Adult Workplace Tattlers?

Let us consider these six statements: “Leslie pushed me in the lunch line”, “Stephanie took Michael’s skates”, “Dana said a bad word”, “Tameka skipped 3rd period class”, “Kimberly lied about dorm fees”, and “Candace came back late from lunch yesterday”.

Although we can easily determine that the six statements are examples of people tattling on others, it may not be so easy to determine that each statement is spoken by a person in six different age groups. However, if we re-read the six statements while bearing in mind that for each statement the age of the person speaking is increasing, it will become apparent to us that as age increases, this does not necessarily mean that all people mature such that they no longer tattle. Regardless of the speaker’s age, all six of the statements are still considered to be tattling. Unfortunately, there is no difference between a 3 year old who tattles to her teacher that Leslie pushed her at lunch time than a 45 years old woman who feels compelled to tattle to the project director before the project team arrives that because Cathy came back from lunch 10 minutes late yesterday, it negatively affected the team’s overall project timeline.

One of the first lessons that most children between the ages of 4 and 7 learn either at home or in pre-school is that “Nobody wants to play with a tattle-tale”. This is so because rather than imparting knowledge pertaining to an event, fact or situation, tattlers waste their listener’s time by telling them or complaining about the harmless actions of a person or group simply because it annoys or bothers them. Even though our tattle-tale pre-school classmates eventually left pre-school, unfortunately some of them have wondered into our place of work and are now our colleagues, managers and even executive level managers. Like pre-school children who often go to an adult to solve their problems rather than make an honest effort to work their troubles out themselves, tattle-tale adults in the work place run to their boss or any authority figure divulging the often falsely perceived horrible deeds of others. Tattlers are controlling, manipulative, corporate bullies who work extremely hard at finding ways to force others to do as they wish. Tattlers believe that everyone should act and think exactly as they do. Tattlers are usually very opinionated about people and behaviors that don’t have a direct impact on their lives. Tattlers can be quiet, even charming. Tattlers are often very friendly. They gather information quietly and wait. And when they feel the time is right, or if they are just angry, they will tell supervisors about bad behavior they have observed.

Although there are many motives and reasons that adults tattle in the work place, these are some of the most common:
• To seek attention
• To pursue power
• To manipulate or threaten others
• To get their co-workers in trouble or even fired

Regardless of the reasons that adults tattle in the work place, doing so can create a dysfunctional work place, decrease employee productivity, employee moral and camaraderie, and tattling can also increase employee turnover which is extremely expensive because it costs organizations a lot of time and money to recruit qualified new hires.

Suggested things we can do to protect ourselves from work place adult tattlers

1. Save all of your correspondences such as voicemails, letters, instant messenger files and especially eMails because they can work in your favor when the tattler blames you for something you did not do.
2. Because work place adult tattlers are notorious for taking advantage of their victim’s trust and especially their victim’s attempts to work things out with out involving the boss, at the first sign of “tattler” trouble, talk to your boss. And always insist that the tattler is present when you are discussing their actions because this demonstrates your integrity and trustworthiness.
3. Always be responsible and take the blame for your mistakes. This is extremely important because it demonstrates that others can trust you. And work place decision makers will be less likely to believe the tattler’s accusations.
4. Always be professional especially when engaging in discussions with the adult work place tattle. This is so because tattlers are manipulative opportunists who continuously look for opportunities to make you look like the villain in front of others.
5. When working with the tattler on projects or other group assignments, always send them a gentle eMail reminder a few days before the due date of project deliverables. This not only helps to protect you from the tattler’s accusations and blames, but it also provides proof (eMail) that you were planning ahead and diligently working to complete tasks.
6. Refrain from playing “tit-for-tat” (revenge) games with the adult work place tattlers. Instead, always choose to be a leader by demonstrating how adults are supposed to behave while at their place of work.
7. The best way to deal with a tattler is to give the tattler nothing to tattle about. So please never tell the tattler anything that they can run and tell to your boss that could potentially hurt you. When dealing with adult work place tattlers, it is always best and especially safe to only engage in discussions pertaining to business.
8. Always be positive, fun to be around, approachable, friendly, and please laugh. Not only is it a truth that laughter is the best medicine, but laughter can also dissolve most if not all of the negativity caused by the adult work place tattler.

As a final note, although the adult work place tattler’s actions and behaviors often make us feel that we are back in pre-school, we should ensure that our actions and behaviors always reflect that we prefer to create and maintain professional, fun and especially healthy work relationships.

Cino Plechette Taylor, Queen Mother, Instructional Designer and IT College Professor. Please feel free to keep in touch with Cino at:

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