a situation like in the OP, where a new employee had worked with the other person before and had an excellent relationship with them, which promptly led them to walk over and explain what they’d just heard.
          In both cases, the gossipees had had absolutely no idea about what people were saying about them before these instances.

          1. Nita*

            Hmm. Since OP is not really seen as being close to this boss, maybe she can try to figure out who’s starting the rumors before doing anything. Just go all wide eyed and ask everyone who says that “Oh my, how did you find out?!” and see where the rumor trail leads. It may be a lot more effective to go to the victim of the rumors, and to HR, with the knowledge of where the rumor got its legs.

      2. Wrenn*

        Me too. If she knows, well, she knows. If she doesn’t, what exactly do you (the LW) gain by saying something? I’ve been told some very scandalous stuff about various coworkers and higher ups over the years. Sometimes I add that info to my knowledge base about the subject of the tale, and sometimes to my knowledge of the tale teller. I’ve NEVER discussed it with the person, and only with a colleague on the supremely rare occasion where the information was relevant to getting work done. Sometimes the rumors were proved true.

        Yes, I’d want to know if it were me, but how exactly is this going to shake out? If she doesn’t know, there can be a “shoot the messenger” response. The harder you fight against a rumor, the more strength you give it. This is not LW’s battle to fight. Or be involved with in any way besides refusing to participate in the rumor cycle. Shrug and be bored by it all. That’s how you kill gossip.

        1. PersonalJeebus*

          It’s not the OP’s battle to fight, and no one (that I’ve seen so far) is saying she is obligated to fight it (although she could put up some resistance if she chooses).

          It’s the Grandboss’s battle to fight, or not fight, as she sees fit. And she can’t make a decision about that without the information. This isn’t about what the OP gains or loses. And it seems clear from the OP’s letter that she is at least as concerned about what her Grandboss is losing.

          The OP alone cannot kill this gossip by ignoring it, since apparently everyone around her is keeping it alive. Maybe no one can kill the gossip. But the Grandboss can at least make informed decisions for herself if she knows.

    7. disney+coffee*

      I disagree, I think it’s a matter of keeping a good relationship with the grandboss. If she found out the the OP knew about the rumors and didn’t tell her, the relationship could be destroyed. Image and perception matter, especially for women and these rumors (true or not) could destroy a career. I think it’s better that the grandboss isn’t blindsided by them in the future.
      I also think that a lot of this has to do with respect. Obviously the colleagues don’t respect the grandboss if they’re spreading rumors and the grandboss has a right to know that people don’t respect her and why.

      1. Wrenn*

        I’m having a difficult time imagining a situation where the grandboss would confront the LW about knowing and not saying anything. Unless the LW is especially close to the boss, or the boss’s personal assistant or something, I don’t see how that conversation would come up. How much interaction do the boss and the LW ultimately have? The gossip sounds old, so why would it be connected to the LW? Even if, somehow, the boss called the LW into her office to ask why the LW (someone two levels down the ladder) didn’t tell her of the rumors, all the LW has to do is deny it themselves. Or say something suitably vague. Maybe the boss does deserve to know, but the LW has to balance that with the consequences of doing so, because there will be consequences.

    8. Lily in NYC*

      Yeah, I agree. And what if the rumor is actually true? While there’s a slight chance that telling the grandboss is a good thing, I think there’s a much bigger chance that it is pointless and might backfire. I have learned the hard way over the years that these things never go the way we want them to. I can think back to a few situations when I did the “right thing” and later regretted it.

      1. Maddie*

        Agree Lily. It may also be true she did do this thing and is now a very capable manager. She may not want it brought up to her face. I would shut down the gossip spoken to me at the source. I can’t see saying to GB there’s a rumor you slept around to get your position resulting in anything good. Just squash it at the source. Staying clear of office drama and gossip is best imo.

      2. Observer*

        The OP says that Grandboss is competent. Which means that either the rumor is not true (regardless of whether she had an affair with someone), or the company is so sexist that a competent woman can’t get ahead.

        So, yeah, this rumor is a real problem, and Grandboss deserves to now about it.

        1. Lily in NYC*

          Our CFO (at a former job) was very competent. Then after 5 years, he started embezzling funds due to an expensive divorce. He was both competent and shady. We don’t know what happened here.

      3. Birch*

        It’s still good for her to know so she is able to prepare how she wants to react if it comes up with someone. Surely everyone has something in their life that they’d like a little preparation time before discussing with colleagues! Or it could explain weird behavior toward her.

    9. Yorick*

      Even if there’s nothing she could do (which I’m not sure about), it could still be helpful for her to know. Maybe she can tell that people don’t respect her and she wonders why, and this would at least help her understand what’s going on.

    10. TootsNYC*

      You know, in Traditional Social Etiquette, repeating gossip back to the person it is about is very problematic.

      The factors to consider are:
      -how damaging is this gossip, really?
      -how close are you to the person being gossiped about?
      -what can they do about it?

      There’s a real danger of making something feel totally crappy for no good reason.
      You do a certain amount of damage just by reporting it to the person.

      Those are what I’d factor in here. I think I’d refute it in the moment, but I don’t think I’d bring it to her.

    11. Crystal*

      I was in this situation once and was told and I was VERY happy to know. It altered how I interacted with the people who had said it and what I trusted them with. I was empowered with the information. I knew that they were wrong and I wouldn’t be able to change their minds, but was able to modify my interactions to make them healthier for me.

    12. Specialk9*

      I’m finding this whole thread to be especially awkward given that the latest episode of my favorite show, Younger, currently has the male boss sleeping with his subordinate Liza, the female co-founder blackmailing get best friend and boss, Liza unable to leave to have a better dynamic because of loyalty to the ahole friend. It kinda harshes the romantic buzz.

  5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#5, I generally decline these invites, even if they come from people I might otherwise like or want to stay connected to.

    1. MissGirl*

      Why would you decline if it comes from someone you’d like to stay connected to?

      OP, I send out these invitations because I want to build my network and assume others may want to do the same. If they ignore or decline the request that’s fine. But I see the interview/interviewee situation as a meeting between colleagues. If the position doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean I’m going to turn stalker. The last two interviews I had, I’m not sure I would’ve accepted an offer. I didn’t reach out to keep a foot in the door.

      Remember, if a rejected candidate really wanted to inundate you with messages about job positions, they probably have your email address. They don’t need LinkedIn to reach out to you.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        In the past, I’ve found myself inundated with spam (which is frankly easier to block through my email account). Now I give folks a 1 year cooling off period. If we see each other again in professional circles, then I may accept the invite, sooner. But if I receive it right after an interview or the close of a hiring process, I’ll usually decline or wait a bit.

        1. Angelinha*

          There’s not really a connection between LinkedIn connections and spam, I don’t think? Unless I’m missing something?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Sorry—what I meant is that folks bombarded my LinkedIn with the kind of messages OP worries about receiving. although folks can also do that by email, I found people were weirdly persistent through social media in a way that wasn’t true (for me) with email.

            1. TootsNYC*

              that’s because you’ve given them an indication that further contact would be welcome, in a way that having your email does not. They asked for further professional contact; you said yes.

              You’re not making it up; it’s a totally logical next step for them, frankly.

              I like your tactic of waiting to see if more contact develops naturally.

      2. OP #5*

        Hi all, OP #5 here! Thanks for your input! Since writing, I’ve learned that the applicant actually called the head of department he would have been working for to get feedback, and the department head explained why we decided not to move forward with his application. I think I’m going to ignore his contact request for now and let things cool off a little. There’s something about him that doesn’t quite sit right with me, even if he’s an interesting person – he’s also applied for another position with us that he wasn’t a good fit for, and he didn’t make it to the interview stage there, so there’s a bit of pushiness and inability to gauge fit (or desperation to work for us, not sure). I’m going to sit this out for a while.

        1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

          Sounds like a good idea, especially based on this new info. Thank you for the update!

      3. Steve*

        I got my current job due to connecting on linkedin with someone at a company that rejected me. I applied here and was rejected, but the company seemed interesting enough that I sent a connection request to stay in touch w. I got a different job where I worked for more than six years, learning some new skills. At the same time, the company grew to four or five times as many employees. Part of the reason I was rejected was that my skill set was too narrow, and as small of a company as they were at the time, they needed someone with a very broad skill set. After six years when it was time to start looking again, I found their ads and applied. Either my application wasn’t interesting enough on its own, or it somehow ended up in their spam folder. I sent a linkedin message to the hiring manager I was connected to. He didn’t reply to it, but, within an hour he finally replied to my application. We decided I was a fit and now I’ve been working here for three years.

    2. Kathleen_A*

      I usually accept so long as it’s someone I actually know (and like, of course). I’m a lot more circumspect about those people I’m connected to only indirectly. But if it’s someone I do actually know, I accept. If their posts and so on become annoying, I can always block them. That’s how I look at it, anyway.

      1. Kyrielle*

        I take this approach also.

        I wouldn’t accept a request from someone where my only connection was I interviewed and rejected them *and* they were uninteresting or bad – I don’t want those connections. But if they were interesting (even the sort of interesting that wouldn’t fit in my current company) I might accept.

        If they then badger me about why they weren’t hired, I have the option to block.

        But really it’s up to comfort level and what you want to do, OP.

        1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          I’m in the middle of doing something similar. My department is hiring, and I’ve had some meetings with students at a technical bootcamp. There is some overlap between these two facts.

          I’ve had multiple students ask if we can connect on LinkedIn. I have told all of them “Yes, but I won’t accept your request until we’re finished with the current hiring cycle.” So I have several connection requests sitting in my LinkedIn account right now that I will accept, but haven’t accepted yet. These were all reasonably interesting and intelligent people. And like Kyrielle said, I have the option to block in the future if I need to.

          1. OP #5*

            Yes, “letting it sit in my inbox for a bit” is the route I think I’m going to take (explained just above – I meant to comment at the very bottom but got comment levels confused somehow – sorry).

  6. ctstud2008*

    I disagree with you Alison about the gossip.
    I would not tell anyone about it because it is simply fuelling the fire. Gossip is generally harmless because it is hearsay and you WILL spread further it if you tell anyone about it. Employment decisions must be made on proven evidence, not hearsay.

    If you work for a company that makes decisions based on hearsay, it is not worth staying there at all.

    Yes, the gossip is mean and spiteful, but you are only adding to the drama if you repeat it.

    One of my favorite sayings at work is, “If you can’t measure it, it didn’t happen.” I probably repeat that saying a dozen times a day.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      But employment decisions often are made, in part, on a person’s actual or perceived reputation. And reputational evidence is often based on hearsay. It’s not a courtroom, so how people perceive you can absolutely affect how employers make decisions about you and your promotion/advancement.

      1. ctstud2008*

        Is it worth working for someone that makes decisions based on rumors? I don’t think it is and would run for the hills.

        In the USA, it is extremely difficult to stop malicious rumors. That is because in order to prove defamation, you have to establish the person who made the remark knew it was false when he said it. That is hard to prove unless there are some recordings or emails in which the person admits he knew the statement was a lie.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          I think you’re underestimating how many people make decisions based on rumors/gossip. I’m not saying it’s good practice, but it’s also extremely widespread. And it’s particularly true for women and folks of color (and all intersections thereof) in high-powered positions or on an upward trajectory. Those rumors have materially negative impacts on folks’ careers, whether or not their immediate bosses credit the rumors.

          I literally cannot think of a single workplace I’ve been in or school I’ve attended where someone did not spread a malicious rumor or say horrible things (not as bad as what OP describes) suggesting that I was unqualified for my job/position. Even when I’ve gotten along well with 99% of my coworkers or peers, there’s also a 1% who will use their feelings of personal failure/competitiveness/fragility to drag you down, and if they can’t do it by attacking your work, they’ll do it by attacking your reputation.

          1. ctstud2008*

            Well I do agree with you that it can hurt your reputation. That’s why I’ve stopped using social media because gossip is EXTREMELY prevalent on it and sites like Twitter and Facebook don’t do anything about it.

            But ultimately I do agree with Triple Anon that successful people will be subjected to a lot of gossip and they have learned to deal with it by not letting the negativity drag them down.

          2. Pollygrammer*

            Also, one piece of unchecked nasty salacious gossip in a workplace can open the door to all kinds of nasty salacious gossip when it becomes the norm of an organization. People will start actively looking for that kind of thing when they decide, consciously or not, that it’s acceptable and commonplace to “dig up dirt.” I know from experience that the toxicity will spread and no one can be sure they won’t be the next target.

        2. Gaia*

          Are you serious? What do you think references are? Do you think it is possible that *none* of the people that have heard this might ever be in a position to give this woman a reference?

          And if I were to limit my employment options to companies that never took another person’s opinion of me into account….I’d be unemployed.

        3. Jadelyn*

          Perhaps in an ideal world, everyone has the capacity to make a choice like “I don’t want to work for someone who takes what they’ve heard into account in their decision-making” – but the simple fact is, that’s not the case for everyone. “Well, I didn’t want to work for you anyway” doesn’t pay the bills if you get fired or passed over for hiring because of rumors.

        4. PersonalJeebus*

          Let’s say hiring and advancement decisions at this company do take into account people’s overall reputations, and that gossip can play into that. Let’s accept for a moment the premise that this would make the company a toxic workplace. If that’s all true, how can the Grandboss run for the hills if she isn’t informed about the gossip?

          Also, again, this situation isn’t a court case (yet). Nobody is trying at this point to prove defamation. And even if they were, a court decision is not a requirement to address the behavior of employees in a workplace.

    2. savannnah*

      I don’t know if I agree with Alison but I really disagree that gossip is harmless, it can really affect anyones perception of you and in this instance, reinforces some nasty sexist BS that is absolutely not harmless.
      My former work BF and I were both young women working in relatively high paying high power jobs at large institutions managing coexisting departments. My friend is a objectively attractive woman and once people found out about how much we were both making (via gossip) rumors spread far, onto other campuses, that my friend slept her way there. This rumor was so pervasive that when we got a new boss and grandboss in the same year, they lowered her pay because they told her it was ‘inflated for non-business purposes’. We both moved on to other jobs since but gossip can absolutely be harmful. If my friend had known in time about what people were saying, she could have had more of a recourse in this instance.

