I am leading a team of 5 and there is 1 manager who is above/supervising us.

One of my team-mates I get along well with; she behaves well and I discuss personal stuff and share jokes with her. However she talks trash about me behind my back with my manager. E.g. "I don't want to work with him", "he doesn't discuss", "he doesn't help" etc.

I want to know why she is doing that. If I ask her directly I would lose trust of the manager who informed me about it, and he would never disclose such matters.

Manager wants me to fix all negativity within the team ASAP.


How can I approach this issue with my colleague?

  • 3
    Do you see any occasions in the past where your colleague could have got the impression that you don´t want to discuss or help her?
    – Daniel
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 10:41
  • 3
    "Manager want me to fix all negativity within the team asap." Make the manager specify precisely the negativity. Also, make clear that, while you are responsible for your own words and actions, you have limited influence and no responsibility for the words and actions of others. If you have official knowledge about the trash talk, request an open explicit discussion to sort this out. If not, stay away from trash talking, and make clear that you are doing your utmost on your side for a productive and professional interaction. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 12:08
  • 4
    Never EVER EVER "discuss personal stuff" and >>>>>>>>>> NEVER <<<<<<<<<<< "share jokes" in the workplace. Never. Never ever. Never.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 13:00
  • 17
    @Fattie your workplace must be quite sad then. Everywhere I've been, wether in big multinational companies or startups, there's always been some jokes shared during lunch / coffee breaks. Sure, what you can share or joke about depends on your rank & the kind or relationship you have with your coworkers, but talking about your kids or joking about the news is fairly comonplace imo
    – Aserre
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 13:17
  • 14
    @Fattie woah, I have no clue where you got that from reading my comment. I never mentioned the jokes had to be vulgar at all. Discrimination is a total no-go whatever the environment. It's just that as a senior, some subjects other than discrimination are touchy, that wouldn't be if you were on the same level. Also, you are entirely assuming, without any mention from the OP, that they made crude remarks
    – Aserre
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 13:30

4 Answers 4


"I don't want to work with him"

Without knowing why, you can't address / fix this.

"he doesn't discuss"

If this is true, you should involve your team more and let them see you listen and engage with them and what they bring to the table.

Have debates or discussions about procedures or things that are flexible and within the teams scope to establish or adjust.

Make decisions once you heard different suggestions.

Stick with that and be ready to explain (if appropriate) why this is the way to go in case of resistance.

"he doesn't help"

Make sure your team knows your door is open for any issue and that you gladly help if you can.

Don't pamper them or treat them like children but be willing to help where they're stuck or struggle.


I missed the examples of her complaint,so I changed my answer.

Please find the original below.

You need to know what her complaint was to your manager (ask him if he didn't say).

You need to find a way to address her issues with you in a way that she doesn't suspect you know of her complaint.

If it was just trash talk it's more difficult because now you have to inconspicuously fish for her reason in conversations with her.

You need to "play nice", be professional and respectful and observe her behaviour towards you closely.

This could be a good topic for the sister site interpersonal skills.


You could attempt to find a way to "catch her" while she trashes you again or potentially ask your manager to let you know when she did it again and you "could have overheard".

Then, you can flat out confront her(in a calm, respectful demeanor) and simply inquire why she did that, what her grievance is with you and what you can do to mitigate(!).

You could (should) send her an email(paper trail) afterwards outlining what you discussed, especially if there are things that each of you could or agreed to do in order to remedy the situation.

This would give you leverage should she continue or your manager start to believe her / getting fed up with your "incapability" to fix her behaviour.

  • 1
    This answer also completely misses the obvious overwhelming factor of what's happening. OP is "sharing jokes" with a female coworker. Never, ever, ever, do this. You're not Beavis & Butthead. It's a workplace. The coworker might be "going along with it" at the time but clearly she just sees it as teenage sexist idiocy. The OP must STOP. Its' a workplace. (1) work. (2) take your money. (3) go home and change diapers and pay the bills. STOP "sharing jokes" with a female coworker.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 13:04
  • 2
    @Fattie we don't know what kind of jokes they are.it's perfectly fine to socialize, have smalltalk and joke around.obviously safe for work.we're after all not robots or vulcans (; well, some of us are and some are klingons or ferengi but that's another discussion...it seem the female colleagues different behaviour is the actual issue. friendly to OP and trash talking OP behind his back.there is a reason and either OP can fix it or at least stop her from slandering him.clearly SHE is behaving like a TEENAGER and must STOP or fess up. Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 16:44
  • Does it really matter what type of jokes they are? A coworker is complaining that the author is making them. Time to stop making jokes at work.
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 19:36
  • @Ramhound where in the question l did you read the colleague is complaining about the jokes? I commented on someone saying that btw.The coworker complains about lack of help and discussions and that she doesn't want to work with him.no word about jokes...and yes it does matter whether or not the jokes are inappropriate or distracting because normally it is fine to joke around with coleagues. Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 20:08

