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What is Slander in the Workplace and How to Deal With It

Slander in the Workplace
Workplace slander can result in poor employee performance, poor team spirit and create a negative environment for work. Cases of slander in the workplace must be resolved by managers.
Kundan Pandey
Last Updated: Dec 21, 2017
"I've been working as an employee in an organization for about 4 years. Since past few weeks I've noticed drastic changes in the attitude of my colleagues especially those who have known me from past few months. Many employees are not too happy or they seem uncomfortable while working with me. I don't know the exact reason for this; however, I have tried to discover the reason behind such attitude of people in my office. I have found through overhearing somebody that there are rumors about my being involved in drug related cases. Moreover, rumors about me being 'drug addict' has escalated in the office. I suspect few people who are spreading such baseless rumors. However, I can't directly take any step. These days gossips have aired about my being alcoholic too. What should I do? Isn't this a case of slander in the workplace? Should I file a law suit against such people as this false rumor is seriously affecting my work." ~ Kevin, an employee in a firm.
Just like it happened to Kevin, false rumors that malign the reputation of an individual can be an extremely frustrating experience for the person who goes through it. While the people who participate in slander may have ulterior motives in playing with the reputation of the employee, activities like slander hurt the work ethics and team unity in a workplace. Many a time, an individual may ignore issues related to baseless rumors or verbal attacks thinking it to be a temporary matter, which need not be given sufficient attention. However, if such events continue unabated, it is essential to take legitimate action to ensure that self respect is not questioned.

Another commonly mistaken thought about slander is that most of the slander cases in the workplace are assumed to be nothing but exaggerated forms of rumors which discourages the individual to come out in open and complain about the issue. Being an official matter that can interfere with the career of an individual and the people involved in it, it is necessary to deal with slander issues with complete sensitivity and care. It also affects the employees and reputation of firm. Human resource managers must make it a point not to ignore such small gossips that may ultimately cause poor performance and workplace harassment of employees. All managers and bosses must ensure they put a check on gossips that create a sense of false impression about a coworker/employee and can become matter of serious breach of workplace ethics.

A common message for all business heads and leaders of teams is: "Stupid, baseless, hurtful and misleading rumors can often be devastating for an employee and organization, so ensure to put a check on such gossip mongers before situation goes out of control." Not surprising that there are legal procedures that must be considered if a situation has crossed all the limits.
Dealing With Slander at the Workplace
Any employee feeling harassed and over stressed due to any sort of defamation must first all handle this topic with sensitivity and maturity. The employee must firstly contact the human resource manager of the firm (in case you have a large firm with HR head or if that is not the case, contact some people of your management team).

Explain to the HR manager about your issues and concerns. It is possible that the HR is not aware of such incidents if they have reached to such heights, so you can openly complain about such false and hurtful rumors. In all probabilities, you may request the HR to take legal action against such colleagues.

Slander laws are also known as defamation laws and they have been incorporated in every state with varying degrees. The legal definition of slander or libel is given as false and malicious comments made against anybody in the workplace about a fact of the person to some third party, that causes harm to the person.
When it comes to the term "harm" in the workplace, it means that coworkers don't associate with the person due to the rumors or employee may lose job due to false allegations. Not all accusations can be taken as a case of slander in the workplace. Generally, very serious cases like rumors of criminal misbehavior and sexual misconduct are considered apt for filing lawsuit.

Before taking any steps in the process of slandering someone in your workplace, do ensure that your management team is aware about every step and you have explained them your stand. Slander at work must be taken seriously and must be used if all limits of decency and work ethics have been crossed by anyone. Consulting employment lawyers in such cases helps one to understand various laws related to slander in the workplace.