      1. Engineer Girl*

        I agree. Gossip and whisper campaigns can utterly destroy a persons reputation.
        Women have a hard enough time being taken seriously without the other added to it. Women in general are assumed incompetent until proven otherwise (whereas men are assumed competent until proven otherwise). This particular gossip just adds to the assumption that she didn’t earn her position through merit. And when she is assumed incompetent then she will have problems leading.

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          At an OldJob, every time the assistant manager was in the manager’s office with the door was closed, a very specific scurrilous joke was made at her expense. It was repeated to the point that new hires would hear it within a week of starting. It didn’t help that both persons were disliked because of poor management practices coupled with abrasive personalities. No one had an interest in informing her of this gossip and when I left it was still the joke of the day.

          1. Triple Anon*

            Unfortunately, that’s the way some people deal with power dynamics – making cruel jokes about the person who has power over them. Kids do the same thing to teachers. How do good teachers respond? They ignore it to a point, and if it becomes a bigger issue, they address it in a mature and collected way.

            I think there are times when it makes sense to let the person know, but ignoring and eye rolling is usually a good first line of defense. You see this kind of thing everywhere, in any industry that’s competitive, where the stakes are high, and everyone who comes out on top or has any kind of advantage gets it. The irony to it all is that the sour grapes mentality isn’t conducive to anyone’s success. If people are whining and gossipping, they’re wasting time that could be spent on the substance of the work that they’re doing.

      2. Kat in VA*

        OMG they literally lowered your friend’s pay because of gossip that she slept her way up?


        Is it 2018? Someone tell me it’s 2018.

        I would have been heard in the parking lot hollering that they explain to me EXACTLY what “…inflated for non-business purposes” meant. EXACTLY. Like, spell it out, brochachos, because I’m not letting you slide out from under this one with wishy-washy business speak when you really want to say, “We think you’re a whore and you don’t deserve your salary because of unsubstantiated rumors”

        1. savannnah*

          She was also the only POC working at this level or above so I felt there was lots to unpack there (lawyer up) and she just wanted to get the hell out, which I don’t blame her for. We both were outta there within the month.

    3. Mad Baggins*

      I think there is a difference between repeating gossip and telling someone they are being gossiped about (arguably sexual harassment) by Jane, Fergus, and Wakeen.

      It makes me wonder if you are squashing any similar reports of harassment or wrongdoing by claiming they have no merit if you can’t “measure” it. Should OP count the number of times she has heard the gossip? Assign a percentage to Grandboss’s reputation or department morale? Do you have other ways of encouraging others to feel comfortable reporting illegal or toxic activity, or do you wholly rely on “pics or it didn’t happen”?

      1. Engineer Girl*

        This is an important point. You don’t need X percent happening or Y incidents to have a pattern of behavior. A pattern, just like trending, is relevant even if you can’t perfectly quantize it.

        It’s also not true that employement decisions are based on pure evidence. If that were true then women would be promoted at the same rate as men. All employment decisions have an emotional factor. Indeed, several studies now show we make decisions based on emotion and then cherry pick data to justify our choice!!!

        BTW, “If you can’t measure it, it didn’t happen.” is beyond ridiculous. Observation is relevant even if not measured. Artificially limiting inputs to measurable data points guarantees a poor analysis. Or perhaps you’ve never heard of empirical data?

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s a particularly odd position in light of the letter about someone fired when their old boss decided to go after them via hearsay. I’m guessing that wasn’t measured, either.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I think the idea that ‘if you ca’t measure it, it didn’t happen’ is incredibly short sighted and problematic if you are applying it to human interactions and issues such as gossip, prejudice, discrimination etc.
      There are lots of situations where there isn’t cast iron evidence, and in a situation like this, if you try to shut it down when it is first mentioned then you are not making the effort to look into it to see whether there is anything in it (anything ‘measurable’ in your terms).

      Also, reporting to the person affected is very different to repeating gossip and adding to drama. It is about letting someone who appears to be the victim of malicious gossip know about it, so that they can make decisions about how they want to respond (if they want to address it at all)

      1. Triple Anon*

        When you do that, it tends to pit people against you, and it gives them an excuse to create problems for you. I would ignore it. Don’t let them know what you think of them aside from subtle hints that you’re not interested in that kind of thing.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          Doing the right thing is worth pissing people off. But also, you don’t have to attack the people gossiping to their faces, just the rumor itself.

          Rumors like that are unbelievably sexist.
          So say: “Rumors like this are unbelievably sexist.”

        2. Maddie*

          Plus not everyone at work has to “like” me. We just need to work together professionally.

        3. Gaia*

          So we should just let ugly, sexist things happen in the workplace because it might be uncomfortable for us if we speak out? Uh, no thanks.

    5. disney+coffee*

      On a certain level, I agree with you. But as much as I wish rising above hurtful words is the right solution, I don’t think you’re being very pragmatic about the situation. We don’t live in a fantasy world where image and perception don’t matter (especially for women in higher-level positions) and sometimes the best way to deal with gossip is to firmly address it and refute it.
      If I were the grand-boss I’d be mad as hell if my colleagues thought I slept my way to the top, but I’d be even more upset if someone I respected knew about the rumors and didn’t tell me. It’s an ugly situation all around but if the grand-boss was completely caught off guard by the gossip, things could go downhill really fast for the letter-writer and the relationship could be ruined.

      1. Hmmmmm*

        I feel like that would be more unfair! A person is putting their job on the line when bringing up painful gossip with their boss – who knows how they’ll react? I wouldn’t blame a person for looking out for themself. It would still suck, but I wouldn’t blame them.

    6. Jessie the First (or second)*

      “Gossip is generally harmless because it is hearsay and you WILL spread further it if you tell anyone about it”

      It will spread further if you take part in the gossip, yes. Simply telling the object of the nasty rumors that the rumors and gossip exists is not spreading gossip. It’s odd that you argue that gossiping and alerting the focus of the gossip are the same thing.

      “One of my favorite sayings at work is, “If you can’t measure it, it didn’t happen.” ”
      In my prior job working in employment litigation, this kind of attitude is what led a lot of companies into trouble and it’s essentially the reason they ended up getting sued – they didn’t take complaints of harassment seriously because it was just drama/interpersonal stuff/not measureable. They could (and did) dismiss it as gossip, as hearsay, as not “measurable.” Hello, successful hostile work environment lawsuit.

    7. Observer*

      “If you can’t measure it, it didn’t happen.”

      And that’s how you get so many situations where problems go on and on and on…..

      The ability to measure things is important. But not everything is measurable. And not everything can be proven 100% with documents and all. Ignoring all of that stuff is a dangerous way to manage.

    8. Gaia*

      “If you can’t measure it, it didn’t happen” so the gross jokes of an extremely sexual nature at Old Job didn’t happen? So the boss who didn’t promote me (even though I was the only qualified candidate and had been doing the actual job with great reviews for two years) because I turned down his not-too-subtle advances didn’t happen?

      This attitude is how sexism and racism in the workplace is allowed to flourish. You need to seriously reconsider your stance. It is very gross.

      1. Kat in VA*

        Well, I’d say one way of measuring it would be to write the joke down, word-for-word (not that I’m defending the “if it’s not quantified it didn’t happen” stance. BUH-lieve me.)

        “So, here’s a quantifiable, word-for-word description of the disgusting sexual joke that Wakeen told me while I was trying to work on your TPS reports. Notice the use of *gross phraseology* and *gross anatomy term*.”

        That’s about as measurable as it gets, other than a recording in a single-party state.

        But I understand your outrage at “measurable”, since a lot of workplace shenanigans are not something that can be quantified, like a bruise on the arm or nasty emails.

        1. Ladyphoenix*

          “On a hurt scale of 1-10, how hard did Fergus punch you so that we can determine whether we should trll you that you are a sissy, boys will be boys, or that you need to take a joke.”
          Said no one EVER

          Or should a victim of postal make an infographic of how badly they got shot?

          This is all stupid.

      2. Ladyphoenix*

        You need to make a pie chart that measures exactly what words were said to you, a Line graph that shows how many comments was made to you per week, and a percentage of which department says these comments to you. /sarcasm

        Yeah, that sounds stupid too and it makes no sense. It just sounds like some fancy dude talk for “T1ts or GTFO” or “Pic or it didn’t happen”.

        1. Kat in VA*

          Or when someone Sea Lions™ you in an internet argument and demands that you cite sources, provide data, give a clear and reasoned argument to their exacting standards, offer up statistics, and whatever else…so they can randomly shoot you down anyway.

          My usual response to that is that I don’t take homework assignments from people I know and care about; the last thing I’m gonna do is create a dissertation-level paper for some rando on the internet that I’ve known for all of 14 seconds.

          Then they get offended and whine that you didn’t plan on having a nice, calm discussion, or that you’re rational, or whatever. YOU PUT THE ARGUMENT OUT THERE, I’M JUST RESPONDING TO IT.

          Know Your Meme explains it better than I do:

    9. Frankie*

      Gossip really is not generally harmless. Gossip of this sort can directly impact someone’s reputation and career success, far beyond any interpersonal negativity. That doesn’t mean someone will necessarily write in a performance review, “slept with boss, clearly unqualified”–doesn’t mean that specter hanging over the employee won’t affect daily interactions and decisions, and influence more critical decisions. It’s human behavior.

    10. Jadelyn*

      Gossip is not even REMOTELY “generally harmless”. How many times on this blog do we see letters from people who’ve had job offers tanked (or gotten fired, which story is literally IN THIS SAME POST) by maliciously bad references, often using gossip and hearsay? Gossip can literally run someone out of an industry and destroy their career. We’ve seen that happen. Multiple times.

      And you are stunningly naive if you really think that employment decisions “must”, in some actually enforceable way, be made on “proven evidence”.

      It’s like saying that employers can’t decide whether or not to hire someone based on their disability, or their age. Yes, that is the law. However, people still do it regardless, and good luck proving it’s been violated and getting real redress of your grievances if it happens to you. It’s not as simple as just saying “You’re not allowed to do that!” and they go “Oops, sorry, my mistake” and fix it.

    11. Specialk9*

      “One of my favorite sayings at work is, “If you can’t measure it, it didn’t happen.” I probably repeat that saying a dozen times a day.”

      I’m going to guess that you’re often surprised and annoyed by how infrequently life fits that tidy aphorism.

  7. Hyacinth Bucket (Pronounced Bouquet!)*

    OP #1 – I agree with Allison here about letting either your boss or grandboss know. Several years ago, I found out that a number of people in my community were spreading rumors about my sexual activity. It absolutely devastated me when I found out, and I really struggled with what to do. I found that knowing these things were said about me meant I need to be more careful about how I carry myself in certain situations, and it also gave me the ability to respond to subtle digs that were previously going right over my head. Eventually I spoke openly that I knew about these rumors, found them ridiculous and sexist, and hoped that the rumormongers found better ways to spend their time. While I don’t know if I will ever fully escape those rumors, they have subsided significantly since then.

    Granted, this was not in a workplace, but it was a community with both personal and professional ties. I wish grandboss the best in fighting the rumor machine.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      That is an excellent point about the subtle digs that only make sense, and so can only be addressed, if you know the context that gives the added meaning.

    2. JB (not in Houston)*

      That’s awful. I’m so sorry that happened to you. But I’m glad you figured out a way to handle it.

    3. Kat in VA*

      The amazing part is that it seems like now, even now in 2018, the only people whose sexual activities that are gossiped about are female or female-presenting (and sometimes, gay men).

      Like, it’s totes ok that Fergus is banging every woman directly his report on down, but the women who are banging Fergus (even if they want to)? Just whores, sleazy sluts, tramps, and every other pejorative slung at women by men who are appalled at the notion that women might just be having sex for fun.

      You know, like they do?

  8. MassMatt*

    #2 what a terrible situation, I’m glad you are out of there.

    It is bizarre how frequently employers get nasty and vindictive towards people who simply want to move on to another employer. So often we read about employers/managers that make giving 2 weeks (or more) notice is tantamount to treason, yet act so nasty towards the departing employee that they chase them out the door.

    I get that this is a small industry and so maybe everyone knows everyone, but in general it seems a good idea to keep information about a new employer on a “need to know” basis.

    And it’s probably small consolation to your friend, but if this ex-boss is as vindictive as you say then everyone will know his and her threats will carry little weight.

    1. Sherm*

      Agreed. I would certainly consult a lawyer (and let the lawyer know about the text), but I would not spend nights tossing and turning over this. I knew two people who tried this vindictive crap — unsuccessfully.

    2. ctstud2008*

      You do not owe anyone 2 weeks notice before quitting if your mental or physical health are being harmed. It sounds like this is what happened here.

      You can always try to find a replacement job. However, your health or life cannot be replaced and you should get out of there ASAP if you are being threatened or forced to work in unsafe conditions.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      Seems like the threats carried enough weight to get the friend fired though. Small industries usually means that the managers are all at minimum strong acquaintances so ex-boss probably has a lot of connections that are going to make the friends job search very hard.
      A lawyer really is needed and hopefully the friend still has the text threats as proof.

      1. Laurlema01!*

        New boss should have had a talk to your former co-worker about the call & what was said before terminating her. If I had hired someone and a former supervisor or co-worker contacted me and said bad things about them I would make a point of sitting down with a new employee and state what took place and what was said. It could be from the point of “just a heads up” to “XXX was told to me, and I need to clarify what took place.” Especially if was a business that has a lot of regulations and laws associated with it.

    1. SAS*

      Hee! My all-time favourite letter!

      The whole “dragging mondays” narrative is such a social norm it even goes on in workplaces where we’re happy to be there! I find it runs off the back as easily as the “how are you? Fine” social contract conversation stuff. Don’t worry LW.

      1. On Fire*

        Yep. I *love* my job, as does my immediate supervisor, but we frequently have a conversation of “Yay, Friday!!/Ugh, Monday.”

