I heard a rumour about myself this week, a nasty, rude rumour that I am having an affair. I think my assistant has started it, and two others have confirmed they heard it from her. It's awfully detailed, this rumour, including descriptions of the man I have been supposedly seeing and what we do during the day when I sneak out of the office to meet him; she has put a lot of time and energy into it, suggesting that she has not got enough to keep her busy during the day.
My initial reaction after being told about it was amusement. I burst out laughing because it's so ridiculous. The more time goes by, though, the more upset I am about it. I was going to let it go; it can't hurt me, after all, because it's not true. But as I think more about it I feel like I need to confront her, and get it out in the open. In addition to talking about me, she's been telling others that Mr. J lost his job due to misconduct, and that's why we had to move. I felt shocked hearing this, completely taken aback by the level of thought she has put into this scenario she has created.
For the first time in my professional life, my feelings are hurt. I have had rumours spread about me before, things that were partially true that someone misunderstood, or people overhearing part of a conversation and filling in the rest and repeating it as fact; I have had employees say mean, spiteful things because they were angry at me or just didn't like me. But I have never experienced someone making up an elaborate, involved rumour that could potentially be so harmful, and for no apparent reason. Especially someone with whom I thought I got along with at work. We're not "friends", but we have never really had a conflict with one another. She's a little asocial, a little cranky, and not a very positive person in general, but I never thought she was mean-spirited. I am disappointed, because it seems so out-of-nowhere; and I feel a little injured because I thought we worked fine together. I am also a little concerned about Bunny; it's not a secret in the office that we are friends. I don't want her to get dragged into something on account of being friends with me.
Have I mentioned I hate working with women? The men I have worked with, and had work under me, never behaved this way. They told me to my face if they had a problem with me; I have had to deal with unhappy male employees who didn't want to take orders from a girl, and I much prefer dealing with that sort of behaviour problem. How do you chase down a rumour? How do you prove that someone is actually responsible for making up and spreading them? People don't admit it when they're guilty of such behaviour; they lie about it and carry on with it.