Ask Minda Honey: Former coworkers’ drama

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Hi Minda,

Last year, I quit a job I had been at for three years. It was a bittersweet end. I was going to a fantastic new opportunity that just fell in my lap (I hadn’t even been looking).

I tried to stay in touch with many of my coworkers, but the relationships fizzled, mostly due to me being about 10 years older than they were and at different life stages than me.

But the other day I ran into “Carson” when I was at a local coffee shop. We sat down and had great conversation for about 30 minutes. He filled me in on all the “drama” of the company, in particular some major news about another coworker, “Tammy.” Carson swore me to secrecy as no one except for a handful of people in the office knew.

A few days later, I called Tammy to give her a lead on a job opening in my new company I thought she’d be interested in. During the course of the conversation, a point came up that forced me to either play dumb about her personal issues, or admit Carson told me. I played dumb per his request, and the conversation ended normally.

Except the next day on Facebook Tammy wrote that it “hurt more than the act itself” that “someone I know who knows my situation would play dumb to force me to relive the pain of my situation for their amusement.” It turns out that Carson told her he told me everything the next day!

Now I feel really dumb and mean! How do I fix this? I never lie but I was genuinely trying to respect Carson’s wishes. Do I recover from something like this or just consider the friendship over?

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—Foot-in-Mouth

Howdy Foot!

Ugh. What an uncomfortable situation to be in. I know one of the best parts of running into old coworkers is hearing about who’s still there, who isn’t, if your old boss still does that thing that drives everyone crazy and other hot office gossip. So, I don’t think you participated in anything out of the ordinary. You were also directed by Carson not to let it get back to Tammy that he blabbed her business — again, not out of the ordinary.

But what does seem unusual to me is the way your old coworkers are behaving. Why would Carson ask you to be his confidant, only to run and tell Tammy he told you everything? And if that was his plan, why didn’t he loop back around and let you know? And Tammy — why wouldn’t she just plainly tell you over the phone, “Oh, I thought Carson got you all caught up?” But she didn’t say anything! Why was her reaction to write a Facebook post she knew you’d see? And if Carson is also Facebook friends with Tammy, I have to wonder why he didn’t reach out to her to clear things up. Why are your old coworkers doing the most? Have they always lived life like a “Young and the Restless” plot?

I’m sorry they made you feel dumb, but this situation isn’t a mess of your making. You’re trying to hook Tammy up with a job where you work, so I’m surprised she wouldn’t give you the benefit of the doubt that you aren’t out to hurt her. Besides, there’s no way that phone interaction stung more than all the things she’s been through. If this sort of high drama isn’t typical of Tammy, you might consider giving her pass based on what went down in her personal life. If you’re interested in maintaining a friendship with her, you basically have a few choices.

You can throw Carson under the bus and tell Tammy he asked you to keep his disloyalty hush-hush. Which hopefully he won’t mind too much because he’s the one who set you up for failure. You could also reach out to Carson and ask him to talk to Tammy. He shouldn’t have any issue cleaning this whole mess up by confessing he asked you keep it secret since he likes to disclose so much. Or you could go the super gracious route. Get Tammy a card and some flowers and apologize for having made an already difficult time more difficult. Even if this isn’t your fault, sometimes an apology is the quickest, simplest way to move forward. Tammy’s likely to accept your apology without much fuss (unless she’s just looking to keep the drama going and hey maybe she is…).

Good luck F-I-M!

—Minda

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