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THE QUESTION

I had a nightmare working experience in 2007, and it is still haunting me. I am an immigrant but I earned a university accounting degree in Canada.

I got a job as a fund accountant at a mutual fund company. The leader of my group, a senior FA, picked on me from day one. In one instance, she sent me an e-mail with instructions to complete a task. I did but made an error that was caught by our white, male manager. In order for it to be corrected, I forwarded him the e-mail. Then she spread rumours that I was having an affair with the manager, whom I had never even spoken to in private.

Even after the manager became engaged to a junior FA, the rumours continued – now he had dumped me because I was inferior to his fiancée.

I got a job at another mutual fund company, but the rumours followed me. It caused me physical and mental anguish.

This has made me question Canada's working culture and values. I don't know why the manager never responded with the facts. All he had to do was say it wasn't true.

What should I do to protect my reputation?

THE FIRST ANSWER

Pamela Jeffery

Founder, Women's Executive Network, Toronto

In my view, the fact that the rumour was perpetuated by another woman makes it that much worse. Rather than helping you to advance, this supervisor chose to sabotage another woman and a new recruit. In so doing, she turned the spotlight on her own insecurity and another all-too prevalent problem: bullying in the workplace.

It doesn't appear that you took any action at the time. I think your first step should have been to share with human resources what was happening in order to find a resolution. I also think you should have told the male manager how toxic the work environment had become for you and asked him to let people know the rumour was false in order to stop the malicious talk.

Now that the rumour has followed you to your new job, you have to address it head on with your new colleagues to set the record straight. Begin by meeting with human resources. Speak frankly and honestly. Let them know you know what is being said and give them your side of the story. Tell them there is no truth to it and that it's time to move forward in a positive way.

THE SECOND ANSWER

Zuleika Sgro

Human resources partner, talent manager, Questrade.com, Toronto

Your situation is common, newcomer to Canada or not. But the good news is you aren't alone and you shouldn't stay silent.

All Canadian companies must have a workplace harassment policy, outlining complaint and remedy procedures. I assume you did not file a formal complaint with the HR department; however this is what you should do if your environment is being poisoned by harassment – any unwelcome comment or behaviour toward you that is repetitive and is found to be threatening or disturbing:

1. Document it by writing down details of the harassment, such as when it happened and who said what to you. This will serve as documentation for any formal HR complaint.

2. If you feel comfortable, approach the rumour-monger; let them know that what they are saying is unwelcome or untrue and affecting your health. The person who is speaking ill of you may well stop.

3. If you don't feel comfortable reaching out to this person directly, talk to your HR department or your manager for support. They can investigate the situation before taking any disciplinary action, and work with you along the way.

Got a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that mine field? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com.