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Question:  “I sit near a human resources employee who talks very loudly on the phone. She gossips about confidential personnel matters, such as the amount of someone’s bonus check or which employees are being pursued by collection agencies. Everyone in the group can hear her, even if we try not to listen. We are all afraid to go to her boss, because they are good friends. What can we do?” —Concerned

Marie’s Answer: Uncontrollable gossips don’t belong in human resources. By failing to protect confidentiality, this chatty employee damages the credibility of her entire department. So someone in management needs to know.

If you fear that her boss will blow off your concerns, seek out a manager with a more sympathetic ear. Then present the facts in a calm, businesslike manner.

For example: "I hate to get anyone in trouble, but I hear a lot of confidential salary information being shared when Mary is on the phone. This seems inappropriate, but I don't think it's my place to tell her. So I just wanted to make you aware of it."

Once you have pointed out the problem, your role is at an end.  Management can then decide how to deal with it. For more advice on working effectively with colleagues, check out the topics at Coworker Relationships .

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