The Right Words to Deal With a Tattle Tale Employee

Workplaces are growing, diverse spaces, with people of many personality types working together. Generally, when employees are well-behaved in their interactions with each other, the environment is pleasant. The problem starts when one type of personality causes a total clash with the others.

One of those types is the tattletale co-worker or employees who seem to forget their boundaries. They have business with everybody’s business and like to talk about it to the higher-ups, intentionally or unintentionally damaging the reputations of others.

Tattletales can be difficult to handle, but with the right amount and quality of words based on solid concepts, you can make the situation turn in your favor. Here are a few techniques you can use to deal with the tattletale employee.

A Gentle Reminder by Personally Discouraging the Act:  


Tattle-tale people are sometimes very nosy and end up gossiping about matters that don’t, in any possible way, concern them. To deal with these people, you must have a very stern policy of not talking about anyone behind their back.

If you settle for a culture that involves talking behind others’ backs, then you are encouraging that, and it may end up turning against you. Instead, if it happens around you, try to take a stand and call that person off. Some words you can use to gently remind them of their boundaries are as follows:

I understand your concern, but I generally avoid having discussions about people behind their backs.
Let’s not waste our time on the wrongdoings or personal lives of others.
[Name], there is nothing that is affecting you in this situation, but you still seem very preoccupied with it.

These replies, which politely remind them of their place and introduce your concerns, can go a long way in making the office a more pleasant workplace.

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Concerned Talk 


If you find the person in question to be habitually involved in negative behavior, your first instinct should be to investigate why they are behaving this way.

Speak with a concerned tone to convey that you care about the situation they are going through, and mention that the kind of people who are generally involved in tattletale behavior often have lower self-esteem.

The talk might also circle the topic of how toxic people are often disliked and don’t have a lot of friends (or close friends at least) in most cases.

The conversation with these people should be carefully worded to show them empathy.

At first, it might come across as insulting for them, but if you are genuine and kind enough to drag the conversation to a few minutes, the chances are that you’ll get to them and might even get to their triggers or motivation as to why they do it.

Display patience, respect, and genuineness. You could phrase this like the following paragraph below:

Hey [Name],
I’ve meant to talk to you about something, can you spare some time? [You might ask to go to lunch together.] You know, I’ve been in this office for long enough to realize that your interactions with others aren’t very pleasant, and if I’m entirely honest, I am a little concerned because I think this might severely affect you.
We’ve had a few experiences together, and based on what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t want to have much interaction with you. I seriously think that you are better than this, and you could do much better if you work on yourself rather than focusing on what others are doing.
I hope I am not coming across as disrespectful, but you acting this way directly affects me and others, and I would like for us to have a good working relationship.

This way is definitely best for employees who are not beyond repair, and should only be used when you think you have the ability to handle the situation, but keep it on the table when considering your options. If not used as a concern, it could be a good confrontation as well.

If you're looking to develop your communication skills for professional environments even further, we think you’ll like the following video course from LinkedIn Learning.
Click here for full access to "Creating a Positive and Healthy Work Environment" On LinkedIn Learning
Toxic workplaces cost organizations money in the form of lost productivity, poor employee health, and, in extreme cases, lawsuits. HR consultant Catherine Mattice Zundel explains how companies that invest in a positive workplace can see an amazing return on their investment. If you have a negative workplace, you can turn it around by creating a vision for change—and a positive culture committee to help you deliver a new culture to your workforce. Catherine provides insight into conducting surveys and updating your performance management system, and offers tools such as a sample strategic plan and an exercise for creating core values.

Confronting the Person One on One 


Tattletales in adulthood are normally strategic people, and you don’t always see this until an argument occurs. People who love to gossip may have a toxic personality, have opinions that are overly dominating, and like to comment on or criticize everything, even things that they don’t have any idea about.

To tackle tattletales, it’s best o stop them in their tracks. These people are often mortified once exposed, so observe them closely and keep a record of their actions. The fear of being called out may deter the person in question from carrying on with their negative behavior.

