Gossipy Gals
September 15, 2009 6:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm a temp, and I know a couple of people are being gossipy about me behind my back. And they don't know I know. Should I call them on it?

In a nutshell: Secretary Sue moved to a different department, and I was called in to cover while they found a new person. As such, I have my own email, but I also have access to Secretary Sue's email in case something comes in about Sue's old job.

Co-worker Carol was buddies with Secretary Sue. And once in a blue moon, when I've checked Sue's email, I've seen catty little comments about my work performance that Carol has sent her. Nothing aggregiously bad -- more things like, "she left a container of milk in the fridge that had yesterday as the expiration date. She's not smart, is she?"

Now -- on the one hand, I'm only going to be here two more weeks, and I know my temp agency thinks I'm doing an amazing job. I haven't been doing AS good here, but it's because it was a much bigger job than anticipated, and the only things that I've been wobbly on have been "oops, I didn't get new milk" or "oops, I didn't change the water in the flowers yesterday" rather than "oops, I forgot to schedule the meeting with the vice president." So I could just say "screw them" and ignore it.

But on the other hand, I was thinking of just subtly saying to Carol that "you know, by the way, I do still have Sue's email and I do check it sometimes. In case you may find that information useful." And just give her a look, and then say nothing more.

Or: I could send an email to Sue saying that "by the way, I've still kept your email on this computer, because I'm afraid that if I delete your account, I won't have access to some past emails I may need. However -- recent email traffic has convinced me that's unwise, so would you be able to forward me anything I need if I lose access to it?"

So. Should I say something, or let it go?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (37 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
"she left a container of milk in the fridge that had yesterday as the expiration date. She's not smart, is she?"

This is unbelievably sad and small and you would do well to ignore what sad small people think about you. She's not worth bothering with.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:53 AM on September 15, 2009 [54 favorites]

I would respond to one of the catty emails and just say "Oops! You guys know I can read these right? :-P "
posted by ian1977 at 6:54 AM on September 15, 2009

The beauty of being a temp is that you don't have to bother with office politics.
Let it go--you might find it very liberating!
posted by Go Banana at 6:56 AM on September 15, 2009 [10 favorites]

Don't say anything, you sound like you're mature enough to handle it, unlike your office mates.

but really, one day expired milk - you know better than that. come on!

posted by Think_Long at 6:57 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

You're a temp. Keep your head down and do your job. Do not get involved in any office politics or drama. Definitely do not create any drama.
Any waves you create will roll back onto you, probably in the form of complaints to the agency you're working through.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:57 AM on September 15, 2009 [9 favorites]

Add an out of office reply to Sue's email telling people to route follow ups or requests to your email account, and then stop checking it.

And Optimus Chyme is right -- Carol's a small sad person and it's good to ignore those.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:59 AM on September 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

Fantasize about your last day: (don't do this!)
1. Get new milk container.
2. Dump out new milk.
3. Pour old milk in new container.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:01 AM on September 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

Yeah I agree that the office politics should be kept under you. However, I would be sorely tempted to send out a blanket email saying you're checking Sue's emails to keep on top of things. It's neutral, it's informative, it's helpful and professional. It'll also shut Co-worker Carol up something serious, and may even invoke an apology - or at least, no negative review from her. That could be very helpful. Very helpful indeed.
posted by jimmythefish at 7:02 AM on September 15, 2009 [2 favorites]

Oh, don't mention you've been reading Sue's non-urgent work e-mails. The temp is such an easy sacrificial lamb...I'd go the opposite route and kill your enemies with kindness. A great temp is a godsend to an office, really.
posted by xingcat at 7:09 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Meh. A couple of weeks from now, you'll never see these sad sacks again.

Also: The expiration date is a sell-by date, so you have another week out of that milk. She's not smart, is she?
posted by General Malaise at 7:11 AM on September 15, 2009 [17 favorites]

There's a motto I sometimes employ and it seems to apply here: "The hell with them."

The agency you work for seems to love you, don't start any drama that might boomerang and end up reflecting poorly on you somehow.

