Can I ignore this rumor?

Question:

When I arrived at my office this morning, I found a sealed envelope with my name printed on it in block letters. Inside was an anonymous note informing me that our sales manager has had an illicit affair with the accounts receivable clerk who quit last week.

I don’t believe it. My sales manager is married and my wife and I regularly socialize with him and his wife. The head of accounting received a similar note and brought it to me. I told her to toss it in the trash. She mentioned she’d heard rumors about the sales manager and another individual who left our company last year.

She thinks we need to do something. Do we?

Answer:

Many feel tempted to toss anonymous mailings into the trash. Don’t. If a problem later erupts, you might be asked, “Were you told?” You will have to admit that you were. Someone felt strongly enough about the situation to write two notes. You don’t know that person’s motivation. Was it Revenge? The truth? You don’t know what might happen next.

You need to investigate. If you don’t, you leave a potential smoking gun aimed at both your company and the manager. Enough “buzz” now exists that any current or future employee can make a founded or unfounded allegation against the sales manager. If that happens, and a regulatory body or jury rules that sexual harassment occurred, your company faces greater liability. If you investigate and a neutral investigator deems the rumors unfounded, you protect both the manager and your company.

Finally, although you don’t believe this allegation, good people occasionally transgress. If that proves true in this case, your sales manager needs to realize his secret’s out and you may need to act on what you learn.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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