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, “ugh, it’s Monday” and “yay, it’s Friday!” comments are such a normal part of office small talk! I think OP is really overthinking this very normal interaction.

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        Yeah, think of all those “I hate Mondays” Garfield posters. I think it would look weird for the CEO to make a big deal out of it.

      4. Pollygrammer*

        I frequently respond to “how are you?” first thing in the morning with a cheerful “still asleep!” Nobody cares.

      5. Isabel Kunkle*

        Likewise–I might have a job petting puppies and riding unicorns, but getting up at 7 AM and commuting is never going to be Christmas morning, so the first day back to that will always be comparatively meh, and the day before a break will always be a little better than the others.

      6. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        While I definitely agree that the OP shouldn’t worry about it too much, I definitely understand the pressure of working with that kind of boss. A CEO at a former workplace was all about being positive and loving what you did and all that unicorn poop. He would have meeting where he would say “If you don’t believe in our product 100% you shouldn’t be here and I invite you to leave right now!” He also did a daily positive thought email, but even he couldn’t pull that much motivational fluff out of his behind every day and changed it to a weekly email.

        I think the subject change to the weather was the CEO doing the equivalent of putting their fingers in their ears and saying “la la la I can’t hear youuuuuu.”

  9. Esbee*

    OP #5 I was a final candidate at an amazing company but we jointly saw I missed one important qualification (soft skill) at the time crucial for succes in the role. I connected with all the interviewers since they were great people and we had a great vibe.

    Besides staying updated on the company happenings (making me want to work there more), guess where I saw that this same role opened again? I’ve reached out to my old interviewer and they’re very excited to talk about how my skills improved during the year.

    If she turns out to be a nutter or stalker you can always block her. Either way you’re never obligated to answer something.

    1. OP #5*

      Great to hear this worked out for you! I think had it been that sort of situation, I would’ve accepted his request, no questions asked. But I had a bit of a bellyache about this that has actually intensified since I wrote in: I’ve since learned that the applicant actually called the head of department he would have been working for to get feedback (which is perfectly fine, no problem with that). He had also applied for another position with us that he wasn’t a good fit for, and he didn’t make it to the interview stage there. So there’s a bit of pushiness and inability to gauge fit (or desperation to work for us, not sure). I’m going to just let his request sit in my inbox for a while to see how things develop.

  10. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #2 — definitely hire a lawyer, protect yourself. Defamation, threats, and tortious interference all are at play here.

    At a minimum, it will likely halt the behavior. If there’s any attempt at communication from her to you until then, just say “counsel has advised me to have no contact with you” and that will likely cause her to , well, stop the behavior.

  11. Monkey princess*

    Wow, I normally agree with you, but I think #1 is terrible advice.

    First of all, there’s no good way to deliver that news. The only way to do so is to sound like a middle school bully… the whole “I just thought you should know that everyone hates you” is a classic move in that set.

    Secondly, what is she supposed to do? Tattle to HR? “People are saying meeeeeeeean things about me! Make them stop!” Confront the ones spreading gossip?

    Grand boss either knows, in which case she doesn’t need peon worker rubbing salt in the wound, or she doesn’t, in which case she doesn’t need peon worker showing up playing tattletale about her coworkers.

    IMO the best thing is to tell anyone who shares this with you “she’s been a fantastic boss to me, and I wonder if you’d be so quick to believe these totally unsubstantiated rumors if she was a man. Funny how it’s only highly competent women that are accused of sleeping their way to the top. And a word of advice… HR is mostly women, and if they hear you spreading these mysoginistic rumors, I wouldn’t want to be in your place if they feel like calling you to the carpet.”

    1. RaccoonLady*

      Where in the letter does it say that their HR department is mostly women? Also, she says she has a good relationship with Grandboss, so I don’t think that grandboss will assume she’s being a middle school bully…or that she’s a “peon worker”.

      1. Bea*

        The stats show most HR workers are women. So they’re pulling from that and not the letter, I’m assuming. Which plays into more sexism “women won’t like that you’re talking bad about another woman!” Please, as if that’s ever been true!!

        1. Kim, Ranavain*

          Not to mention that it reinforces the idea that women are responsible for addressing harassment against women in the workplace, which helps men (both bystanders and the ones doing the harassment) wash their hands of their share in the culture created in the workplace. HR shouldn’t care more because they’re women, *everyone* should care because it impacts *everyone* and it shouldn’t be on women to correct the behavior of the grown-ass men around them.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      I’m confused because you scoff at “tattling to HR” and “confronting the ones spreading gossip” but then advise confronting the rumor-mongers and threatening action from HR. Why would this be more effective coming from OP than from Grandboss? Some of the rumors are coming from her direct reports, and I would think a manager could shut it down more effectively than a peer.

    3. Engineer Girl*

      The coworkers are participating in gender based discrimination. It is illegal under federal law. Not mean, but illegal. It’s not tattling to tell HR about an illegal activity.

      The only grade school activity here is on the part of the gossipers. They, and they alone deserve to be called on the carpet.

    4. Tardigrade*

      This will probably sound lame, but they say knowledge is power for a reason. Grandboss isn’t some helpless victim, and giving her this knowledge (if she doesn’t already have it) gives her more power to deal with it.

    5. Ladyphoenix*

      just so you know, spreading rumors of a woman’s sexual activities and how it affects her role in the office is considered sexual harassment. And that if word went to more prestitgious corporations or the media, this could ruin the boss’s career—even if it is not true.

      So you’re saying that we shouldn’t report sexual harassment because it is “tattling”, anword we grew out of saying in MIDDLE SCHOOL.


    6. NW Mossy*

      You can absolutely deliver this message in a way that doesn’t make you sound like a middle school bully. While you might use similar words, the difference in tone is what matters. A bully would say this with a sneer in their voice; a sympathetic adult would have a tone of sincere concern for the well-being of their audience. Grandboss is not so clueless that she can’t pick up the difference between the two.

    7. Gaia*

      The thing is, this isn’t “people are saying mean things” this is really edging towards (if not already there) sexual harassment.

      And there are plenty of ways to discuss this without sounding like a bully. I would absolutely want to know (and would deserve to know) if the people that report under me were spreading ugly, vicious, sexist rumors about me because it would be undermining me – and, if it were sexist in nature, I would need to address it to prevent a culture of sexual harassment.

    8. CM*

      Sharing information with someone that affects their reputation is not tattling.

      And OP#1 isn’t a “peon worker,” she has an established relationship with Grandboss.

      Middle school bullies act like that to assert their power. OP#1 would be telling Grandboss this to make sure that she was aware and would be able to handle it as she sees fit. “What is she supposed to do” is not the OP’s business, but there is a wide range of things that Grandboss could do to address it, especially since she is in a position of power within the company.

      I agree that replying to those rumors with, “I think she’s an excellent boss and I’ve learned a lot about accounting from her, so I don’t put much stock in those rumors, and I think spreading them is a bad idea,” is also good.

    9. Delphine*

      What odd framing. Misogynistic rumors are not just “mean.” The LW is not a “peon.” Taking a complaint about sexism to HR or disclosing to a boss that her employees are spreading stories about her is not “tattling” or playing the bully. These antics may be middle school, but it helps to think of them in the context of a professional workplace and not assume that responding to them is equally middle school.

  12. arjumand*

    Re OP#1:

    I hate to say it, but I don’t agree with Alison’s advice at all – please don’t do this, OP1, because I’m almost certain that the only one who will suffer in this situation will be you.
    Like it or not, we generally associate the messenger with the message – either that, or she will want to know all the names of the gossips: are you prepared to do that? Also, you have no guarantee that your own job won’t be in danger, because every time she sees you or interacts with you in any way, she will be reminded of what you told her.

    And anyway, what is she supposed to do with that information? Do you think it will do her any good to wonder if every single person she interacts with, at work, thinks she slept her way to the top?

    Definitely shut down anything to that effect in conversations with your peers – and shut it down forcefully, with a firm “This is not true, and I’m not interested in discussing it” – and hope it will dissipate on its own.

    1. Mad Baggins*

      OP seems prepared to name the gossips (“I assume that would require me to name names of the accusers, although that wouldn’t necessarily bother me.”). And do you really think Grandboss, who OP currently has a good relationship with, would instantly assume that OP believes the rumors? If OP reported that people were not following safety regulations or breaking other company rules, do you think Grandboss would punish OP as if OP was admitting guilt? (This seems far-fetched to me, or at least indicative of severe problems.)

      And as Alison mentions in the comments elsewhere, I think Grandboss should be allowed to decide what to do with the information herself. It may in fact do her good to know what her colleagues and reports think of her, so that she can plan and react accordingly.

    2. HarvestKaleSlaw*

      Yeah. I can’t think of the last time I disagreed with Allison’s advice, but I think she is way off base here.

    3. Maddie*

      It may or may not be true. It doesn’t matter if grand boss is a proficient manager. Just shut down the gossip without bringing up truth.

    4. Wrenn*

      I agree that the one likely to suffer here is OP1. Telling people painful truths ends in one of two ways: a camaraderie develops with that person in a “hey, I’ve got your back” “yay, thank you!” sort of way or you are angrily rejected/cold shouldered. We’d all love it if the former happened, but unfortunate it’s often the latter. Unless you have excellent repport with the grandboss, and don’t mind the possibility of ruining that rapport, I’d leave well enough alone. Feel free to shut down the rumors in the moment and be extremely bored by the whole thing, but I think it’s ultimately going to bite you in the butt if you bring it up.

      1. arjumand*

        “Feel free to shut down the rumors in the moment and be extremely bored by the whole thing, but I think it’s ultimately going to bite you in the butt if you bring it up.”

        That’s the thing – I don’t see how it’s going to benefit OP1 in any way if she’s going to be perceived as the bringer of bad news so early in her career.
        Also, say she does give the names of the people who gossiped to her – and they just deny it, completely. Who’s grandboss going to believe, people who’ve been there for years, or newbie?

        Yeah, this has potential to be a trainwreck of massive proportions. Just don’t do it.

        1. Wrenn*

          Exactly. Also, I’m having trouble imagining a scenario where the OP is questioned about this by the grandboss. Yes, I get that it feels wrong and maybe it IS wrong not to say something, but speaking up will most definitely have consequences. Very likely consequences that will make you wish you just kept your big mouth shut.

    5. Former Retail Manager*

      Completely agree. Even if OP is willing to name the gossipers, it will take them all of 2 seconds to learn who told the boss about it and, if that’s the case, I hope that OP doesn’t need cooperation from any of these people to do their own job. In my experience, long time employees like the ones you describe tend to band together to “freeze out” the person they perceive as “the enemy.” And rest assured, that any trust or rapport you may have built with any of the gossipers will be long gone, especially if they are confronted about the gossip. And if they are confronted, guess what, they’ll probably all deny it. And then what? You have an unproveable he said/she said situation, especially if they all stick together with the same story, that is just going to create extra tension in the office that didn’t exist before.

      While I agree that you should shut it down in the moment and speak well of your boss, if that’s your experience, I see the potential pitfalls for you outweighing the pros.

  13. cierta*

    Re OP#1

    I’m surprised no-one has mentioned this yet, but it is possible grandboss did sleep with the upper level manager. And it’s also possible that this happened in a completely non problematic context (like, before they worked for the same company, or even in the same field, or when there wasn’t the inappropriateness of one being more senior than the other (it’s not clear if grandboss is a direct report of the upper level manager, or if they are just generally more senior than her)), because they liked each other and wanted to have sex. Or in a really really horrible context, maybe when she was more junior the upper level manager used his power to harrass her into unwanted sex.

    So if OP#1 does decide to raise the rumours with grandboss (and I think I am on the side of ‘it’s better if people know’, but I see it’s difficult) I would try to avoid ‘of course these terrible rumours can’t possibly be true because you would never have slept with them’ line. I think you can communicate ‘I think you are an excellent manager and I take no stock in these rumours, but thought you ought to know’ without saying ‘and that thing must totally not be true, because you’re a Good Person’.

    1. Sara*


      Also, in my experience, sometimes rumors like this continue to fester because there is *something* going on between people that is affecting the workplace, and because it’s not above board it can’t be either understood fully by those affected or addressed appropriately.

    2. Itav*

      I think grandboss probably has already heard these rumors if they’re so pervasive and seriously what is she going to do with this information or say in response to OP? I agree it’s possible she did sleep with this manager for all of the reasons listed and think it’s better to just shut down coworkers in the moment and let grandboss’ great work speak for itself.

    3. Mazzy*

      I just posted the same thing because I missed this comment when scrolling down. I wasn’t gettting why the commenters were automatically assuming it was a made up story based on no facts. It is probably based on something. I’d definitely find out what that something is before getting involved

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        At this point, what are the odds the gossipers know what the something was? If the two were caught en flagrante when the video conference system turned on, that exciting detail would surely have been included. “Because Joseph said” is far more likely as a background.

      2. JB (not in Houston)*

        I don’t know how you can get to “probably.” At best you can say “possible.” It’s unfortunately so common for these kinds of rumors to happen based on nothing more than a woman succeeding in the workplace that you absolutely cannot hear these rumors and automatically say “well, some part of that is probably true.” If you believe these kinds of rumors in your workplace just because you are assume they are probably true if people are saying it’s . . . not good.

        1. Chameleon*

          Half the time I have experienced these rumors they were started by the dude in question maliciously lying about the woman out of jealousy.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            I wish I could say I’ve never seen that happen, but I’ve definitely seen that happen

      3. neverjaunty*

        It probably is based on “something”, with “something” being the assumption that competent women can’t succeed unless they put out for a blameless male supervisor.

      4. Observer*

        What people are assuming is that the part that she only got the job because of a relationship is false.

        The rest doesn’t matter – whether GB had a relationship or not with another manager is really, really not relevant.

      5. PlainJane*

        Yeah, but the “something” it’s based on could be perfectly innocent, appropriate workplace behavior. Early in my career a group of co-workers started a rumor like this about me, that I was sleeping with our network administrator. He and I did spend a lot of time alone in his office, because we were–horrors!–building an email server. It was the early 90s, and neither of us knew much about the nuts and bolts of email and the internet, so it took awhile. Never assume that gossipers have any valid reason for the bs they make up and spread.