Once you have sufficient evidence on them to be responsible, you can sit them down and tell them that you see the overarching picture and this type of behavior will not be tolerated.


Listen, I fail to understand what makes you do this, but please don’t deny that you have [mention their recorded actions, not rumors or assumptions]. I would rather have you talk to me about it than anyone else. Okay?
I’ve been giving you a chance for a long time, but this is where I draw the line, and I hope I’ve made myself very clear that I would not like to be part of your controversies anymore.
I see you, so please do yourself and me a favor. Stop unnecessarily gossiping about people!

Involving Management 


When it comes to a person who is creating a toxic environment for you or other members of the workplace, you have the responsibility to involve HR  or the management team, and this should definitely stop them from being a toxic element of the environment.

Some employees are toxic to the extent that they cause other workers to move offices and, in some cases, resign or leave.

With this in mind, remind the HR team of the importance of hiring people that contribute to the positivity and well-being of the working area. Carefully define the tattletale employee’s actions with proof that you have collected.

These people are often handled by supervisors or higher-ups because most of the time, what they’re doing is intended to get the higher-ups’ attention, and if they learn that it is seen as negative, they may stop to avoid damaging their reputation.

In these cases, you are left with no choice but to tell management. The discussion with HR might be as follows:

I have something important to say, since I know you spend a lot of time taking reviews and surveys to make this environment better for the workers. I am here to report [Name] because their behavior has been upsetting certain employees. [Describe to them the negative actions you have recorded.]
I didn’t want to come, but I had a talk with [Name] personally and it made no difference, so I thought I might ask for your help, because addressing the problem would make this office much better to work in.

Now with all these ways to interact with tattletales, it is important to know that all of us have the capacity and drive to succeed and hence orient our behaviors to satisfy that drive. These people need to work on themselves further.

If you’re thinking of a long-term truce or solution, you’ve got to be more proactive and less reactive. You must look for solutions that will solve your problem and have little effect on their personality.

If you're looking to develop your communication skills for professional environments even further, we think you’ll like the following video course from LinkedIn Learning.
Click here for full access to "Working with Difficult People" On LinkedIn Learning
In this course, Chris Croft shares methods for recognizing the characteristics of some of the most common types of difficult people, and gives you strategies for dealing with these individuals more effectively. Chris provides practical techniques for dealing with a variety of different behaviors, including negativity, aggression, childishness, and selfishness. Plus, he explains how to overcome your own negative thinking, and get the best from a difficult boss.

The scripts above are a way to start the improvised discussions you could have with your problematic co-worker but always go with your instinct regarding the ways you want to handle the situation. You could confront them right away, or inquire a little about them beforehand, or you might want to involve management in the process as the first step. Do whatever works best for you.

Always remember, in hopes of handling a tattletale co-worker you might have to get your hands dirty, but don’t let them stay that way or you could be one in the making too. Be passionate, honest, and straightforward, and you will positively affect your environment and the people around you.

At Never the Right Word, our aim is to give you practical examples of how to handle life’s difficult conversations. If you have an awkward situation that you’d like example templates for, request a topic here.  

If you’re interested in further reading, we’ve also included links to our trusted resources and related posts below. To find out more about NTRW and our recommended tools, you can do that here.

Lastly, if you found this content helpful or want to share your own examples, let us know in the comments. We’d also be delighted if you shared this article and joined us on social media too!

Article by Never the Right Word

Scripts & Templates for Life’s Uncomfortable Conversations. Learn more about NTRW here. NTRW is supported by adverts and affiliate marketing links. For more info, please see our Earnings Disclosure.

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Never the Right Word

Never the Right Word

Hi there! I’m Amy, and I’m the person behind Never the Right Word. I’m a designer-by-day who’s fascinated by human psychology; you’ll find me learning about what makes others tick through all types of media and good old-fashioned conversation. Learn more about me here.

In 2019 Never the Right Word was born to fill the gap of ‘how-to’ websites with copy and paste examples showing you EXACTLY what you need to say to steer difficult conversations into positive outcomes.

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