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I have joined a publishing company for about 3 months, and I used to be close with the coworkers in my department. We would go for lunch together almost everyday. However, this changed last week, after I told them that I am running an online business, which I started 1-2 years before joining this company. I also told them that I joined this company only because I want to do something related to my passion (which is writing), and not because I need the salary, as the income generated from the online business is more than my salary.

Since then, my coworkers have started to give me the cold shoulder, and stopped asking me out for lunch. Worse, I heard from a friend who works in another department in the company that my coworkers have been bad mouthing me. (We are childhood friends and I trust her).

I do not want to switch to another department, because I love what I am doing now, and if I change to a different department, I will not be able to continue doing what I like.

Did I do anything wrong? How should I handle this and protect my reputation?

Note: I did not take the initiative to tell my coworkers that I run an online business. We were talking about job security over lunch and they asked me if I have any alternative source of income. It was then I told them about my online business.

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    Maybe making a point to tell your coworkers that you are just working for fun and don’t need the money is a bit tactless, but I’m not sure why they would shun you over it. What are they saying when they bad-mouth you?
    – ColleenV
    Jul 13 at 16:14
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    Were you trying to recruit them into a multi-level marketing situation? Jul 13 at 16:14
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    It’s obviously not about your business then. It’s about how you bragged that you didn’t need the job that your coworkers do need, and are probably working hard to do well at. If you can’t see that, no-one here is likely to be able to explain it to you in a way you will understand. We weren’t there, so we don’t know how you shared this information, but judging by the reaction, it seems like you unintentionally insulted them.
    – ColleenV
    Jul 13 at 16:40
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    Not Bragging: "Do you have an alternative source of income?" - "Yes, I run an online business". Bragging: "Do you have an alternative source of income?" - "Yes, I run an online business that generates much more than my (or your) salary and just show up here as a hobby" Jul 13 at 17:39
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    @Fattie Are you the OP's coworker?
    – Jack
    Jul 14 at 11:52
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I think this is a relationship advice question rather than a workplace question.

One of the best pieces of advice when it comes to personal finance is to never, ever, talk about how much more money you make than other people, or that you don't need a job. At best it can breed resentment and jealousy. Occasionally it will lead to people asking you for money.

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    precisely - ask on that site.
    – Fattie
    Jul 13 at 23:52
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    Thank you for your advice, I will remember this from now on. Jul 14 at 5:59
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    I wouldn't fully agree with this, as sometimes its obvious from the car you drive, clothes you wear etc. People will be jelous no matter what you do so even though you sould not necessary brag, being humble or quiet about it is no guarantee that people will not be jelous of you. I always try to give others advice and explain how I got to this point so they can improve themselves. If they will take my advices or just be jelous and stop communicating with me is completely up to them.
    – Chapz
    Jul 14 at 7:05
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    And as all generalisms I would say this one is false. Hell there are countries where everyone can look up the income of other people and those haven't become antisocial hellscapes either. I've told people my income for various reasons, from helping them figure out a range of income they could negotiate for (exceedingly helpful for people just starting out) to close friends who were making very little money but still wanted to pay for their theatre cards (more fun to go with someone) and so on. It's all a question of how and whom you tell someone that information.
    – Voo
    Jul 14 at 7:29
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    @Voo Sure. But OP has a second income stream which far exceeds the salary they receives from their work. That's the source of the resentment. It shouldn't be, but then again a lot of people immaturely compare themselves against their peers rather than to how far they've come themselves. As they say, comparison is the thief of joy Jul 14 at 16:52
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I think there are too many factors for us to really give you a solid answer.

Like how exactly did you respond to the question? Were you like "I make more money with my side job than all of y'all losers do put together!" or were you like "I have a side source of income that pays well".

Of course, there's also what you said and what they heard and what they heard could be influenced by other factors.

There's also the question of how credible your claims are. Like if you drive a beater cash car that's cheaper than all of their cars then it's possible that they might think you're lying about your other source of income. I mean, people lie all the time on dating apps (about their income, height, location, etc) to curry favor with prospective partners, people claim to be military vets when they're not (stolen valor), etc.

