I work in the United States. I have been working with a co-worker, Jane, for 9 months. We do similar work. She has over 30 years of experience on the job. She is an invaluable resource. I can ask her anything and she is always willing to help me.
The problem is she talks behind the back of another co-worker, Sally. She feels Sally, is faking an illness and shouldn't be entitled to so much time out of the office and working from home. I disagree with Jane, and I do not feel Sally is faking. I don't believe Jane is in a position to legitimize someone's illness. I do not wish to participate in bad mouthing Sally when she is not there, so I told Jane that I would prefer not to talk about Sally with her and we can agree to disagree. I did this because Jane gets so angry and worked up talking about Sally and it's as though she's angry at me for feeling the way I feel. I don't want her anger.
Jane does not talk to me about Sally anymore, but she makes these one line comments to me that I don't like. For example, when we are alone, she will say things like "guess who is not coming in today?" and "I could have told you she wouldn't be in." Jane also talks to another co-worker, Patty, about Sally. I'll step away from our work area, then come back to the two of them whispering and then they abruptly stop when they see me. Other times, they don't hide their conversation. One time Jane said to Patty "I'm not supposed to say anything but Sally is really taking advantage". This bothered me because I could hear them even though I was not in the conversation. Jane was deliberately ignoring my wishes.
A part of me wants to tell Jane to leave Sally alone and that no one died and made her God for her to decide whether someone is sick or not. I am also upset that she is not respecting my wishes of not talking about her to me. But then another part of me holds my tongue because I fear Jane will no longer want to answer my questions and will hold a grudge. Would I be jeopardizing our working relationship by speaking up? I need help figuring out if I take a firmer stand, will I stand to lose a resource?