someone emailed me about my employee’s behavior outside of work … and I don’t care

A reader writes:

I recently got an email from someone with screenshots concerning an employee of mine. They were of a personal nature directed to an organization outside of work using her personal time and her personal equipment. They didn’t concern work at all. They weren’t racist or hate-filled rants or anything of that nature.

It was between her and her child’s school. It was sent to me semi-anonymously. I personally wouldn’t have handled it the way she did and think it could have been handled better by both parties, but I have read through the correspondence and I could care less what happened between her and the school. I also don’t have the whole story, nor is it any of my business. There were no threats made, although she used some colorful non-hate-related swear words.

This employee is great at her job. She passionate and straightforward and some of her demeanor can read as adversarial, which is honestly what I pay her for. I have no complaints about her work or the person she is while she is here. I don’t know her personally outside of work. I am the owner and also her manager.

She also didn’t mention the company she works for at all in the correspondence I saw.

I don’t even want to mention to her that I got the email. I just want to say it is none of my business and delete the email and forget about it. Can I just not tell her I received anything and chalk it up to this doesn’t concern me?

Should I respond back to the person that this isn’t my concern (or my company’s) or is it best just to not respond at all?

In theory, yes, it would be fine for you just to ignore the email and move on.

But I actually think you should let her know about it, because it’s possible that there’s context that would make it important for her to know. For example, if the person she was corresponding with has a pattern of handling conflict inappropriately, this might indicate an escalation that she at a minimum needs to know about, but might feel she needs to take action on. (Frankly, even with no past pattern, if someone who works at her kid’s school is trying to get her in trouble with her employer, I imagine someone higher up at the school might want to know about that, because that’s pretty awful.) Or who knows, maybe her ex has her passwords, took these screenshots, and sent them on — and this is a puzzle piece that will help make sense of other unsettling things she’s been experiencing. I don’t know what the context for this might be, but that’s the point — she’s the one who’s in the best position to decide if this is a violation that she wants to act on, or even just file away in case it’s something she needs to act on later.

The fact that someone did this to her is really relevant to her, even though it’s (rightly) not relevant to you. So you should let her know about it and she can take it from there.

When you talk to her, make a point of saying this isn’t something that concerns you and you’re not looking for any kind of explanation from her, but you simply wanted to let her know in case it’s info she’d want to  have. You can say explicitly, “I want you to know this isn’t something I care about at all other than making sure that you’re okay, and I’m going to leave this with you now and wipe it from my mind, unless you ever need me to attest in the future that this was sent to me.”

That way she gets the information she may need, and you still make it clear it doesn’t affect her at work at all.

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