So I work at a help desk where I'm the only employee around and there is no supervisor for the majority of my shifts.

My supervisor recently informed me that my co-worker (whose shift is directly after mine) sent her an e-mail complaining that I was leaving snack wrappers, etc. around the desk. A couple of months ago, this same co-worker told my boss that I had left early (I believe at the beginning of the year I had informed my co-worker that I had to leave around 5ish minutes early to get to another job). I didn't really get into any major trouble, my supervisor just mentioned to me later that I should stay until my co-worker gets to the desk and to clean up.

However, I found it extremely rude that she went behind my back. I am wondering if I should confront my co-worker about it and ask her why she didn't bother to work anything out, especially since the snack wrapper thing could have been a quick conversation and not involve my supervisor. I myself try to make a point of not bad mouthing my co-workers. For example, if I suspect them of not showing up for a shift, I will ask them one on one about the situation instead of immediately e-mailing my supervisor.

Any comments or advice in what to do in this situation would be extremely helpful.

  • 7
    Did your coworker say anything to your manager that wasn't true? Perhaps she felt that you would have been defensive when approached. By now confronting her, you may well reinforce that perception.
    – Jane S
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 23:02
  • 5
    regarding the incident about leaving early - did you clear that with your supervisor beforehand?
    – HorusKol
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 0:18

4 Answers 4


I am going to answer this from a boss's point of view. Your coworker is a bit of a baby and a tattle-tale. This could be her nature, she might not like you, she might think ratting on you makes her look better whatever.

I dealt with years of coworkers tattling on each other in a techdesk environment and many were shared desk problems. It almost never looks good for the complaining employees.

Here is my take on your situation... I would think she is a baby for telling on you for the wrappers. She should have said something to you - I don't buy this "she might have feared your reaction stance". It isn't my job as a manager to hear about every dumb complaint that employees have. To go along with this I would think she doesn't understand what is important and what is not. Also I would think she can't deal with other employees well.

To go along with that, I would really be wondering her motives for telling on you for leaving 5 minutes early. I can look at phone logs. I don't need an employee telling on someone. I know this isn't her business and now I have lost a bit of trust for this employee. I would probably feel as a manager if I looked at her wrong she might run off to HR.

Yes I would say something to you on both occasions, just in case ratting employee inquires about it and maybe to see your perspective and how you dealt with it. I like to think of my groups as a big team. She is not a team member. My group members would cover for each other to the point where I would get pissed because they wouldn't tell me enough. I would rather have that. Her attitude spreads fear and dissension.

Now back to you... I am gathering you have not reacted yet. Don't. Don't say a word to her about it. Act normal. Don't be mean to her, just let it go. The chances are your boss cares about this about 0.0001%. Your performance is key. Wrappers on desk is nothing (while if you have a history of showing uncleanliness or disrespecting coworkers areas that may count for 5%). Leaving 5 minutes late is cool, but email your manager. Chances are he won't care. Or better yet plan better and ask to start 5 minutes early or to take a 5 minute less lunch break.

The main thing is don't get into petty fights with peers. That shows that you may not be able to lead them one day. Saying sorry doesn't hurt either. Tell the coworker you are sorry about the wrappers, tell your boss sorry that you didn't warn him you were leaving early. Take ownership of the smallest mistakes. Then you are the trusted one.


This (what-should-i-say-to-my-boss-when-coworkers-tattle-on-me) isn't exactly the same situation, but how you handle it can be similar:

That said, you can certainly say to your coworkers, “Hey, Penelope let me know about mistakes X, Y, and Z. If you notice stuff like that in the future, feel free to give me a heads-up — I definitely want to fix it.” But you need to say this in a tone that doesn’t signal, “You’re a jerk for telling her.” It truly needs to sound sincere and kind — and if you can’t pull that off, you’re better off not saying anything, or you risk your boss hearing next that you horribly mishandled this situation by making people feel uncomfortable for sharing information with her.