    4. anoniaa*

      Better response. Also, don’t name names. Maybe they didn’t sleep together, maybe they were seen going out together a lot, flirting. The rumors aren’t true then, but couple that with young employees possibly you have something. I don’t know if the employees are young.

    5. MLB*

      I said the same thing in response to another comment above. I work in IT on the Operations side and in my last company was 1 of a couple of women in the department. Most of my friends at work were men. And while I never crossed that line, there were some that did. And rumors were always going around about people sleeping together. I stayed out of it.

    6. Persimmons*

      This was my thought, because I saw something similar at my first job. Technically, it was true that the woman at that company wouldn’t have had her job if she hadn’t been with the owner…but they were a husband-and-wife team who started a small business together. If she hadn’t been with the owner, the place probably wouldn’t have existed. Funny how the snide comments never occurred in the opposite direction.

      (She was actually a classist, petty tyrant, but IMO those relevant complaints were undermined by the gender-based nonsense.)

    7. Wrenn*

      Yeah, that’s a big one to watch out for. Most rumors aren’t based on nothing. Usually what they’re based on gets inflated and distorted so much that it’s hard to find the grain of truth that started it, but don’t assume it’s completely out of left field. Maybe Jane really DID sleep with Bob in a totally normal context, and someone decided that their completely normal relationship was the Reason that Jane got the job she has now. It wouldn’t be a stretch to imagine some pissed off employee giving voice to that opinion and others running with it because it’s juicy and fun.

      1. JB (not in Houston)*

        Oh, sure, most rumors aren’t based on “nothing,” but so often when the target of the rumor is woman then what it’s based on is people who aren’t happy that she doesn’t know her place, or that she doesn’t perform being a woman the way they think she should, or people who like tearing others down. I get that you are saying that people take truth and distort it, and not that the rumor might be accurate, but I don’t think saying that “most rumors aren’t based on nothing” is an accurate or helpful statement in this context.

        1. Wrenn*

          Why not? When you’re debating bringing up said rumor to the person being talked about, I think it very much does matter. A big part of gossip is the judgement that goes along with whatever the thing is, and very often people try to thwart rumors with the Good Person card. Like, you, as a Good Person, would never ever do this Bad Thing and therefore I don’t believe the rumor. That’s all well and good, but what if the thing really did happen? Or something like it? Probably in a completely different and fairly boring context, but still, what then? It makes an already awkward conversation worse.

          1. Observer*

            Not really. Because it’s not really relevant whether GB had an affair with Fergus or not. What OP’s message is (or should be) is NOT “I don’t believe you had an affair” but “I couldn’t care less about a possible affair. But I am 100% confident that that’s not how you reached your position ” It’s reasonable to accept the OP’s judgement that GB is qualified for her position. Therefore, it’s reasonable for her to be completely confident that whatever the roots of the rumor are, it’s not really relevant to the only important issue here.

        2. PlainJane*

          Or the gossipers just have dirty minds or can’t imagine that a man and woman could possibly do anything except bang like rabbits when alone together. Plenty of rumors like this are based on perfectly innocent behavior–i.e. “nothing.” Wrenn is giving gossipers way too much credit.

          1. PlainJane*

            One other point. Wrenn and others who are saying that these kinds of rumors “aren’t based on nothing,” seem to be veering awfully close to victim-blaming territory. Maybe that’s not how it was meant, but it sounds too much like, “If people are talking about her like this, she must have done something to deserve it.” Apologies if I’m misunderstanding or reading too much into the comment.

          2. Wrenn*

            Definitely not victim blaming. Just pointing out that it’s possible that it’s true. True in an incredibly boring and not problematic way, or literally true. If you’re going to wade in, be aware of that. I’ve seen too many people rush into a situation and cram their foot in their mouth because they haven’t really thought it through. That’s what I’m trying to caution about, not just the OP but anyone in a similar situation.

            Very often the “seed of truth” doesn’t come from the subject at all but the teller. This is what *they* find funny/reprehensible/scandalous. Also something to watch out for. I honestly enjoy listening to gossip because you learn an awful lot about the person telling it to you. Sometimes you learn a tidbit about someone else, but really, the teller is telling you about who THEY are.

      2. AKchic*

        “aren’t based on nothing”

        Funny. That’s what I was told when I was “called to the carpet” by managers when they “heard the shop talk” because one of the installers told the entire crew we were banging.
        All because the owner gave me petty cash and had me bring him (a diabetic) lunch while I ran him supplies for a job.
        I was “obviously a young, pretty woman” with “two marriages under [your] belt”… and they didn’t want me sleeping my way around the installers and shop guys because they were all “respectable”.

        When I asked *when* these tawdry events happened, nothing matched up. Either the installer was falsifying his own timesheet and work orders, or my bosses were blind because I’d been right in front of them for two of the supposed events.
        I threatened to talk to an attorney about my options. Nothing more was said about it.
        I did end up getting fired a few months later for a *completely unrelated* (suuuuure) reason.

        1. PlainJane*

          I’m so sorry you had to go through this. Plenty of rumors are based on nothing. Some people are liars–full stop.

  14. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    OP3 – That is exactly something I would do and then kick myself for later, so you’re not alone. If it comes up, and it probably won’t, you can tell the truth: you were nervous about talking to the CEO and blurted something out. Or if you really want to, you can say that the conversation got you thinking and you did some research on how to counteract the low productivity of Mondays. That one means you’ll have to do some research, but it can make you feel better to know you have something solid to say in case it comes up.

  15. Rez123*

    I know these are only assumptions, but when I read #1 my first thought was that she has slept with upper management. Not to get a job, but because they liked each other and dated. Then she got a promotion due to being good at her job. Then someone calculates 1+1=3 and thus rumours going around.

    This is one of those situations that I feel like not telling and telling are both bad options. If you have a good relationship then I would go with Allison.

    1. pleaset*

      I think the same thing – it’s the simplest explanation. I’m not at all sure of it – there are other possibilities for sure.

      1. Judy (since 2010)*

        In my experience, the simplest explanation is that she has been seen going out to lunch (to discuss business or build a relationship) with a male alone. I’ve been warned by other women when I’ve been seen going to lunch with just one man. And I think there was a poster that was reprimanded for going to lunch with her husband, who worked at the company but had a different last name.

        1. PlainJane*

          Yes, or that someone was jealous of her success and started a malicious rumor, or someone couldn’t imagine that she was competent enough to earn her promotion without putting out sexual favors. This kind of sexism is pretty dang common.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      As someone who did have these rumors spread about me, I agree. At my very first job in a new country, I was doing well professionally, but my head was not in a great place personal life-wise. My marriage was going through a terrible time that year. I developed a silly crush on a lead developer, tried to hide it, and hoped he wouldn’t figure me out, but he did, and stopped talking to me. I was terrified for my job, and went to ask our boss for advice. He offered advice and protection, but also started hitting on me!! Then he changed jobs and poached me. Next I knew, someone who all three of us used to work with was meeting with my boss after work to warn him about being used, because apparently I had a reputation for sleeping around in exchange for raises and promotions! She said I’d first tried it with Crush, but he said no, so I came to Boss next. Both Gossipy Coworker and Boss are blocked on my FB. Crush just disappeared from my life due to everyone moving and changing jobs. I have not had any interaction with any of those people in fifteen years or so.

      While it’s not at all what really happened, she did not make this story up entirely. I did have a crush on Crush, Boss did hit on me, Boss did give me raises and poach me (because I was good at what I do?)

      I don’t know what to do about this. There was nothing I could do. At least it’s a really positive thing that OP is on her boss’s side and is not buying into the rumors. Her letter gave me all kinds of flashbacks, to be honest. It’s a terrible situation to be in, and a very common one for women in the corporate world – a lot of people, men and women both, refuse to believe that a woman can move up on her own merits.

      1. CM*

        I feel for you! And I had the same thought. Maybe she did have a relationship with somebody else at the company, maybe she didn’t — that part is almost irrelevant. The point is that it’s completely unfair and sexist to assume that she “slept her way to the top” rather than getting their on her own merits. I Wrote This in the Bathroom, I hope these rumors aren’t still following you after all these years, and I hope you take some comfort in seeing how many people here see through these types of rumors for the sexist BS that they are.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Thank you! No, the rumors appear to have died a natural death many years ago. (Whew!)

  16. What day is it... Hump Day!*

    OP #2: I would have your friend talk to an Employment Attorney asap!

    1. Yep, me again*

      Allison-could they also file a complaint with the state employment securities commission?

      1. Jessie the First (or second)*

        I don’t think you mean the state employment securities commission – the SEC is a federal agency, and would have nothing to do with this. Do you mean the state equal employment office? In which case, also no, because this isn’t an issue of illegal discrimination (as far as we can see here). There is not a place to go to file a complaint and get things solved unless the person goes to court to sue the ex boss for tortious interference (which is a whole can of worms and probably not worth it at all – but a letter from a lawyer to the ex boss could help put a stop to things).

        1. Yep, me again*

          Okay, didn’t realize.
          On a separate note-could she file for unemployment? In my state it pulls from past employers and would probably make her old boss’s company pay out benefit claims because she hadn’t enough time accrued at this new place of employment. There’s no way former employers can contest it.

          1. Natalie*

            Exactly what would happen would depend on the state, but in many states one can collect unemployment if they were fired provided they weren’t fired for gross misconduct. However, her prior employer (not the nutcase, the one after that) would probably appeal so LW’s friend might have to go through a bit of a process to be awarded a benefit.

            I think most states levy an unemployment tax rather than making the prior employers pay the claim directly, and the number of claims that get credit to your company affects your tax rate. But I doubt the nutcase employer’s account would be hit because LW’s friend voluntarily quit that position.

            1. irene adler*

              But if they appeal, they’d have to provide evidence of their objection-yes?
              That might be of value to OP’s friend.

              1. Natalie*

                As in all things I imagine it depends on the state as well. When we filed appeals the initial process did not require any documentation, we just filled out a form indicating why we were appealing (voluntary quits in both cases). I assume UI then communicated with the ex-employee about it. If the employee had disagreed with our statement at that point the state probably would have asked us for some documentation.

                I think the LW’s friend should absolutely file for UI if they haven’t already, they should just be prepared to go through the appeals process before collecting.

            2. Laurlema01!*

              OP #2 — if she was fired from the new job, she can still file for benefits. She has to have worked 2 quarters in a row. In Virginia, you are denied right off the bat if fired. You have to start a process with an appeal etc. It was that way a few years back, doubt it had changed. Your former co-worker may need to walk into the unemployment office, versus filing on line. It would also help if she went to a lawyer and got that letter. Send to former manager, cc’d human resources, cc’d legal department if the company has one. Return Receipt Required. Than take copy of letter with you to the unemployment office. If terminated without cause, etc., she should get it. Just might take a few months to get it going. She may get the back unemployment paid out.

        2. Natalie*

          SEC is the Securities & Exchange Commission, it’s completely different than Employment Security Commission, which seems to be a particular state name for their unemployment office.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Yes, the SEC is a different thing that an unemployment office. “Securities” made me think they were referencing SEC (it would not be the first or second or third time a person didn’t quite know what a particular agency does or how it does or doesn’t relate to a particular situation). I’ve not heard of a state unemployment agency being titled “Employment Security Commission,” but then, I don’t practice in all 50 states. :-) I just didn’t understand what Yep, Me Again was trying to ask about.

            1. Natalie*

              I think it just one state, from what I could find on google. Kind of an odd name, but I suppose you could say that about a lot of state agencies.

  17. Delta Delta*

    #2 – I’d add that it might not be a bad idea for OP to talk to her own employer/supervisor about what happened to the former coworker. If OP is concerned that the evil wife is going to target her next, she can hopefully head it off at the pass. Could say something like, “this is sort of awkward, but I wanted to bring it up. I left Evil Teapots around the same time as another person. I recently found out there’s been ongoing friction between other person and ET management. I don’t know the whole story but if ET contacts you about me, would you talk to me about it? I haven’t had anything to do with them since I left, so it would be a little odd if they called now.” It wasn’t clear to me if the other person’s firing and the texts actually are connected, so if OP decides to take this route, it’s probably best to leave it sort of broad (unless management asks specifically).

    1. henriettamoose*

      I was coming here to comment for maybe the second time to say this- talk to your new boss too!

      If she went after your friend, she will probably come for you too. Even if she hasn’t done it yet, discussing it ahead of time with your new supervisor might inoculate them to anything she has to say.

    2. Natalie*

      I agree it would be wise to talk to the new boss, but I wonder if it would be better to be a little more specific about what happened. “Ongoing friction” is so vague, and makes it sound like both parties are participating. If you don’t want to go into details, at a minimum I think you need to make it more clear that it is one-sided.

      This isn’t a job interview where the employer knows nothing about you so you’d best stay within typical interview conventions. You’ve been here for a few months already so you’ve built up at least a bit of a reputation for not being irrational or dishonest.

  18. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I don’t know if I’d tell Grandboss about the rumors, but I’d surely not spread them and I’d definitely push back when people say them to me. I’d make it clear I’m not engaging in the gossip and I’d tell the gossiper I don’t find their statements helpful or appropriate. Depending on the situation, I might also add that I don’t know what’s true about her personal life, but I do know she’s a good boss so that’s what I’m basing my opinion of her on.

  19. Nervous Accountant*

    #3–WOW I had an awkward encounter yesterday too!!! CEO came to the office for a bit w his family, and he asked how everything is going. I smiled and said oh the usual, busy and all. And he said “is everyone fake working upstairs?” Oh jeez!! I told a few about it and some said he was joking and some had the same wtf reaction as me. He’s a very “nice” and relaxed guy so this kind of comment cold go either way.

    1. CM*

      Is there any non-awkward way to respond to that question? The only thing I can imagine saying is, “What?? Haha.”

    2. I'm A Little Teapot*

      I was in the elevator with the CEO last week, and didn’t know it was him. Luckily I didn’t say or do anything crazy!