You're moving on and they, apparently, are sad, small and petty office hags. They'll forget you and gossip about your replacement when she gets there.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:11 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Two words: whoopee. cushion.
posted by jeb at 7:13 AM on September 15, 2009

What the heck is wrong with milk that has yesterday's expiration date?

Don't these people have noses?
posted by rokusan at 7:17 AM on September 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

IGNORE. As a temp, your whole future with the agency depends on the individual jobs you do. You bite on this e-mail then, then Sue whines to Carol, who takes it to the boss, who tells your agency and suddenly you look like less of an outstanding employee and more like a typical snitty secretary. Been there.

Screw them. You'll be gone soon and they'll find someone else to pick over.

But really, this is the sort of trouble that reading other people's e-mails will get you into. If it's relevant to your work, open it. Otherwise, keep it closed and save yourself some stress.
posted by caveat at 7:18 AM on September 15, 2009

The agency you work for seems to love you, don't start any drama that might boomerang and end up reflecting poorly on you somehow.

posted by marsha56 at 7:20 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

follow-up from the OP
Hi folks:

Just to clarify -- I haven't been reading every last one of Secretary Sue's emails, just skimming the subject lines. However, Sue's email account was the default account for Outlook on this computer, which means whatever the most recent email she got is is the first thing I see when Outlook loads up -- and that's the email that came up when I logged on today. So I only saw that email by accident.

I've made my own email account, rather than Sue's, the default for this computer to eliminate those kinds of accidents; that may be the best solution of all."
posted by jessamyn at 7:24 AM on September 15, 2009

If you want some retribution (don't do this), what you can do (DON'T!!):

1) Forward the email from Sue's account to your own.
2) Reply to Carol from "Sue's" email that the milk was an oversight and you will try not to let it happen again in the next two weeks that you are there.

posted by coryinabox at 7:32 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Is that really the best that Carol can do? Really?

Fighting back against a much weaker opponent is fruitless. If you lose, you look bad, and if you win, you look mean. I'm all for revenge, usually, but this is the 1c coin that is lying at the bottom of the drain - it's just not worth it.
posted by Solomon at 7:35 AM on September 15, 2009 [3 favorites]

Just have a nice little giggle, to yourself. You're a temp. What are they? I bet they think your job is easy. I bet they think it beneath them. After all, there's a reason they say "JUST a temp", right?

Um, no, not really. A temp goes in to a new place with no real knowledge about that place, sits down, and very quickly starts doing the work required. What do those others do? They interview, get hired, perhaps some training. They get coddled along the way of learning their job. Temps, they just do the job, "straight out of the box", as it were.

Temps rule. Never forget that.
posted by Goofyy at 7:45 AM on September 15, 2009 [9 favorites]

She's just jealous because you're better at her job than she was.

And look how long she was doing it! And you're just a temp!

Good show.
posted by kathrineg at 7:51 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Ignore. For two weeks, it won't hurt. You probably won't even remember this after a while.
posted by Citrus at 7:57 AM on September 15, 2009

What your employer thinks of you is the ONLY thing that matters here. You're only there for a few more weeks. Carol will likely be there much longer. People like you move up in the world. People like Carol toil at the same jobs until they're so bitter they have to take it out on other people. Can't say I wouldn't be fantasizing about sending a "Bitch, please" type of e-mail back to Carol, but she's seriously not worth your time. Let it go. She sounds like your stereotypical cubicle farm gossip bag.
posted by futureisunwritten at 8:00 AM on September 15, 2009

You want to do what? As a temp (or full timer in my opinion) doing anything other than keeping your head down and doing your job to the best of your abilities is bs and not worth it. Do not get involved. Let your actions speak for themselves.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:02 AM on September 15, 2009

Yeah...not your biscuits, don't turn on the oven.
posted by dejah420 at 8:04 AM on September 15, 2009 [6 favorites]