So, you can't complain to your co-worker about tattling, because even if it feels like that to you, that's not the issue. If you treat it as a straight-forward "hey, if you have problems, let's talk" it will be easier for her to talk to you next time. If you approach it as confronting, it's the wrong way to handle it.

You're doing things that annoy her. Your boss either doesn't want to deal with it, or agrees with her. If you want to take the boss out of the equation, then treating it as a straight-forward no-drama conversation is the way to go, because if you're defensive about it, she'll want to continue dealing with the boss rather than you. But by acting as if you're interested in just being a good team member, you make it safe for her to talk to you directly.

But, as the AskAManager quote explains, if you're the slightest bit defensive, you're better off dropping it or communicating with her through your manager. You won't be making it easy for her to come to you next time. She may not be the kind who wants direct communication, so keep that in mind too. If you suspect that is the case, if you suspect she'll argue in a way that makes you defensive, then don't bother starting the conversation.

  • That said, you can certainly say to your coworkers... Not sure that's the best advice. We're not talking about "mistakes" in how to go about executing the work, where such discussion would be most appropriate, but matters of workplace conduct. Since "Penelope" went to the supervisor right away, she may be the sort of person that doesn't consider it appropriate to deal directly with a co-worker about that sort of thing. YMMV.
    – Vector
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 23:32

Well, in general, I can tell you that if I had a problem with another employee in the area of professionalism, I certainly would not be trying to "negotiate" with the other employee; I would just report to my boss. I am not going to go to some random employee and start demanding they clean up after themselves. I am not their mom. I am just going to report it. Your co-worker is not your nanny. If you are conducting yourself in an unprofessional manner in terms of cleanliness, you can expect complaints will be made.

As far as leaving early, however, that borders on snitching because really it is none of your co-worker's business what time you leave (as long as your leaving does not affect them in some way). If I had a co-worker who was shirking, I would definitely not report it, because it is not my business, and I am not going to rat somebody out.

Unfortunately, you have no control over whether somebody is a snitch or not. Getting hostile with a snitch is not a good idea. Just mind your own business. Snitches always get their come-uppance eventually.

  • it was normally receipts that were probably getting left there i think and maybe a candy wrapper like one time. it's not like I was leaving dirty tissues everywhere.
    – Kayla
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 23:18
  • Leaving early is an issue for a help desk, the next person may receive the ire of a customer who was unable to get through earlier. You shouldn't really leave it unattended if it has specific hours.
    – Jane S
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 23:46
  • 1
    I would upvote your first paragraph but your last 2 paragraphs cancel that out. There is expected to be a hand off between the employees. If one leaves early there is no hand off and it can impact the other's work. Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 15:02

However, I found it extremely rude that she went behind my back.

I understand your feeling - it's like you have been "ratted out" unnecessarily. But, I would not call her behavior "extremely rude". It's entirely possible that she simply wanted to avoid a personal confrontation with you - not everyone is comfortable undertaking such a thing. You might be skilled at doing it the right way, but not everyone is.

She also might believe that in a work environment, the appropriate action is to go through the chain of command - there is good argument to be made for that approach - keeps things business-like and impersonal.

Any comments or advice in what to do in this situation would be extremely helpful.

You say you didn't get into any major trouble with your supervisor, so I think you should just take a deep breath and let it go. Follow the instructions of your supervisor and carry on. If you detect a persistent pattern on the part of this particular co-worker - that she really seems to be "out to get you" - then you may have a more serious question to post up here. Let's hope that won't be the case.

I do agree with @Socrates that reporting that you left early is a red flag - it's none of her business. So, watch carefully, but don't act rashly or jump to conclusions.

  • 1
    yeah i don't think she's out to get me but it just really pisses me off that she would be e-mailing the supervisor for stuff that could have been mentioned to me, or not mentioned at all. Especially since i've known her for like a year and she even trained me for the job.
    – Kayla
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 23:19
  • I added something - based on @Socrates's answer.
    – Vector
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 23:23

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