    3. AKchic*

      I would have been the smart-alec to say “yep, we’re fake working so hard right now, we’re about to pass right out from exhaustion”. Maybe even toss in an exaggerated wink.

      And a finger gun.

  20. Anonymous Susan*

    Re #1–Not gonna lie, I feel scared there are similar rumors about me too, especially after someone point blank asked if we were dating. There’s an additional layer of ew because both of us are married. I told the person to cut the shit and had his supervisor speak to him. Aside from that and just trying super hard at being the best I can st my job I don’t know what else to do.

    1. Delta Delta*

      Right? It’s irritating that a man and woman who work together and who, heaven forbid, get along, can’t be in the same space without being accused of having an affair. I like your response. Hopefully that shut that person down.

      1. PlainJane*

        THIS. I’m surprised at how many people think a man and woman can’t have a professional relationship or friendship without a sexual component. That sort of thinking is gross and leads to the, “Don’t meet with any woman alone,” rule–which can be really damaging to women’s professional opportunities.

  21. Bookworm*

    #5: Thanks for asking this question. As a job hunter I’ve definitely been tempted to connect with someone I just interviewed (and have had recruiters connect with me via LinkedIn!) so it’s good to know that some people are open to it.

    As an aside, my experience wasn’t so great: the recruiter just wanted to expand her network and was unresponsive when I messaged her to inquire about two similar jobs (months/years apart, can’t remember). I disconnected from her after the second no response. I’m not saying that is something you’re going to do but there’s also that flip side of things.

    1. OP #5*

      I think it depends a lot on the situation. If it was a very narrowly missed opportunity (e.g. you know you came a close second to the chosen candidate), I would not be worried about such a request at all.
      You never know, the job might become available again or they might recruit into a different position you’d be a good fit for, and get back in touch. Here, the situation was slightly different – while he looked quite good on paper, the candidate was clearly not the right person for the position, as came out in the interview. And there has been some pushiness from him that makes me feel awkward about it. So I’m going to wait this one out for a while and just have his request sit in my inbox to let it cool off a bit.

      I’d say from the candidate’s perspective it’s worth a try. I personally wouldn’t do it if I were a candidate, unless I really felt a ‘special’ sort of connection to one or all of the interviewers, but that’s just my personal style. Just be prepared for them not to accept, it’s likely not personally related to you but their gut feeling or personal – or perhaps even company – “policy” on how to handle LinkedIn requests.

  22. The Other Dawn*

    OP3, I feel you on this one. I’ve done the same thing…more than once…and it was just fine. I tend to put my foot in my mouth way more than the average person for some reason, so I’ve learned to just forget it and get on with my day. I tended to dwell on things like this and used to be convinced that the person I said these things to thinks I’m a horrible person, they’re planning ways to terminate me, they’re telling everyone what I said, etc. We imagine all the things we could have/should have said instead of the awkward things we actually said. But none of that changes the fact that we said something weird. It happened. It’s over. Don’t think of it again. I highly doubt the CEO thought about it anymore once she got off the elevator.

    “Don’t worry about the things you can’t change,” is what a former boss told me once and it really stuck with me (it applies in many situations in life). When my mind starts derailing, I say this to myself and just allow myself to move on.

    1. Maddie*

      It’s never good to make negative remarks to a CEO but he probably forgot about it and the OP five minutes later. These are very busy people.

  23. Mazzy*

    OP #1 I’m not seeing anyone mention the possibility that grandboss dated someone higher up in the past. It’s not out of the question. Then what? That would definitely make it murkier than it already is. I’d research what the root of the rumors are before I say anything. What if grandboss had had an affair in the past that they may now regret or not regret? Then the OP is going to look like a busy body. I personally wouldn’t want to get involved in this.

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      So you think the best answer to runors… is to snoop into your Boss’s personal life and try to confirm if the runors are true?


      1. Mazzy*

        Yup that’s exactly what I think. NOT. Seriously where are you getting that from? I guess spreading the rumor further is the more lofty goal than finding out if there what the story is, before you go to grand boss saying that it’s horrible false stories are being spread not knowing where the story even started. Neither of us knows.

        1. Pollygrammer*

          It doesn’t matter if the rumor about them sleeping together is true. Nobody should be spreading it. Nobody should be speculating about it.

          And the part about “sleeping her way to the top” is objectively false–she’s clearly a competent boss who earned her position. And that is the truly poisonous part.

          1. PlainJane*

            This. If she’s a competent, capable boss, it doesn’t matter who she slept with. If she did get a promotion b/c of a sexual relationship with a superior, as many people pointed out upthread, that reflects a lot more negatively on the superior than it does on her. OP says she does her job well. That should be enough.

        2. Chameleon*

          Probably from the “I’d research what the root of the rumors are” which certainly sounds like you’d want to investigate your boss’s sex life.

          And reporting rumors to the victim of the rumor is hardly spreading the gossip.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      Whether or not the grandboss had that relationship is not really relevant imo. What matters is that people are saying that she doesn’t deserve her position and that she won’t be a good boss, and OP doesn’t believe that is true.

      1. McWhadden*

        I agree it isn’t relevant in the grand scheme. But if she’s going to go to the grandboss about it she should have an idea what’s up. It’ll be super awkward if GB is like “yep, that’s true.”

        1. Ladyphoenix*

          Then the worse is she gets the small awkward silence and the boss thanking OP for looking out for them.

        2. Marthooh*

          Come on, it’s gonna be awkward whatever Grandboss says. And how is she supposed to find a reliable source of truth here? Grandboss and the ex-manager are probably the only ones who know for sure.

    3. Observer*

      What difference does it make? If GB is good at her job, and the OP says that she is, why does it matter if she had an affair? If you were trying to figure out if she’s a good potential romantic partner that might be relevant. But in the context of an accusation that she “slept her way to the top”?! That’s just gross.

      Nothing murky about it at all!

    4. Maddie*

      People did mention it and getting to the “root” of whatever happened is not good advice. It just fuels the gossip mill.

  24. Engma*

    LW4 – This is exactly how my company is. They will never give you a raise until you force the issue. If you are not content with your pay rate and you are a top performer, you should continue to press the issue. Since it has already been a year, and you have asked many times, I would escalate to requesting a specific raise instead of requesting a conversation about a raise. “Hi Boss. I’ve asked about a raise previously, and you said we would discuss is later. I’m still open for that discussion. In order to get things moving, I’m looking to increase my pay rate to X. Is that possible?” This is the strategy that has worked for me.

  25. Antilles*

    #4: If they’re really telling you “we’ll discuss it later” with no specifics, I’d take that as a pretty clear warning sign that it might not happen, ever.
    After all, if there was specific business requirement or deadline, he’d have given you that detail at some point, especially by the third or fourth time you asked – “let’s discuss during our annual review process” or “company policy only allows me to do raises and bonuses during our six-month department budgeting, so talk to me in June” or whatever.
    So if he’s really just staying super vague on it and not providing any deadline…that’s a really bad sign. It’s definitely worth asking one more time in a straightforward way and trying to nail him down on what “later” means (AAM’s language is perfect), but you should just keep in mind that if you get more runaround or ‘later’ or vagueness, then you should be fully prepared to accept that your raise won’t happen for several years, maybe not even your entire career at this company.

    1. Adam*

      It doesn’t help that I’ve had 2 general managers within an 8 month period. If I happen to have an interview with another company and they offer me more money should I take that job, or see if my current job will match what they offered me? I find this to be an awkward situation.

      1. Bea*

        Don’t accept a counter offer.

        We’ve had plenty of stories about them falling through. So you’ll have turned down your new offer and be stuck with a company who doesn’t care enough to pay you more.

      2. Antilles*

        Hm. The 2 managers actually makes it slightly more understandable, especially if the current GM is very new to his job, since he’s coming in and going “whoa, raises, I just started here six weeks ago, I’m still trying to wrap my head around how the annual budget works”. That said, it still certainly makes sense to ask a little more directly for a definition of ‘later’, since even though the current GM might not feel bound by the previous guy’s “later”, it’s still been a year since the topic first came up.
        If I happen to have an interview with another company and they offer me more money should I take that job, or see if my current job will match what they offered me?
        Eh…counter-offers are usually pretty dicey. Alison has addressed this a few times over the years (links to follow) and I pretty much agree with her take on it. The tl;dr version is that there’s a lot of issues with counter-offers and it typically doesn’t work out well long term.

        1. neverjaunty*

          Even with new managers, being told “later” over and over means “there won’t be a raise, but we’re letting you hope for one so you don’t quit.”

      3. AKchic*

        two general managers in 8 months says something. And that something is not good.

        Please look elsewhere for better pay, because you’re not likely to get it where you’re at.

      4. Michaela Westen*

        If I was being treated this way, I’d be so annoyed I’d leave just because of that.
        Agree you should try again and get specifics. Since your manager is relatively new, maybe give them time – say, 6 months to a year – before you give up.
        *But*, feel free to look for another job anyway. You might find something better. If you do find something, try to determine if the company is more stable and solvent than the one you’re at, and values its employees enough to give COL raises at least.

    2. Bea*

      This is what I was going to say.

      “We’ll talk about it later” is a classic shrug off. If you have intention to follow up, you give a time like you mentioned “at your review” or what have you.

      Being an accountant, I’ll also say that I would assume the company is in a financial mess if they aren’t giving raises. It’s not necessarily true, plenty are just cheap assclowns who are bad at retaining staff but it’s my go to assumption from years of “the check is in the mail” brush offs.

      1. Lora*

        They may also simply not have enough political power or will to confront their bosses about budget things. Have met many who didn’t give raises simply because after the CEO’s nephew/BFF hogged half the personnel budget for his five reports to get raises, Grandboss had very little left to give to his 25 reports.

    3. John B Public*

      Really sounds like you should be interviewing elsewhere, and when your boss asks why you’re leaving you get to say “You said we’d discuss a raise later. Well I gave you a year, and finally decided to discuss a raise with someone else. “

  26. Bekx*

    #1, so my boss and grandboss WERE sleeping together. When I started, people IMMEDIATELY tried to gossip about this to me. At the time, I didn’t believe it was true because boss was such a nice person to me, mentioned her S.O., was cool and fun, supportive, etc. I responded by playing dumb when people gossiped about it, saying things like “boss has always been great and supportive of me and I really like her”, or changing the subject.

    I asked on an open thread here once if I should say something and basically got people recommending “say something” or “stay out of it”. I just stayed out of it and hoped that the more I grey rocked people, the more they’d stop gossiping with me.

    Well, that worked. The gossip to me stopped. But over the years I worked there it became EXTREMELY clear that they WERE sleeping together. A good friend walked in on them after hours, they were caught on camera making out in the parking lot, they shared hotel rooms at conferences (yet made the company pay for 2). Keep in mind they were married so this was very icky.

    Ultimately it started affecting our department and my relationship with boss. She became nasty towards the end, and frankly I am glad I never said anything to her. My coworker tried to insinuate once that they spend too much time together (and it hurts the rest of us since we do not get that sort of access), and got demoted and lost any “protections” grandboss would give us. Another coworker and I went to HR about it right after I put my notice in and nothing happened.

    Granted, the place I worked was toxic as hell. I hope that none of this happens to you, but I would advise a “wait and see” approach. Give it a few more months, evaluate, and see how the gossip goes. You’re new so everyone is going to want to tell you the gossip first thing, that will probably decline.

    1. Chameleon*

      On the other hand, if you had told her about the rumors, maybe they would have started being more discreet and the thing wouldn’t have fallen apart into such a shirtshow.

      (Not saying that is what would have happened, but I don’t think it’s exactly a reason to not say something now.)

      1. Observer*

        I don’t really think so. You don’t need know for certain about rumors to use some sense and discretion.

        But, I think this is a very different scenario.

      2. Bekx*

        Nah, people did confront them and they were all “We’re happily married, stop being so gossipy” and literally nothing changed. They still spent 60% of their day in each other’s office not working. They still made decisions about the department without any of us being involved. They still worked on performance reviews (!!) together, gave my boss the best projects to work on, and completely ignored the rest of us. My coworker and I counted one day, they didn’t so much as say hello to either one of us for 2 weeks and our desks were next to my boss’.

        Ultimately it was a management problem and great-grandboss didn’t want to deal with it. But it still wouldn’t have made a difference and I’m glad I didn’t naively say anything to her during my first few months. I would have absolutely been treated hostilely. Obviously my situation is way more “This was happening” and less “this may be happening or it may be false”, but the thing is, when I was new I didn’t know that. That’s why I’d really advocate for wait and see, as someone who was in that position for 5+ years.

    2. Anonymouish*

      I know you probably don’t mean it this way, but saying you didn’t believe the rumours because the boss was “such a nice person to me” and “cool and fun, supportive” implies that these are mutually exclusive — that someone who would (maybe, possibly) make a choice in their personal life that you don’t agree with couldn’t possibly be good at her job.

      I understand the relationship changed, but narratives like this are part of the problem.

      1. B*

        I would think that was apparent from the whole story. The moral is, just because someone seems nice, doesn’t mean other stuff isn’t happening.
        Of course, it doesn’t mean this is what’s going to happen to the OP either, but I think it’s at least somewhat useful to hear real-life anecdotes that are similar to the OP so they can see what was done, how it played out, and how that person may have wish they had handled it. OP’s situation is of course different since the other player in this rumor is no longer at the company.

        What I am gathering from all this is
        1) we don’t know what happened in the past and it probably doesn’t really matter for the here and now anyway
        2) call out the rumor mongers in the moment by saying supportive things about how great you’ve found [grandboss] in the now and that you don’t think that sort of gossip is appropriate (or at least that you’re not interested in it)
        3) +/- on how useful it is to tell grandboss or other authority figures, depends a lot on the current relationship and culture etc. Assuming a non-toxic environment and that grandboss is indeed the good boss described, grandboss may or may not find the heads up heplful and be able to help quash continued rumormongoring.