Get your manager to put it in writing. This is a red flag:

Manager want me to fix all negativity within the team asap

It's your manager's job to do this. If you are the source of the negativity then they should take it up with you. Ditto for each team member. A manager should not be telling team members to fix a problem the manager should fix.

Document. Document. Document. Get all incidents down, date and time and what happened. Witnesses. Locations. Write down what you know.

Watch for people trying to wind you up or get a reaction. If someone says something that has two potential meanings, ask them what they meant by what they said.

There may come a day when this negative person says that it's not that bad, nothing really happened, it's been made bigger than it is. For this day, know what it is and what is was.

Have the conversation with your manager now. Say that you are concerned about how this person is acting and that as a team member you feel that they may need support. But only if this is not a personal friend of the manager. If that is the case then caution is advised as the manager may well take their side regardless.

Don't accuse them of antisocial, aggressive, passive aggressive or similar behaviors. Log the evidence. Capture how you feel and how it affects you. Have the evidence ready for if management ever decide to take action.

Try to deal with it yourself, directly, if possible. Preferably in front of others where it looks like you are helping. "Hey, just asking if you're okay, wondering if you have any issues or problems you would like to talk about. We're a team. We're all here to help each other.".

If it gets too bad, and is legal, record you asking that and their response.

I had this kind of problem person for years. If let get too bad it can be horribly draining.

  • 1
    Your idea is good but when situation little more intense, I mean someone is loosing job, promotion, appraisal. Otherwise It's unwanted mess. In the end no one is a winner. We 3 have to spent lot of time together in office.
    – paul
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 11:27
  • 1
    This answer completely misses the obvious overwhelming factor of what's happening. OP is "sharing jokes" with a female coworker. Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever do this. You're not Beavis & Butthead. It's a workplace. The coworker might be "going along with it" at the time but clearly she just sees it as teenage sexist idiocy. The OP must STOP.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 13:03
  • 1
    I've just noticed also, that the OP is senior to the female he s harassing. OP must STOP. If you feel "life is unfair", write that on some paper and mail it to a politician. You must STOP. If you banter with a female subordinate, the least of your problems will be being fired.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 13:07
  • 3
    @Fattie I am harassing her. I don't know what made you think like that but looks like you are cooking up things on your own. You have been using banter word a lot but in my situation its not appropriate to use it. Asking How kids are doing? Fever, diet, Elections, Sports, School, Education is not bantering, that too very less. Point I wanted to make is that she never sounded like she has a problem with me.
    – paul
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 10:16
  • 4
    @paul Best to just ignore Fattie. He or she just rambles nonsense most of the time on this site.
    – Cypher
    Commented Jan 24, 2019 at 21:36

Your concern seems to be you're violating confidentiality with your manager by approaching this person with the issues he raised. You said you would lose his confidence. Is that really true?

I suggest you ask your manager these questions:

  1. Do I have your permission to talk to this person about what you told me?

  2. What suggestions can you give me about how to approach this person?

If you get permission to talk about the issues, you won't violate confidentiality. And, of course if you don't get permission it will be harder to "fix all negativity."


She has already proven that she can NOT be trusted. She SLANDERED you behind your back to your MANAGER. Do you know if she has SLANDERED you with others who have NOT come forward?

She needs to be put at arms length. Until SHE regains her trust with you, email is your witness!

"he doesn't discuss", "he doesn't help"

Email: As per our discussion, .... Is there anything I can do to help in this matter? CC to your other team member.

If it does not stop, CC to your Manager.

  • I have found in this situation that one needs to sound out other team members to determine their care factor. It is possible that they don't want to get involved. If there is another team member who will get on side then that can be very useful.
    – Underverse
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 20:57
  • How is any of that going to help the situation?
    – Simon B
    Commented Jan 23, 2019 at 23:04
  • There is absolutely no evidence of slander
    – Donald
    Commented Jan 25, 2019 at 19:39

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