Q: Jill, I’m having some real trouble with gossip at work. In fact, I’m the butt of the joke. Can you help me? How do I respond to this? It’s not being said directly to my face but I’m hearing the back stories from another colleague. The tricky thing is that colleague is begging me not to tell anyone especially the boss what they are telling me because they feel it will get back that they told me.

– Gossip Hurts

A: You’re right, it does! This is definitely spinning out of control and let’s remember this is a workplace not a sandbox (and gossip/bullying should not be tolerated there either.) In a workplace where gossip is alive lies the potential for a formal harassment claim by an employee. If your work environment is toxic, you don’t feel emotionally or physically safe and you’re unable to focus on your job then your worker’s rights are being violated. My apologies in advance to that other colleague but you’ve got to inform him or her that you need to seek help from your boss. While it would be good to have their support to corroborate your story, you can still begin this process without their name(s). Document everything, any incidents you find uncomfortable; who is present — regardless of their participation. Trust me if the gossipers have told this one colleague they’ve likely told others so the chances of it being pinned squarely on your informant are slim. Furthermore, they too must take responsibility for their role in this situation by even listening to the gossip in the first place without themselves taking a stand — regardless of whether or not it’s about them directly.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety www.ccohs.ca and www.workplacebullying.ca among many others has some useful information on bullying in the workplace you and your boss can check out. And this isn’t your problem and it’s not your fault. What this presents is a good opportunity for your workplace to update, create or remind its employees of their workplace behaviour ethics code of conduct. If handled correctly this will be a teachable moment that will only result in a more integrated, team focused workplace. Just remember whatever you do don’t retaliate to their provocations verbally or in any other manner outside of formal procedures.

Q: Jill, we are having this casual conversation at work about sandals in the summer time. We don’t have a formal dress code or anything at work but what’s your take on ladies sandals at work?

–Eileen Robillard

A: In my opinion, I’d say totally professional! You’d want to ensure you’ve got a great pedicure and/or clean nails. Pealing nail polish certainly doesn’t scream professionalism. Also consider the type of sandal: low heel or high? All depends on your job because comfort first gets the task done faster. Soles/rubber tips, which make less noise are always preferred in the workplace as well. The idea here is to make your choices compliment both your personal style and the professional image your company wishes to project, especially if your job entails meeting with many outside clients or travelling internationally you’d also want to be aware of the customs overseas in terms of professional dress. Happy sandal shopping!

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