It's also possible, too, that they think you're being stingy. Maybe they take turns paying for everyone for lunch and you haven't paid for any of them, despite making more than all of them. In this scenario, even if you didn't brag and they did find your claims credible, they may still not like you after your big reveal.

It really just depends on your coworkers and the relationship you had with them prior to your reveal and you're gonna know that better than any of us.

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I have seen similar workplace situations, normally where the CEO stands in front of the whole company and says how he doesn't need to work here, but he enjoys it so much, the work is so interesting, the people are so dedicated, etc, he still does it anyway. He thinks he is paying the company a compliment and is being inspiring. But most people, even if they enjoy that work, do have to work, to earn a living. The CEOs speech just earns side-glances and resentment.

I don't know if you thought you were paying them a compliment, or just answering a question truthfully, but it's better to keep this information to yourself in future. By all means mention your side-job just don't tell your colleagues that the publishing job is not something you need to do to survive.

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You basically told your co-workers that you're laughing at them. You see the job site like a zoo where the pathetic zoo animals are on display. That's the way it can come across anyhow. It's also really strange for someone to take a job just for fun AND to tell their co-workers.

And I'm guessing that the other workers figure you don't need the job so maybe if they get rid of you, somebody else who has worked hard to try and get into publishing will get your job instead.

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    I think your 2nd paragraph is the key to it, actually. OP assumes the co-workers are reacting to the additional money aspect, but they (OP) also said in that conversation that they took the job because it was related to writing, which is their interest (but I presume they don't have directly relevant experience then). ...... What if the co-workers' resentment is actually because they perceive OP as having somehow "slid into" this job bypassing the difficulty and competition that's required for most people to get into a field like publishing...and are reacting to that? Jul 14 at 7:27
  • @HenryM I did not take the initiative to tell my coworkers about my second income. They asked me while we were having lunch one day and I thought it is fine to share such information. Now I am know it is not good to share your personal info with your coworkers. Jul 17 at 6:44
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Your coworkers are doing this for money. Part of that is the satisfaction of putting something of worth into the world: if the employer is paying them, then somebody thinks their work is concretely valuable.

Since you're doing this just for fun, it's not totally unreasonable that they infer that you consider this work to be a hobby, not a real job. That in turn suggests that you may not consider their contributions to the world very valuable.

For example, some people like doing jigsaw puzzles, but probably very few would consider doing one a useful contribution to society. You've basically put your colleagues' work — from which they likely derive satisfaction and some feeling of self-worth — in the same category.

In addition, writing is generally a fairly competitive industry (from what I understand). By taking that job, you're taking the position from someone who does need the money to pay their bills. Your colleagues may resent you for essentially taking preciously rare jobs away from the community of professional writers, possibly including personal friends who are struggling to find work. You already have plenty of cake, but you're taking their friend's cake too, just because you like the sprinkles on it.

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"I did not take the initiative to tell my coworkers"

In life you have to make choices on which information you are telling people, you simply don't tell everything about your life to every coworker. And if something cannot reach the ears of some of your coworkers then it cannot reach the ears of any coworker at all.

The fact that you've said matters, the fact that they've asked doesn't. At least as far as feelings go. But I'm pretty sure you wouldn't be prosecuted for perjury if you simply lied or said something ambiguous like "well, I have a side gig that pays more than the weekend's pizza".

People resent colleagues that are being paid a higher salary for similar roles. If you told a coworker that you earn 10% more than he does, you could be sure he would resent either the company or you, unless you are undisputedly a more important asset to the company or a more senior colleague, which you are not, because you've only been there for three months, and writing wasn't your job before.

Having a (relevant) secondary source of income is something unchartered in general. But I've worked with people who already had generous government pensions and indeed needed no salaries, and I was sometimes annoyed that if the company would go bankrupt I would be desperately looking for a job while these guys wouldn't even flinch. Every time I needed these guys to go an extra mile and they didn't, I would remember their pensions. A similar thing may start happening to you, so start presenting yourself as a hardworking person at this job.