      2. Bekx*

        I mean, the affair caused her to not be good at her job after awhile. She wouldn’t speak to me for weeks on end. She wasn’t there for me when I needed more work because she was always with him. All things I tried to address with her. He gave her the best projects to work on. She had unfettered access to him, which none of the rest of his reports got and felt slighted for. It also made it so if I had an issue with her that I felt uncomfortable talking to her directly with, I could only go to HR or my great-grandboss, which would have been inappropriate.

        Not to mention the moral issues of cheating on a spouse. That IS a moral issue, and I lost an extreme amount of respect for both of them because of it. It’s very hard to work for someone you don’t respect, it’s also very hard to work for someone that the entire company disrespects. It causes real issues in the department and I was a bit blinded when I first started because she was a great manager. It made me blind and naive to what was going on and once that facade left, the relationship and my work really suffered for it.

        When you’re not in the situation, it’s very easy to say that you (general you) can get over it, ignore it, do your work. Buuut, that’s not how it works in reality.

        1. Wrenn*

          None of those things are issues you have any control over, though. You’re right, that kind of thing will poison a whole workplace and you can’t just get over it. But you also don’t get to decide what happens there unless you’re higher up than the people causing problems. Yet another data point of widely varied problems that all boil down to poor management.

        2. Isabel Kunkle*

          In the first case, yes, absolutely.

          In the second, if you don’t respect someone you know in a professional context because you object to the choices they make about their personal life, that’s a you problem. (Just like it would be if you respected them less because you’re a vegetarian and they’re not, you go to church and they don’t, and so forth.)

          And people refusing to be adults and mind their own business about the second aspect makes it harder for everyone when the first aspect actually comes into play, so I kind of resent that.

          1. Michaela Westen*

            I don’t know – when you see someone cheating on a spouse, it’s natural to wonder: what else to they cheat on? Are they deceiving anyone else about something else? Are they lying to me? Are they this unethical with their work? If I accidently step on their toes because I don’t know what’s going on because they of their lying and cheating, will I get in trouble?
            And the paranoia of a liar and cheater – If employee asks a reasonable question about work, and they take it as about their cheating, and they get hostile, it certainly could cause problems for employees.

            1. Isabel Kunkle*

              See, I’ve known a bunch of people who have, at one point or another in their lives, stepped out on their SOs, and they’ve not been any more or less honest than anyone else in anything significant to a third party. Personal lives are a different matter; people are good at compartmentalizing*; DADT is a thing in many relationships; etc. Just about everyone lies about *something*, even if it’s telling the parents that of course you’re eating vegetables and wearing galoshes when it rains, or the insurance company that the scratch was *totally* already there when you picked up the car, and most people are ethical enough co-workers and members of society in general.

              And while the paranoia/accidentally stepping on toes thing could be a problem, that could be a problem with anyone who has a situation going on that they’d rather not inform others about, *if* they’re unprofessional enough to take that out in the workplace. But that could also be true if you replaced “having an affair” with, IDK, “being treated for a medical condition they’re embarrassed about,” or “working in construction but secretly taking ballet lessons” or whatever. For that matter, most cheaters I’ve known haven’t been all that paranoid.

              As above: there are certainly ways in which someone having an affair *can also* be a shitty co-worker/employee/boss. But the affair there is only a proximal cause–doing your professional duties well isn’t innately connected to whether or not you’re getting a little on the side.

              * Conversely, I was “sick” for a lot of classes in college, and don’t regret it, but I’m usually quite honest with friends and family.

              1. Michaela Westen*

                I don’t know many who have cheated on their SOs. I suspect my father was already dating his girlfriend before the divorce, but don’t know for sure. And yes, that’s a more reasonable thing. (his girlfriend was married and stayed married through their relationship – great example for us teens!)
                Of the people I know now, I know one cheater – A woman who is breaking her husband’s heart by being openly involved with her boyfriend. She also takes financial advantage of her friends. She lies and pretends she’s not doing any of this and you have to know her and her family well to be aware of it. She fools a lot of people. I knew her for a long time without knowing this and I’ve come to feel she has no ethics, doesn’t care about people, and will do whatever is necessary to get what she wants, all while pretending to be a nice decent person.

                1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                  Actually, you don’t *really* know how many of the people you know have cheated on a spouse/SO, because most people who do/have done such things aren’t exactly shouting it to the rooftops! And many spouses/SOs who have been cheated *on* are none the wiser, so those people aren’t telling, and of those who *do* know, well, most of those aren’t shouting it to the rooftops either.
                  And truthfully, if your friends/acquaintances know that you feel the way you do (“cheaters are probably untrustworthy overall”), they are going to be extra careful about keeping mum about it, especially if it’s a DADT/atypical monogamy situation, they are trying to work things out with their partner (whether the cheater or cheatee), it was a one off or short affair they truly regret, they feel trapped in an unhappy relationship, or any number of other reasons that a person might cheat without being an overall dishonest or untrustworthy person. They are going to be afraid you will judge them by your very simple yardstick and do not wish to deal with that.
                  And for sure people like your dishonest friend exist, where cheating is just another tool in their repertoire of dishonest & abusive behavior, I have known a few myself (and am closely related to one!) I believe these people are the exceptions, and most people who cheat are quite normal, ordinary persons. It’s just that the flamboyant narcissists, sociopaths, psychopaths, abusers, and etc are the ones who get the most ATTENTION.

  27. Bow Ties Are Cool*

    RE #1: I’m seeing a lot of “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” type comments on this. Really, folks? Yeah, maybe there was something between them. Or maybe they worked closely on a big project together. Or maybe they were friends. Or maybe they shared an elevator once. But the whole “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” canard has been used as long as women have been in positions of power, as reason to propagate rumors as to why they don’t *deserve* that position. So can we accept that we can’t know whether there is any truth behind this rumor, accept the LW’s assessment of the boss as a good boss, and stop gleefully feeding the idea that she might (tee hee! naughty lady!) have “slept her way to the top”?

    1. Pollygrammer*

      Sure, coworkers sleeping together, even coworkers at different levels of an organization, is not particularly uncommon. And it can cause issues. And it’s still a case of MYOB.

      But the whole “sleeping your way to the top” thing is just complete fiction probably 99.9% of the time.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Exactly! It’s possible that relationship did exist, and if so many people are naming names it’s possible it wasn’t even a secret. If it was a known relationship, then hopefully they would have made her her partner had no input on her career path. Even if it was a poorly kept secret it’s still likely that the grandboss was also a good employee who was promoted because she deserved to get that job–especially since OP seems to think she is good at the job!

      2. neverjaunty*

        Yup. As #MeToo is making pretty clear to a lot of people, a woman sleeping with the boss is a lot less likely to be ambitiously climbing her way up the ladder than she is hoping not to get fired or demoted when he gets tired of her.

    2. pleaset*

      To OP#5: You found the person interesting. Assuming you mean professionally interesting, that’s good reason to connect on LinkedIn.

      Frankly it seems logical to hope to be in touch with everyone who makes it far the process – those are strong people in your field, right?

      1. OP #5*

        Thanks for your input, I appreciate it! My answer would be it depends. It’s highly unlikely we’ll open a position in his area of expertise any time soon, so from that point of view it doesn’t make that much sense. We don’t often open positions of that type so this route is now closed for some years and he turned out not to be a great fit anyway.

        He does very interesting stuff in his current post though so I’m more curious at a personal level how he develops from there. But I’m going to wait a while and let the request (and the hiring process) cool off before I make a decision.

    3. PlainJane*

      Thank you so much for saying this. I’ve been pretty disappointed in some of the comments I’ve read on this post. People gossip for all kinds of reasons that aren’t based in fact, and it’s incredibly damaging. It’s especially damaging to women, POC, and others who often have to do more to prove their competence. As Alison pointed out in her response, these kinds of rumors are incredibly sexist. It’s not cool to imply that women subject to them must have done something to deserve them.

    4. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      If I had a dollar for every rumor that has been spread about me that was completely ungrounded in any kind of fact whatsoever, I’d be independently wealthy.
      Yep, I’m a woman, and a highly unconventional one to boot (and always have been.) This kind of shit has been going on my entire LIFE. I’ve heard rumors/been accused of things it would be as possible & realistic as flying under my own power or lifting a 20-ton weight. It’s astonishing what people will come up with to try and discredit or take down a strong, independent, outspoken woman, successful or not!

  28. disney+coffee*

    OP #1, I think it’s important you tell your grandboss about the comments in order to keep a strong, respectful relationship. Say you don’t tell her and she finds out about the rumors and that you knew. Your working relationship could be destroyed because, essentially, you’re hiding something from her. She has a right to know about how she’s perceived. If you have a good relationship, you can bring it up in a really respectful manner. But, I think you need to tell her, to protect yourself and your position more than anything.

    1. Bea*

      You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

      You don’t know she’ll be mad OP didn’t tell her. As others have said, it could backfire and she’s now mad OP is bringing these rumors to her as well.

      Letting someone know people are gossiping about them will always have blowback. Messengers and good deed doers get shot constantly.

      1. Wrenn*

        My thoughts exactly. I’m very much a “leave it alone” type of person. I don’t expect anyone but my very closest friends to tell me of gossip about me, and I wouldn’t do same for anyone else.

        If it did come up that “omg you knew and didn’t tell me?!?!” I’d probably say something along the lines of “I thought it was BS” or “I wasn’t really paying attention, now on to Work Subject X”. I’d downplay it because, well, it’s not my business and quite frankly those responses would be the truth. I’d either think it was BS, or I’d file it away in my vault of knowledge and probably never think about it again.

      2. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        Personally, I am one who would get upset if someone I felt I could or should be able to trust knew something like that and didn’t tell me. I would feel betrayed, and it would very much impact my ability to trust them/their judgement (the amount of impact would depend on my exact relationship with them & exactly what it was they withheld from me.)
        I don’t shoot messengers, I am grateful to them for the message!

        I’ve actually had this happen with a personal friend, who did not talk to me about an issue in my life (not between the two of us) that she thought was having an overall negative impact because she thought I would not listen or it would not change things.
        I was DEEPLY hurt that someone I was that close to, who KNEW that if the tables were turned I would have 100% voiced my concerns (and had seen me do it with a mutual friend in a similar situation) would feel that I wouldn’t give her words any consideration, or that I would not discuss it with her like a mature & emotionally aware adult, even if I then subsequently chose not to make any changes (and honestly, it would for sure given me food for thought & I would have not taken what she said lightly!) There was no reason for her to think I wouldn’t take it well, and every reason to think I would, and she still chose not to bring it up. And THAT had an impact on our friendship, where ‘being the messenger” would NOT have…I would have been very grateful to know what she really thought at the time!

  29. Jaybeetee*

    Ugh for LW2. I absolutely don’t understand bosses like that – if you hate the person that much, I would think it would be enough for that person to be gone out of your company…what’s to be gained by ruining that person’s career prospects elsewhere? Does ex-boss actually want this person to be on welfare or unable to find work/hold a job at all? Or would she be content “merely” chasing her out of the industry? Like, what is this person’s goal?

    I also wonder a bit about NewBoss, who apparently fired this colleague based on “information” from, presumably, the ex-boss. Did NewBoss investigate this on his own at all? Did he talk to colleague about what he’d heard? Or did he seriously receive a nasty email or whatever from ExBoss, took it as gospel, and actually fired colleague based on that? (And did he not check references on Colleague prior to hiring her?)

    1. Bea*

      Vindictive people are everywhere.

      This woman is a sociopath. She won’t rest because she feels “wronged” by the person leaving her company for another one.

      Think about those people who ruin relationships for their former partners. It boils down to “if I can’t have you, nobody can.”

      Yes. This woman does want the former colleague to suffer and be run out of the industry, if not the town.

      It’s absolutely a psychological thing. She’s batshht crazy.

    2. Minocho*

      In my experience, when this has happened, it’s not about hating the person before they leave, it’s about viewing leaving as a rejection, a betrayal, or being upset at an employee for having some power in the employee / employer relationship.

      I had one employer who really enjoyed being the boss, and obviously felt that the fact that he owned a small company made him personally superior to everyone he employed. When I gave my notice, he was very upset, and threatened my future employability within the city while also saying he was juuuuuuust about to give me a biiiig raise. As a computer software developer, I can work in just about any industry; I was living in Houston, a city way too large for his threat to hurt my ability to work within town to scare me.

      Another boss became my grand boss, and it was subtle, but I had the feeling he really like to be able to control people. When I was being let go, my boss looked physically ill, poor guy, but the grand boss (former direct boss) was very upset that I wasn’t upset about it (I’d seen it coming very clearly and was well into my job search at the time), and stalked out of the room when I started comforting my boss that it was okay, I’d be fine.

      Some people are like that, and if they have the power to cause you issues, and the lack of awareness to proceed beyond having a snit as you remove yourself from the situation, it is absolutely worth your while to do what you can to protect yourself!

    3. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      Have you ever seen someone leave an abusive or controlling ex who treats them like dirt, and subsequently that ex is FURIOUS that person left? Stalks them, harasses them, sabotages their job/school/next relationship?
      To normal people it’s like WTF why would someone be angry their SO left after being treated like utter crap? Why would anyone want *revenge* because they DROVE THEIR SO AWAY by treating them like crap?
      That’s not how these jerks think. I don’t get it either (I mean, I do intellectually but not emotionally), there is no logic or sanity in it, but it’s how they think & operate, and being aware that people function that way is a really valuable asset in this world as it’s the only way you can try to protect yourself without being blindsided.

  30. On #5*

    OP 5: If it were me, I’d like to know you are interested in my llama herding hobby, rather than future employment. In fact, I’d love to talk about it… but if you don’t ask, the rejected candidate will not know why you “friended” her.

    1. Kate R*

      I’d agree if it were the other way around (meaning the OP sent a request to the rejected candidate), but a lot of people just use LinkedIn to network, like an exchange of business cards. If you send a link request to someone, they probably aren’t putting any more thought into it above, “Yeah, sure, I met this person.” They don’t need to explain why they are accepting.

