She’s afraid of office gossip

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently told my friend some confidential information about myself that she swore never to tell anyone. During our lunch break, I noticed when I entered the room that my co-workers grew very quiet and although they spoke to me, I had the feeling that they knew something about me. At first, I thought that I was just being paranoid. When I entered the boardroom for a meeting, I had the same feeling. I’m beginning to think that my friend has made me the center of the gossip at work. What should I do about this? — Samantha, Salt Lake City, Utah
Samantha: Before you jump to any conclusions, ask your friend if she revealed what you shared with her confidentially to people at work. Look her dead in the face to see if she’s telling you the truth. If you believe she broke your confidence, ask her why — what she hoped to accomplish by doing so. Also, recognize that you can’t trust her with sensitive information. In general it’s not wise to share confidences with co-workers, especially if the subject matter could in any way come back to haunt you. Strategy at work is always important.

Onto another thought: you may be overreacting. Could it be possible that you are projecting that your co-workers are observing you differently even if it’s not so? You put yourself in a vulnerable position by exposing personal information to your friend, and clearly you have regrets. Those regrets may be clouding your interpretation of your co-workers’ behavior.

Whatever is true, you now need to look ahead. Based on what you believe may have been revealed what can you do to shore up your position at your job? Could your job be in jeopardy as a result of the revelation? What are the potential consequences of this information getting out? Figure that out and respond accordingly. It may require speaking to your boss, making sure you’re even more precise about how you do your job, or just relaxing and letting the gossip pass. As far as your friend goes, don’t tell her anything else that you don’t want everyone to know.

Cinderella needs a cheap gown for the ball

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was invited to a black-tie party for my job, and I’m excited to go; however, I have a big problem. I don’t have an evening gown, and I was told that I must wear one. I can’t afford to spend a lot of money on a dress, but I know this is a great opportunity for me. Should I tell my boss? That seems embarrassing. I don’t feel comfortable talking to my co-workers, either, because I’m not sure who has been invited to go. What should I do? — Susie, Dallas, Texas

DEAR SUSIE: Figure out exactly how much money you can spend on an outfit. No matter how small your budget, figure it out. Then get creative. Look out for super-discounted sales at the local department store. Because so few people are shopping these days, consumers actually have an incredible advantage. Bargains are there for the taking. Look for slightly damaged goods for even deeper discounts. Check out local discount malls, where prices start low and are likely lower now as stores work feverishly to move inventory. Also, consider secondhand shops. Evening gowns are rarely worn much before they are discarded. You may be able to find a beautiful, nearly new dress for a “steal” at one of these outlets. You can find what you need! Don’t give up.