I made a comment to a coworker recently. Someone who reports to me has been recently given a verbal warning about their work. I requested that the coworker forward any issues about that person directly to me for the time being. I stated that she is having some work issues and it would be better not to pass errors on to her directly as she is under pressure to clear up past problems.

The coworker took this information and told my boss while at an event together that I had said my report had a chance to be fired! The boss asked me why I said that and told me to keep these things under wraps in the future. I politely stated that the coworker must have misconstrued what I said, as I would never state that someone had the likelihood of being fired, and I don't even know that myself at this point.

What is the best way to handle "he said, she said" in the workplace and prevent a false reputation?

  • 5
    What is the best way to handle Unless it happens often, you have it already: Exactly what you did.
    – deviantfan
    Aug 24, 2016 at 18:24
  • "What is the best way to handle "he said, she said" in the workplace and prevent a false reputation?" - Best way to handle it is to simply not become involved. Did you have any reason to ask this co-worker to forward you issues of another co-worker other than being a friend of the first person?
    – Dan
    Aug 25, 2016 at 14:18

4 Answers 4


Sometimes less is more.

"Please pass on any issues with Mary to me directly, thank you" can not be misrepresented.

Never share details with coworkers about sensitive personnel issues. This is a prime example as to why.

If you must, do it in email so that there is no doubt as to what was or what was not said

  • Basically they read everything but what you said. Think of it like talking to a dog. You can sit there all day talking about why you won't give it a doggie treat but just as soon as you say the word, that dog will be going crazy regardless of what you say.
    – Dan
    Aug 25, 2016 at 14:24
  • Brevity is your friend. Aug 25, 2016 at 15:14

What conclusion do you think people are going to make when you make statements like this?

  1. recently given a verbal warning about their work
  2. she is having some work issues
  3. she is under pressure to clear up past problems.

You didn't come right out and say she could get fired, but most people would think this person is having serous trouble at work.

Be more discrete with what you say. If you are supervising someone, just let others know what you want them to do when interacting with this person. Whether that is sending errors, complaints, additional work to you, it doesn't matter. No one needs to know the reason behind your decision. You're not giving orders but merely asking others out of professional courtesy to comply.

I hope your boss doesn't go around telling people about what a poor job you did in this instance.


I like both the answers, but I'll add a solution.

Don't get involved in other people's disciplinary matter unless it's your role to be. If it is your role to be then you will know, because it will all be above board and no need for subterfuge.

Since the damage is already done, just take your bosses advice to heart, he/she has given you a 'heads up' now carry on with that in mind. Don't waste time on recriminations it's not constructive.


Here's where

I stated that she is having some work issues

You could have left this out altogether. Ask the co-worker to forward any concerns? Yes. Talk about (or even mention) your report's issues to anyone other than HR, a peer-manager, or your boss? No.

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