How to Deal With an Office Tattletale
Gossip. Troublemaker. Narc. Busybody. No matter how you say it, the office tattletale is bad news. There’s no doubt the person in your office who runs to the boss to report every little slip-up is not going to win any popularity contests. But how do you deal with a person like this? Reporting them to a superior feels hypocritical. Getting them fired is a bit extreme. Getting revenge is likely to backfire. And pretending to like them is fake. Such a dilemma is not fun for anyone. But these tips will help you deal with the office snitch in a professional and productive manner.
Take Back the Power
In order to take the power away from the tattletale, you have to take away their ammunition. Unless this person is a compulsive liar, if you don’t do anything wrong, you don’t have anything to worry about. Obviously, you aren’t perfect. But if the workplace blabbermouth is running to the boss reporting that you knocked over a box of paper clips, chances are the boss is going to be more annoyed with the squealer than with you. It’s genuine misconduct that is going to get the tattletale’s motor mouth running and probably get your boss on your case as well. So the simple solution is: don’t do anything unethical, illegal, or ill advised.
Lay Your Cards on the Table
If you accidentally screw up, and you know the in-house rat is going to scurry into your supervisor’s office and spill the beans, beat them to it. Going to your boss and confessing immediately takes control and ammunition away from the tattletale and gives you the opportunity to explain what happened in your own words. This puts you in a proactive position rather than a defensive one, which is always a critical advantage.
Analyze the Situation
There has to be a reason Molly or Ben has chosen to take on the role of office tattletale. Could it be a cry for help? Is it an attention-seeking behavior? Or does this person just get pleasure out of other people’s pain? Whatever the case may be, it could benefit you to gain a deeper understanding of what motivates this individual—not so you can excuse their behavior, but so that you can stop it.
If the tattletale is seeking attention or approval, make an effort to give that to them in other ways. Compliment them on their work, or ask them out to lunch. Even if it turns out they’re just downright sadistic, all hope is not lost. That’s when you do your best to avoid them whenever possible, and warn your coworkers to do so as well. If they’re kept completely out of the loop, they’ll have nothing to tattle about.
Confront Them Diplomatically
The last thing you want to do is antagonize a tattletale, because the next thing you know, you’ll be their number one target. But it’s entirely possible this person does not even realize they’re the office stoolpigeon. Some people are mind-blowingly unaware. So it may be to your benefit to pull them aside, and say something like, “I know you probably don’t mean to, but when you tell Mr. Jones every time someone makes a mistake, you’re really alienating yourself.” This could be a light-bulb moment, or it could cause the more vicious personality to laugh in your face. Fingers crossed for the light bulb, but even if it goes the other way, at least you know you tried to help.
It may be tempting to put stink bombs in a troublemaker’s wastebasket or scratch the word “snitch” onto their car. But just because someone else is acting like a bratty child doesn’t mean you should revert back to elementary school behavior yourself. Trying to get revenge will only snowball into disaster. When dealing with the office tattletale, the best thing you can do is maintain your dignity and professionalism—not give them more to talk about.