That's lame, but don't say anything. Even though it was an accidental thing, and you officially had access, this can easily be turned around on you with (completely wrong-headed) accusations of being a snoop or not being able to keep information confidential. No one important will hear these bitchy little comments, so just keep doing an awesome job & be glad that you have a far fuller & more interesting life than this lady who feels necessary to police milk.
posted by katemcd at 8:04 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

Let it go, please. Show them that you're better than they think.
posted by reptile at 8:10 AM on September 15, 2009

as a professional temp, i occasionally hear this kind of crap. i always prentend to not hear or see it, mainly as part of my professional pride. dealing with annoying office gossips is not part of the assignment--i don't get paid for it--so i don't do it. just concentrate on what i am supposed to be doing.

as for coworker carol: i'm guessing she thinks of you as a threat ... or, at the least, someone who might reveal her own incompetence. just ignore her--generally when people gossip as indicated above, it's met by a lot of eye rolling by more competent people.
posted by lester at 8:14 AM on September 15, 2009

As a temp, you automatically have future options that they don't!

They probably wish they did.
posted by jgirl at 8:20 AM on September 15, 2009

do absolutely nothing. Nada.
posted by naplesyellow at 8:26 AM on September 15, 2009

Ignore Co-worker Carol. If you were going to be stuck with these people a long time, you'd need to find a way to resolve whatever issues Carol has with you. But it seems her issue with you is that you're a temp. It's not even about you, really. It's about her need to feel superior, and you're an instant target. You're also a moving target. You won't be there long. So, ignore all of her BS and do your job. You will move on to something better, and you'll remember what that catty lady said about you one day when you have a permanent position and there's a temp in your office, and you'll treat that temp nicely because you won't want to be that chick. Think of this as a character-building exercise. Meanwhile, Carol gets to go home with the grand accomplishment of badmouthing someone who didn't do anything wrong. Congratulations, Carol!
posted by katillathehun at 8:32 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

I used to work at a temp agency as both a temp and then a recruiter, and I am n-thing the do nothing.

You came in and did the job so well the only thing the hags have to complain about is some milk that is on its sell-by date? You are doing a spectacular job!

Lots of people crab on temps in their organization because they feel threatened, as rightly they should. Because if someone can waltz in and do their jobs with fifteen minutes of 'here is the copier' training, the permanent employees are infinitely replaceable.

Anything you do will go back to your agency as complaints, and since the company pays at least double your wage to the temp agency the agency has no incentive to believe you, and every incentive to believe them.
posted by winna at 9:21 AM on September 15, 2009 [1 favorite]

It can ONLY hurt YOU to do anything. People can be so small....
posted by xammerboy at 9:29 AM on September 15, 2009

Maybe Secretary Sue is the nervous type, and Carol is just trying to reassure her that "clearly nobody can do that job as well as you, Sue" but there's really nothing seriously wrong with your performance. So, Carol's stuck just finding little things to pick at as ways to say "Sue, I miss you and it would be great to have you back here, remember that time when crazy Jim was drinking expired milk and blaming it on you but it was really his wife's fault but nobody could tell him?"

Not saying that Carol's not a catty snot, just that there are other options.

And for the nth time, do nothing. This is not about you, or about the quality of the work you're doing.
posted by aimedwander at 9:40 AM on September 15, 2009

Say a little thank-you that you didn't get the full time position.
posted by x46 at 9:55 AM on September 15, 2009

Though it would be fun to say something snarky to them, it isn't worth it. You know that.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 10:46 AM on September 15, 2009

You came in and did the job so well the only thing the hags have to complain about is some milk that is on its sell-by date? You are doing a spectacular job!

There's damning with faint praise.

And then there's praising with faint damnation; if they have to work THAT FUCKING HARD to come up with something negative to say about your job performance, take it as a compliment.
posted by jason's_planet at 11:05 AM on September 15, 2009

As Carrie Fisher once said, "The shortest way to say the Serenity Prayer is 'f**& 'em'."
posted by Sara Anne at 11:09 AM on September 15, 2009 [10 favorites]

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