    2. OP #5*

      Thanks! If I was trying to connect with him, I’d be right there with you. But it’s the other way around, he’s trying to “friend” me. Things have since developed in a way that I’m definitely going to wait a while and just have the request sitting in my inbox. There’s a bit of pushiness from the candidate’s side that doesn’t sit well with me and I don’t want to encourage it.

  31. Hiring Mgr*

    Maybe it’s the wrong approach, or maybe I’m just selfish or something but personally I would stay out of #1. By no means would I engage with the gossip other than to shut it down in my presence (as others have mentioned, also saying how great the boss is etc.), but my instinct is not to get involved at all with this type of thing

    1. Chameleon*

      I understand this, but the instinct to “not get involved” has often allowed really terrible things to happen to other people.

    2. hari*

      OP 1- stay out of it. Too many ways it can come back to bite you. To be clear I think the gossip is wrong and they should be punished for gossiping but I think if you say anything it can come back to bite you in so many way. If something is done will they know it was you who “tattled” and even if it isn’t clear knowing you don’t like it they may guess. This would damage relationships with coworkers. And Grandboss may consider you either a suck up or stirring the pot as a gossip. To be clear it may occur that none of this happens and it gets shut down and you don’t have any problems but there are many things that could go wrong.

      Op2 – talk to a lawyer asap about sending a letter warning against torturous interference. Also talk to current boss and explain the situation

      Op3- forget it unless your CEO is a loon its likely not an issue.

      Op4- if you can look for another job (I accept this is not always possible). Your boss is fobbing you off. Either they don’t think you deserve a raise due to some issue with your work and are trying to avoid an awkward conversation or they just don’t want to give you one. I cannot know which having never met you. Last boss paid me a really low wage on the understanding it would be increased when I had gone through training (training has a high drop out rate as it is very difficult) I went through training and boss kept saying I wasn’t ready (while giving me the same work as those who had completed training). After a year of this he was completely blindsided when I quit. And stuck because he was trying to get a contract to build something in an area with a huge minority population and several of the people funding the project that we had to speak to spoke little English (guess who was the only person who spoke their language on the team? Me). Five months later new company got the contract because old company screwed it up (they were too cheap to hire a bilingual interpreter even when they had plenty of notice I was leaving and I gave them a whole list of good interpreters in the file wrapping up my projects).

      Op5 – if you want to stay in touch accept the request. If the candidate then starts bombarding you with questions about opportunities or why they were rejected you can always politely shut that down (and block them in extreme circumstances).

  32. June Carrot*

    I’m going to de-lurk to respectfully disagree with AAM’s advice for OP #1.

    OP, can you imagine if you’d put your best foot forward at your job, been promoted, and then had someone two levels junior to you come up to you and say that everyone thinks you “slept your way to the top?” There is no tactful way to have that conversation. None.

    You’re putting yourself in a lose-lose situation here. You will both demonstrate to your “grandboss” that you put more stock in the caustic gossip of those around you, and out yourself as a tattletale to the gossips.

    If this woman is great to work for, has gone to bat for you, and has demonstrated excellent management skills then I am going to float the suggestion that maybe, just maybe, this woman has some merit and got promoted because of it. Let her work speak for her, and don’t engage with the gossip. You will thank yourself later.

    1. Tammy*

      “I respect you and the work you do immensely, and I value our relationship. Because of that, I wanted you know that I heard Jane and Fergus spreading rumors and gossip on multiple occasions that ‘GrandBoss is sleeping with OtherBoss’. It’s not important to me whether or not that’s true, but because I respect you I felt you deserved to know what they’re saying so you can decide how to respond to it.”

      Something like that, maybe?

      1. June Carrot*

        That still turns OP into the gossip. Into the messenger who, unfortunate as that may be, gets shot more often than not.

        I know people here are big fans of those kinds of scripts. But the chances of an outcome that doesn’t hurt her relationship with her boss’ boss, on a topic that’s intensely personal? Without OP’s co-workers branding her as the turncoat who wouldn’t keep her mouth shut? Sometimes the best script is a shut mouth.

        1. Stardust*

          i really disagree with the notion that someone who tells someone else about a rumor that goes around about them with the intention to warn them actually participates in gossip herself–that’s like the people saying calling out sexism is itself sexism.

        2. Leslie knope*

          I mean, this isn’t middle school. Her coworkers “branding her a turncoat” isn’t a good reason to let these rumors persist without letting the boss know.

        3. Mad Baggins*

          Who cares what OP’s coworkers (the gossips) think? Some of them are Grandboss’s direct reports! I feel like we’re forgetting that Grandboss has power over these people and can choose to fire them if they’re spreading sexist rumors. And reporting rumors is not the same as spreading them. By definition you don’t spread rumors to the victim in question!

    2. Myrin*

      I’ll have to disagree with three points here, actually!

      – re: your first paragraph: Yes, I can absolutely imaging that! And I don’t think this is an issue of tact – as long as the person is being polite about it and I don’t get the feeling that they’re telling me this to hurt and mock me, I would be a-ok with being approached about this.
      – I don’t think reiterating information you think may be helpful to someone automatically means you “put stock in it”
      – So what if OP outs herself as a tattletale to these gossips? They sound like seriously unpleasant people to be around, and OP sounds like someone who is confident enough to withstand any sneaky repercussions she might face by these coworkers. (Not to mention that they wouldn’t necessarily find out that it was OP who told the grandboss anyway.)

      1. Michaela Westen*

        If OP doesn’t want the gossips to find out, s/he needs to use good timing. Wait several hours or a day after the last time you heard it, before you tell grandboss about it.
        I know my colleague repeats what I say to my boss because within an hour he’ll come mentioning it. As subtle as a middle school teacher. *eyeroll*

  33. Tammy*

    LW #1, I’m with Alison. Tell the grandboss and let her decide what to do with that information. You’re not a private detective; it’s not up to you to figure out if the rumors are true, and frankly, it doesn’t matter if they are or not. She deserves to know what people (including people who work for her) are saying, so she can decide how to respond to that.

    As I’ve mentioned in other comments, I’m both transgender and neurodivergent. In my current job/company, I’m pretty open about both of those things, and I’m lucky enough to have the support of my leadership. In a former job, though, I wasn’t out about either topic, and a whisper/gossip campaign I didn’t know about until after the fact led to my being fired. Had I known about it, there are things I could have done to address it. Would I still have ended up fired? Maybe, maybe not. But knowing and being able to try to address the rumors would have been infinitely better than continuing along oblivious until the truck ran me over.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Re your second paragraph – I’m sorry that happened. :( Not cool.

      And if there’s nothing to be done about the rumors themselves, I feel like knowing they’re out there (and figuring out how much they impact your position) gives the person being gossiped about a chance to try to address it – or move away from it if they choose to job search.

    2. JB (not in Houston)*

      I agree that knowing what you’re up against is the only way to combat it. Like you said, maybe you can fix it, maybe you can’t, but at least you have a shot, and at least you know what you’re dealing with. I feel like most the people saying don’t tell would absolutely want to know if there were lies about them being spread around if it gave them a shot at negating them.

      I’m so sorry about what happened to you.

  34. Ladyphoenix*

    #1: Tell your Grand Boss. She deserves to know and decide how to shut it down.

    When people come up to youbto spread the runors, you shut it down.
    “That is an awful and sexist thing to say. Why would you tell me this?”

    “From what I’ve seen, our boss is doing a good job running the company. What would make you say something so gross and sexist about her?”

    Evil festers when good people do nothing after all—same goes for bigotry and harassment.

    And even if she did have to sleep her way through… so what? Me Too has demonstrated a lot of women who felt that they were forced to sleep with men in order to make any sort of living… or they do face consequences. Good women have been blacklisted because they wouldn’t sleep with jerks like Hitchcock and Whinestein.

    And also, just as many dudes with bruised egos will try to spread nasty rumors about women who jilted them or they feel OWE the dudes for their successes. See Zoe Quinn.

    This stuff is only gonna keep being prevalent if we don’t do anything to stop it. This isn’t “office drama”, but something that threatens the livelihoods and successes of minorities.

    1. AKchic*

      My favorite line to gossipers has always been “wow… that really puts things in perspective… about *you*” and then walking away.
      Make sure to always keep gossipers at an arm’s length and only discuss work with them. Don’t even discuss the weather. They have lost all social privileges.

  35. Herder of Cats*

    Regarding OP#2, a coworker got a job at a competitor* for significantly more pay, better benefits, commute etc. She gave notice and didn’t tell anyone where she was going, not even me and we are close. She and everyone else had a sneaking suspicion that if her supervisor found out where she was going, she would try to sabotage her job.

    Sure enough, her boss spent most of her two week notice pulling various people into her office to ask if they knew where Former Coworker was going. It got so bad, my friend brought it up to HR and said if she found out of one more instance of her boss not respecting her privacy, she’d walk out the door immediately.

    Her boss and the company owner did find out where she went eventually (it’s a fairly niche and tight knit industry, so word travels.) Former Coworker was able to find out that her former boss does not have a good reputation in the wider industry, so I think she’s safe.

    The company owner was pissed that Former Coworker had left and “lied” about where she was going, but someone pointed out to him that 1) they were paying her more and it would take her 10 years to reach that level at our current company and 2) the likelihood of sabotage, which he seemed shocked over, but shouldn’t be**

    *To call the company Former Coworker now works for a competitor is a bit laughable because we are nowhere near their level as a company and I can’t foresee us being at that same level anytime in the near future.

    **Yes, this place is toxic as hell and myself and many others are job hunting. When I can finally get an offer, I will also tell no one where I’m going.

    1. RVA Cat*

      “Sure enough, her boss spent most of her two week notice pulling various people into her office to ask if they knew where Former Coworker was going.”

      That right there explains why Toxic Enterprises will never be on the same level as No-Drama, Inc.

      1. Observer*

        That right there explains why Toxic Enterprises will never be on the same level as No-Drama, Inc.


    2. AKchic*

      When I was offered my current job; I was not job searching. This gig literally fell into my lap with a text of “hey, you interested in a new job?” and a phone call to give me the details later that evening. It took me about two weeks of back and forth with the hiring manager to ensure that the union and the contracting company would approve it because my mother would technically be my supervisor in a gov’t contract, plus I had to take a few tests and work around my schedule and we were dealing with a gov’t contract, a contractor and the union.

      I told nobody at work. I’d been there 8 years. I was friendly with everyone. I was friends with quite a few people. The only people in my circle who knew this was even a possibility were my mother (who was going to be my coworker/supervisor), my stepdad, my husband, and my ex-husband (because we share a kid, so insurance stuff).
      My direct supervisor went on maternity leave while I was waiting to hear back on the approval.
      I ended up giving my resignation letter to the CEO. They gave it to HR. I went to the bathroom while they gave it to HR and by the time I got back to my desk, my officemate already knew because either the HR assistant told her, or HR told my boss on maternity leave who then texted my officemate/coworker; who then started bombarding me with questions.
      The biggest questions were “Why?” (yeah… wasn’t going to answer that one fully), and “better pay/benefits?” (yup, so much better).

  36. Princess Scrivener*

    OP #3, I feel you! I’m so awkward around my company’s leadership; same was true during my military career. It doesn’t help that I’m extremely introverted, and need lots of processing time in conversation. Commentariat, we should run a Friday thread on our most embarrassing responses in impromptu work conversations.

    1. CM*

      Ditto, my own grandboss tries to be friendly but somehow I cannot respond in any way that’s not totally embarrassing. I have started to dread every time she approaches, not because I don’t like her, but because I just say the most awkward things around her! I could see myself making a Monday-like comment to her and walking away while mentally kicking myself.

  37. Bacon Pancakes*

    When I was in college I got a retail job at Big Name Retailer. A guy got hired and we really hit it off in a great-friendship sort of way. We hung out a lot and, being college students, partied a lot together. I aquired a roommate from work who – her words – was obsessed with my friend. One night after drinking, he asked me to lie and say we had hooked up so she would leave him alone.
    I did what he asked and told my roommate I was really sorry and it just happened. Predictably, this gossip flooded the store. My roommate moved out and quit almost a year later (not because of this, she rotated through several “obsessions” at work). Gossip mill: I drove her out.
    At this point, we dropped the story and He and I laughed about it whenever asked and told people who confronted us about it to ask the other person too. Guy and I stayed at the store and were both promoted over time into supervisor positions. He dated another girl at work, who didn’t like me… for obviously gossipy reasons. He and I remained good friends, I cried on his shoulder over bad choices I made more than once, whatever. I transferred into a supervisor role in the same department where his girlfriend worked and they broke up. Gossip mill: I broke them up because I was secretly still in love with him.
    She and I talked about it once and she admitted that he told her we never slept together but she hadn’t believed him. They got back together. She had some major stuff go down (very close family member died) and she took some time off. Gossip mill: I caused her to have a breakdown.
    I was close to graduating and taking a very heavy load, so I demoted myself. Gossip mill: I had to step down because of the “scandal” I caused.
    Note: by this point the rumor was five years old.
    Second note: The gossip mill never held him responsible for what was presumably a mutual decision.
    I have been out of that job for ten years. It still comes up.

    1. CM*

      This is such a great story to show how this type of rumor can follow you around for years — and that there were no consequences for the guy.

  38. neverjaunty*

    OP #1, setting aside the issue of telling Grandboss, I’d suggest engaging with the rumors by playing dumb and pretending you don’t know they’re meant to be nasty to Grandboss.

    “Wow! So you’re saying I should watch myself around Fergus? Good to know! I hope someone talks to HR about this.”

    “Oh geez, is this a company that doesn’t ever promote women on merit? Grandboss has been really great but what a terrifying thought that she wouldn’t get credit for it.”

    My guess is that the gossips will stop trying to draw you into their little circle once you don’t appear to be as excited as they are to crap on Grandboss. And if there IS truth to those rumors, you’ve opened up the floor for them to talk about real issues.

