Living Down Rumors

Recently, Robin Schooling wrote an interesting post about being single in a married workplace. In it, she posed the question of whether or not being a single woman in a primarily married world hindered one’s opportunity for advancement into leadership positions.  

Being a single woman myself, I related to much of what Robin questioned. And though I’m still not sure whether or not I believe that to be true as I have seen unmarried women rise to high positions, I do believe there are challenges that come along with the territory.

What I’ve experienced is a variation on that theme. Here are the facts: I’m a young, single woman working amongst primarily married or otherwise “coupled up” folks.  I am also a social person who enjoys interacting with co-workers outside of the office every now and then. I’ve spent a good majority of my career thus far completely single and haven’t paraded around many boyfriends at company events.

Because of this, over the years I’ve found myself the subject of at least a few rumors that have paired me off with various co-workers, of both the unmarried AND married sort.  Some of these rumors I’ve found out about months, sometimes even years later.  It seems that in this married world in which I work, there are at least some individuals who find it impossible to believe that a young, single girl could possibly maintain that relationship status of her own choosing, so by default MUST be involved with someone.  And apparently my proximity to various male co-workers at social outings must be reason enough to pair me with them.

For the most part, these rumors have not bothered me. After all, I know them to be untrue, and believe that those who matter also know or believe them to be untrue. But there is always the concern that rumors could mar one’s reputation, and that what I’ve worked to build, the effort I’ve put into my career successes thus far, could be tarnished by a few unsavory whispers at the water cooler.

So what’s a single girl to do?  Is no reaction the best reaction?

The approach I’ve chosen in these times has been to keep my head held high and walk with the confidence and knowledge of who I am, what I’ve contributed, and what is and isn’t true about my personal life. I am not going to change who I am, or stop being social because a select few choose to perpetuate the rumor mill. I’ve chosen to believe that this too shall pass; my contributions speak for themselves, and those that matter won’t get caught up in it.

What do you think is the best approach?

Photo credit iStockphoto

About the Author

Jennifer Payne

Jennifer Payne is a 20+ year human resources leader with a focus on researching, developing, and implementing talent management programs. She is a believer in lifelong learning and self-development who strives to stay current in HR trends, technology, best practices, and the future of work by sharing knowledge with and learning from HR colleagues and thought leaders across the country and throughout the world through writing, speaking, and involvement in various industry conferences and events.  She is one of the co-founders of Women of HR, and is currently the Editor of the site. You can connect with her on Twitter...


Debbie Brown

Great Post- say nothing, there is nothing to say- human behavior is what it is, unfortunately. The people in question, know the truth. It may seem unfair- I would guess the colleague does not appreciate it either?


I agree that you should just hold your head high and continue on. You know what is true, so the rest shouldn’t matter. However, if there was a really, really nasty rumor going around I might try to get to the root of it and confront the person that started it so as to let them know it’s not appreciated.


One thing about personal rumors, it doesn’t matter what you do sometimes people are still going to think what they want. I know someone that believes Wendy Williams is a man. Although she has given birth and has tried to dispell that rumor.
Earlier this week I posted something about work related rumors. Check it out


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