Other answers claim that "You basically told your co-workers that you're laughing at them", I don't agree with this and would not infer it from what you've written, but take that just as a piece of evidence of how much people can have strong feelings about other people's wealth. Think that people made a petition asking for Jeff Bezos not to be allowed to return to Earth.

"I also told them that I joined this company only because I want to do something related to my passion (which is writing), and not because I need a salary, as the income generates from the online business is greater than my salary."

Do you think you didn't come across as thinking yourself better for having an online business? Well, I'd think I would be a much better version of myself if I had a second gig that made more money than my 9 to 5 job, and probably your colleagues would think the same. You've threaded very uncarefully there. Not an apology-worthy problem so far, but it does make it difficult to earn someone's sympathy.

"How should I handle this and protect my reputation?"

Why do you want to protect your reputation?

Are people actually spreading lies about you? If so, start taking notes (save a file with details, and timestamps) of any encounter you have that you suggest or prove you are being defamed.

Are people just saying you are an asshole? Then Don't be an Asshole!. I stand with the thesis that you've earned some ill will towards yourself, but this is somewhat fixable.

Either way

You've just arrived at their company, people have barely started to get to know you. They are at the phase when they've done the welcoming reception (everybody in a small company should try having a small chat with every newcomer) and now it's regular life. So people aren't just acting nice to get to know you anymore, as you are not news anymore.

In this short period though, having a lot of gossiping is also not good, no matter the reason, as it's pretty much a sign of a toxic workplace. Every now and then, consider if you'd be doing what you love better in a place you'd love more.

That being said, zero workplace gossip is something unheard of for me. But in general, people should give more importance to how you've treated them and how you act around them than what they've heard about you. I've once started dating a person who told me that at first she really didn't like me, long story short, she had a friend who actually had a previous grudge against me (and I never got along with that person).

Having touched the universal "Don't be an Asshole!" piece of advice, think for a bit if people have some more reason to have a bad opinion about you. Are you nice to everyone? Have you tried being friendly? Have you been finding yourself in arguments too often? Have you complained about the food in the places people invited you for lunch? Are you acting like you know stuff better than everyone else (doesn't matter if you have 20 years of experience in a workplace of teenagers, you don't get to act like the authoritative voice until you have proven yourself to these people).

The financial point gives people a reason to "want to dislike you", not a reason o "dislike you", so the bad news is that a lot of people are looking for these reasons. If instead of giving people what they are looking for you actually prove yourself a nice person and a good worker, things can change a lot in a few more months.

Regarding the money thing, do consider doing some charity work or donations. Whatever does not look ostensive, does not look like trying to show off but does allow you to show off. Maybe tell everyone in the company that there is a charity you contribute to and give them the directions to do the same should they so desire. Seems like a simple trick to earn some sympathy to compensate for the earlier mishappening.

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Someone's body language, the intonation of their voice, a very likely first language interference can convey the speaker's complete opposite intention. Were you speaking in English to your co-workers (in other words, you do not share the same first language) or in your mother tongue? Were you smiling and cheerful-looking when you told your colleagues that you were making more money from your online business than with what you earn there?

These non-verbal signals can often speaker louder than words. Send an email to your colleagues and ask if what you said hurt or offended them. Apologize, explain that you just told the truth but you prefer working for a publishing company which you love that also allows you to socialize directly with a group of individuals than a soulless e-commerce.

The next day bring doughnuts (or coffee) to the office and invite everyone to help themself. It might help close the rift or it might not. There's an added risk it might be interpreted as a bribe but if your coworkers do not recognize a conciliatory gesture when they see one then were never really "friends" to begin with. Give it time, people will forget, they always do. Vow never to mention your online business at lunch or during a coffee break ever again (if indeed that was the source of irritation).

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  • The OP has recently been edited and the grammatical errors corrected. These were clues that told me that a language barrier or cultural difference could be at play here.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jul 14 at 7:54

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