  39. Astrid*

    OP #2: One of my supervisors – at a law firm, no less – took my notice quite personally. During my two-week notice period, he made numerous threats to contact the managing partner of my new firm to make disparaging remarks about me. My co-workers told me to ignore these threats, that my supervisor was all bluster. On my last day, however, he repeated his remarks and I had every reason to believe that he meant it. Regardless of whether my new firm would believe him (I thought it would just make him look bad), the fact is that I was a new employee who had to prove myself and this would just be an extra hurdle in an already challenging position. I e-mailed our firm’s attorney to make him aware of the situation. I concluded by suggesting that this was not a good look for the firm and my supervisor should cut it out. (“I trust that [supervisor’s] stated intention of interfering with my new employment is anathema to [my former firm’s] practice. I would hope that, whatever the strong feelings surrounding my departure, no member of the firm will intentionally jeopardize my new job. I am going to move on and take advantage of the interesting opportunity this new position presents.”) If nothing else, I felt it was good to document these threats and let (my former) firm know what was going on. I don’t know if my e-mail had any effect but nothing came of my supervisor’s threats.

    Good luck!

  40. voyager1*

    I have not seen this mentioned anywhere yet, but the guy that grand boss had a relationship with is gone. He could be gone because it was found out he was sleeping with your grand boss and so they let him go and she got to stay. Someone else mentioned up thread that the sleeping with could have been a relationship and not just your grand boss trying to further her career. Don’t assume the worst when folks say sleeping together.

    I am going to disagree with AAM and recomdend stay out of this. You are new in that office so you may not have all the facts, however the number of people coming to you does seem compelling and that they are framing it as “can’t help your career” could mean your grand boss doesn’t have that much capital with folks above her.

    1. Hmmmmm*

      I agree… OP thinks this is unthinkable after knowing her for what we can assume is less than a few months (she says she recently moved to this office), but these other people have known her longer. Lots of cheaters/narcissists/people with bad behavior are considered extremely charming by others who know them. The fact that OP likes her manager (who she only sees in a work context) and thinks the rumors aren’t true just doesn’t mean much. Any situation – from a romantic relationship to a sexual one to nothing at all – is really equally possible here.

      That’d be fine if there were no repercussions for informing her about the rumors – but OP could get blowback from her boss, possibly from other coworkers… the coworkers could also face difficulties… I don’t see how the boss would be able to manage the rumors effectively anyway, since apparently the people she’s been working with for a long time have chosen to believe them and they know her, but even if she could, I don’t see why OP should take that risk. I would 100% stay out of it. Emotional things like this get people fired in very unreasonable ways.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        YES!!!! Especially to the part about OP maybe not really knowing GB. I’ve worked with many managers over the years who are rainbows and unicorns at first. Their true colors take a while to show. I’ve fallen into that trap myself….thinking very highly of someone at first only to realize that the many negative things I’d heard were unfortunately true. And that is even more true the further removed a manager is (GrandBoss vs. Boss) because the opportunities to see their true colors are so limited.

    2. Observer*

      It’s quite possible that GB doesn’t have a lot of capital with folks above her. But that’s a good reason why she deserves to know what’s being said about her.

  41. TootsNYC*

    she would not be able to help me advance my career because she got where she is by sleeping with an upper level manager. They all named names and identified the same manager, who is no longer with the company.


    She WAS instrumental in helping you transfer to where you wanted, right?

    And that guy’s no longer with the company–and yet somehow she continues to achieve things at her job.

    1. Nea*

      that guy’s no longer with the company–and yet somehow she continues to achieve things at her job.

      In OP’s shoes, that’s all I’d say to the gossipers every single time. Whether she slept with the guy or not, she is obviously doing the job competently on her own.

  42. Free Meerkats*

    LW#2, your former coworker has the threat to her job in writing – assuming she kept the text, and she should have.

    You should both visit an employment law lawyer together as this may show a pattern should anything happen with you. It’s always better to have the same attorney in something like this, they can keep things associated in their records and mind without creating billable hours.

  43. A Nonny Mouse*

    OP2: I was in a similar situation, sort of. A person I worked for for a total of 3 months held a grudge against me five years after the fact, and when I applied to sit for the bar exam, she lied to them about my employment there, causing a hearing before the state board in which I had to explain my entire life to them. In the end, it turned out that they completely discredited her, and I got the sense that they’d be investigating her. I was informed by a lawyer that I had a good case for libel, particularly because I expended money on a legal defense that I shouldn’t have needed, plus bar exam fees that I now have to pay twice, but in the end, I decided I wanted nothing to do with this boss anymore.

    In your coworker’s situation, though, this person is ACTIVELY going out of her way to seek out new employers and interfere with her jobs. What I would say is what Alison said – contact an attorney, and perhaps they can send her a cease and desist letter. Usually something coming from a lawyer scares the pants off of people.

  44. Justin*

    I think the CEO was doing you a favor and also making herself clear about what she expects by changing the subject. She’s probably aware that not everyone is as much of a go-getter as she is and that people are human and sometimes hate Mondays or don’t want to be at work. But she did signal that the image that she wants to project, and the culture that she wants to foster is one of productivity,optimism, and positivity. She doesn’t want to scold or call you out, so she changes the subject to both cut off the negative conversation while also letting you save some face.

  45. Ladyphoenix*

    Wow. Why are more commenters suggesting that OP1’s boss DID sleep with the manager? Or insinuating that she did. Or just even bringing it up?

    Like, that is so gross and it makes everyone sound just as bad asnthe rumor spreaders.

    It almost feels like “Yes, we should shame and spread runors on women because they COULD be sleeping with bosses.”

    Like, guys, this is what keeps the sexism in the workplace. What the h3ll? It isn’t anyone’s business and you guys need to stop saying It does. Gross!

  46. Anon in Tech*

    This hits close to home. I was hired at a second level in a support role, and as a woman in a male dominated field. I worked my butt off, proved I earned my spot on the team (was generally liked and at a minimum respected). Then they hired an ex-coworker who I previously worked with.
    Took 6 months before I started to hear whispers. They were social and good at their job. I was not social, but gave 110% (helped everyone when asked, OT etc) and assisted my manager and director on special projects/VIP clients etc. I thought it was just a personality/work style thing going on. Then there was an anonymous company wide email (from a throwaway e-mail) that without naming names said I had a ‘special relationship’ with the director.

    I wish someone would’ve told me (via private email or in person at a coffee shop) the kind of rumors that were going around. I would’ve changed how I did some things, and what promotion I was going for. Either way I lasted about 6 months after that before finding another job and leaving the company. And I rushed into a job that wasn’t a great fit.

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      Let me guess, the excoworker was either
      1) A guy that tried to hit on you in the past
      2) A guy that was jealous of your success
      3) A guy gunning for your position
      4) A guy who thinks women don’t get high positions/work
      5) Some combo of the 4


      I hope you are doing way better now.

      1. Anon in Tech*

        2 & 3 except the ExCo was female. She somehow ended up best friends with all the people who didn’t like me, but knew I did a good job before she started. She totally changed the culture to a ‘cool group’ vs everyone else culture (granted most of us were a bit weird but hello, everyone is weird). I think the letter was written by one of the ‘cool’ guys though.

        Either way I landed a much better job after a year and got offered a promotion after 2 years. I told my first supervisor here that if for some reason she ever gets interviewed/hired at this company then I will look for the first transfer out or just give my two weeks.

  47. AFPM*

    If I ever start a band, I’m going to call it Tortious Interference. What an awesome phrase, and good to know that this legal concept actually exists to protect people!

  48. OP2*

    OP2 here with an update. So my friend did speak to a lawyer and said he would work with her as there was pretty strong evidence of defamation and suggested starting with a demand letter. Luckily, my friend got a new job pretty quickly and, out of fear of making things worse, she has decided to not pursue any legal action against our former boss. I have to say that I’m disappointed because I thought former boss would finally get what’s coming to her but I understand my friend’s concerns. I remember my friend’s last day and she told me what the boss said to her and I was sure that former boss was bluffing and even if she did call the person on the other end would think she was a psychopath. I have no way of knowing what was actually said but I think former boss accused my friend of lying about her job duties from former job on her resume.

    Former boss is completely vindictive and I think she’ll strike again, whether it’s against me, my friend, or another employee who will quit that company in the future. I’m still in touch with many people at the company and they’ve all been told to not have contact with my friend or me. At least with me, former boss’s anger definitely came from a place of thinking that I was disloyal and owed her everything. She told me as much and her posts on social media were a bunch of passive aggressive comments and memes about loyalty and honesty. She’s very good about hiding this aspect of her personality so unless you’ve upset her in some way you would have no idea what her true colors are.

    1. CM*

      Your friend should really tell her new boss that her prior employer has said that she will try to torpedo her career and the new boss may get a call like this.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      She’s very good about hiding this aspect of her personality so unless you’ve upset her in some way you would have no idea what her true colors are.

      Oh God, she’s one of those. You have all my sympathy.

      her posts on social media were a bunch of passive aggressive comments and memes about loyalty and honesty.

      Wow, that’s both pathetic and hypocritical. What a combination.

      It’s good your friend spoke to a lawyer and while a paper trail would be great, I also completely understand why she’d want to put it all behind her. Seconding CM’s advice to tell her new boss what might happen and that she’s even had to speak to a lawyer about the situation.

      This might/will make me sound paranoid but please protect yourself in all aspects of your life, not just work. She reminds me so much of an obsessive ex who refuses to let go – if she can’t have you, no one can. This is someone with severe issues and while I hope she leave you both alone, be aware that she might not. If you’ve got social media, perhaps lock it down for a while and don’t add anyone you haven’t met. I’ve heard so many stories of people creating fake accounts to gain access.

      Hope you both never hear from her again (and that all her employees walk out at the same time).

    3. AsItIs*

      She’s done it before and she’ll do it again. Until… someone dares to call her out on it (legal action). I hope someone gets brave enough. :(

    4. Michaela Westen*

      If you’re connected with your former boss on social media, disconnect. Having that connection will encourage her. Also she might stalk you or your friend for ammunition.

  49. Leslie knope*

    Whoa, what is going on in the responses to #1? So you shouldn’t say anything so no one thinks you’re a tattletale (i.e. be spineless) but you should totally try to figure out if the rumors are true! Definitely the better course of action!

    I’m actually shocked, people here are usually more empathetic. Yeesh.

    1. Ladyphoenix*

      Or implying that Grand Boss totally slept with manager and this totally deserves the runors.


    2. a1*

      Right? I can’t get over how many people think Grand Boss shouldn’t be told. If you put yourself in her position, it seems you’re saying that if there were some viscious and nasty rumors circluating about you, you wouldn’t want to know, despite the fact that it effects your reputation and how people work with you and possibly even future growth at the company. You’d rather not know. Because you’d obviously be OK with colleagues you work well with not telling you, because that’s the exact advice you’re giving the OP.

    3. PlainJane*

      Yeah, right there with you. I’m pretty disappointed in some of the commentariat today. Sexism lives on, even in the AAM community.

    4. Bea*

      Especially with how much the majority of commenters try to play like they’re fighting sexism in the workplace.

    5. Mad Baggins*

      Yeah, I get that people are nervous because OP is new and it’s safer to keep your head down and do good work. But usually people recommend such direct and sassy scripts that I’m surprised so many people are afraid of saying something awkward to someone who’s been kind to you. Be brave OP!

    6. Marthooh*

      Also, the gossips have an obvious agenda here. They’re not just saying Grandboss is a slutty slut; they’re saying she has no power base and the OP can’t count on her. They are trying very hard to undermine this woman, and I doubt it’s a matter of outraged morality.

  50. I'm Not Phyllis*

    So, my experience with gossip … when I was first starting my career, I was hired as an admin – totally entry-level. People knew that I knew my great, great grandboss outside of work (I can’t figure out how anyone ever knew this since we were rarely in the same place at the same time and really had no reason to communicate during working hours – my guess is that he told someone that he trusted and shouldn’t have). The way that we knew each other is that he was married to one of my professors who knew I needed a summer job – that was it. But since people didn’t know, all kinds of rumours started about how we knew each other up to and including the fact that we were sleeping together (I was making minimum wage so like, I don’t know). In any case, none of these rumours were true and the truth would have been far less damaging, but since neither of us knew about them until much later we weren’t able to address them.
    My point, I guess, is that I wish I had known and been given the chance to address rumours. They aren’t harmless. They are malicious and hurtful and even (many many) years later it still bothers me. I agree with Alison – you should tell her and let her decide what she wants to do with it.

  51. halfmanhalfshark*

    OP #3: While working at my previous job, the zipper to my winter coat (think large puffy thing) got stuck about halfway down. I was waiting for a chance to take it for repair, but kept wearing it in the meantime, which meant I had to put it on by stepping into it and then shimmying my arms into the sleeves. Well, the recently appointed chair of our entire organization, with whom I had very little prior dealings or face time, happened upon me in the break room where I was putting my coat on in preparation for leaving the building. I didn’t notice her until after I’d contorted my arms into the coat, at which point I looked at her and said brightly, “I have to put my coat on like pants!” She said nothing and just… walked away.

    So, cheers to awkward encounters!

    1. A Girl Has No Name*

      I cannot stop laughing at this story. It’s so hilariously awkward and I love the image of her pausing long enough for you to say “I have to put my coat on like pants!” but not seeking or waiting for more of an explanation, and instead simply walking away. I would have been so curious, but apparently she’d seen enough…
      I’m still laughing…

  52. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

    “I have to put my coat on like pants!”

    Honestly, that would endear someone to me so much if that was the first thing I heard them say. I can’t believe she walked away, that line is amazing. Thank you for the laugh! I wish my awkward encounters were this adorable.

  53. A Non E. Mouse*

    I had (have?) a Non-sexual rumor circulated about my job. I supposedly stole it right out from under a “more qualified” man because….I don’t know, I have girl parts?

    At any rate, I didn’t hear this gossip *for a decade* despite working at this place the entire time. Someone finally said, you know, so-and-so says you stole his job because they were on some diversity kick.

    When I quit laughing (because Reader, let me tell you, by no measure is he even equally qualified much less MORE), I told the person who told me thank you.

    Is there anything I can do about the gossip? No.

    But I know where the snake in the grass is now, and that’s worth A LOT.

    I say at least tell her where the snakes in the grass are.

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