How to deal with tattletales in the workplace (part I)

By AIM Team
April 20, 2017

Chances are we’ve all either tattled or been the target of a tattler. We often think of tattling as a thing that happens on the playground between kids, but it’s not uncommon to have to deal with tattletales at work.

On the playground, there was always a kid who would tell the teacher what another child did wrong (even though they weren’t directly involved). In the office, tattletales are generally at the center of office politics and can be prone to making something out of nothing.

We’ve gathered some advice to help you deal with tattletales in the workplace – from how to deal with a coworker who tattles on you, to how a supervisor should respond to tattling, to how you can report issues to a higher-up without becoming a tattler yourself.

For today, we’re going to focus on how to handle a tattle tale coworker.

Tattling vs Reporting misconduct

Before we begin, we think that it’s a good idea to point out that not every complaint is a form of tattling. Telling management about issues of misconduct is an important part of preventing what may end up being a huge crisis in the workplace.

Don’t be afraid of coming off as a “rat” if some serious issue happens to come across your desk–the office is one place where a rule of silence doesn’t work so well.

Generally speaking, tattling could be defined as petty grievances. Running to your boss every time you don’t like something a coworker is doing is tattling.

What to do when a co-worker tattles on you

Unfortunately, once a coworker tattles on you, there is not much you can do to reverse the situation. However, there are certainly ways to make sure the situation doesn’t escalate into a crisis. Here are a couple of things we suggest:

Avoid confrontation.

As angry as you might be that a coworker told your supervisor that you were a few minutes late coming back from lunch-break, getting back at them won’t do you any good. The best thing to do is to take the situation in stride and try your best to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Going to war with a co-worker, especially a tattler, will cause you more trouble than it’s worth.

Apologize to your co-worker.

Though it sounds crazy, apologizing to your co-worker can help ease tension and prevent any future conflict. Regardless of how petty you think the issue was, apologizing shows that you are an adult and are willing to accept responsibility. Being accountable for your mistakes (trivial as they may seem), may be enough to get a tattler off your case.

What to do if the tattling continues

Sometimes, an apology might not be enough. In instances like these, consider taking your case to your manager. Workplace conflict can be very disruptive. If your supervisor sees that you have a real issue, they might be able to schedule a sit-down with you and your co-worker. Your boss can listen to both sides and help you work things out.

Learn the difference between tattling and reporting in Part II of this post.