Annie's Mailbox for April 18, 2011: Gossipy coworker is driving employees away

Dear Annie: I have worked many years in a small family-owned business. One of the owner's children recently graduated from a prominent university and is now employed here.

This kid has an opinion on everything and is quite the gossip, constantly criticizing the other employees and clients. She shares these tirades with me, as our desks are in close proximity. I try to avoid these incidents, but it is impossible. Worse, I don't want to alienate myself from the owner or his daughter, so I pretend to join in. I know it's wrong, and afterward, I feel sick.

No one is immune. I am well aware that she talks about me when I'm not around. Several valued employees have already decided to quit. Switching jobs is not an easy option in this job market, but I have my resume out.

In the meantime, how do I control my behavior and responses without making things worse? There are only so many bathroom breaks one can take. I hate being in the middle. I just want to do my job to the best of my ability.

— Want To Work

Dear Want: Is Daddy aware that his daughter's behavior is driving away valued employees? If a group of you informed him, would he do anything about it? As much as he loves his child, he may not want to lose his business because of her. Otherwise, we strongly recommend you smile politely and say nothing. You can try to murmur an occasional word in defense of your co-workers, but if not, silence is the best way to stop kicking yourself later. We hope you find another position soon.

Dear Annie: My friend "Dee" is also a neighbor who lives in the same mobile park. Dee used to be good friends with "Joanne" for years. I don't know Joanne, but Dee spoke of her often. A year ago, they had an argument and stopped talking. Sadly, Dee is dying, and I would like to tell this former friend about it in the hope that she would try to make peace before it's too late. However, I'm afraid it all could backfire in my face. Dee gets angry easily.

She doesn't have much time. What do you think?

— Y.T.

Dear Y.T.: This is Dee's decision to make. Ask her if she would be interested in having you try to arrange a reconciliation with Joanne. If the idea doesn't appeal to her, please do not pursue it further.

Dear Annie: You were off the mark with "Bi in the Boonies." I am a bisexual 17-year-old girl and a proud Catholic. Adults at school told me I was going through a "phase" and it was simply subconscious experimentation. If this young person gathered the courage to tell her friend, it means she is serious about her sexuality.

I would tell her to talk to as many different adults about it as she can. Church leaders, especially young ones, were some of the most helpful people on my journey to self-discovery. They are supportive of my transgender boyfriend and me.

The fact is that more than 10 percent of the population is gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning. She needs to remember that she is not alone. I will be praying for her and her parents.

— In Love With Another Girl in Seattle

Dear Seattle: Thank you for your words of encouragement. We hope you realize how fortunate you are to have supportive parents, friends and church leaders. Many kids who announce that they are gay or bisexual risk being tossed out of the house or worse. We think first speaking to someone at PFLAG will help any young person grappling with his or her sexual orientation.

To all our Jewish readers: a happy and healthy Passover.

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