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Spying on a spiteful colleague

Carl wrote:

I was at work at my Pc and turned around to have a conversation with a colleague when I noticed she was writing an email with another colleagues name in it.

I started reading it, and was shocked to read her bitching, and whining about him. I now can't stop checking in to see who or what she's writing about, and have therefore learnt that she bad mouths most people in the department, including me a lot of the time.

I don't want to confront her, because I feel awful for reading her emails, and I feel people should be able to say what they want in private.

But it's got me very self conscious for all the things she's writing about me, and I don't know how to reconcile myself to this, and to let go of the anger that comes up around it. Even if I stop reading her emails, I know what she's doing.

Dear Carl

Leave.

As you say, she has a perfect right to be as mean-minded as she wants to, and it's completely none of your business. There is nothing you can do without putting yourself even more in the wrong, and life's too short.

If you really cannot cope, then leave.

There is, however, one alternative. Ask yourself why she feels such contempt for her colleagues; is she lonely? has she been treated unfairly by anyone (or the boss?). Would befriending her make her life easier ... and yours?

Carl wrote back:

Thanks very much for that piece of advice. I wasn't sure what I'd get from you, but it validates my difficulty and sums up my sentiments.

Astute assessment of her situation as well. Although I think we all try to make it an inclusive and friendly work place, there may be things she feels slighted by.

Thanks again.

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