Question: A few days ago, while I was away from my desk, a co-worker used my computer to send out a very offensive email under my name. "Hannah" included everyone in our department on this message. When I confronted her, she laughed and said it was just a joke. She refuses to send another email explaining that the offensive message came from her. Our company monitors employee email accounts, so Hannah's prank could get me in trouble. My boss might be able to help, but I hate to complain because I already feel like an outsider here. I am almost 50, while my co-workers are all in their 20s and 30s. What's the best way to handle this?
Answer: Since there was absolutely nothing funny about this fake email, Hannah must be an immature idiot. Despite your discomfort with reporting her, she should not be allowed to get away with such an unprofessional stunt. But before taking the matter to your boss, give her one last chance to do the right thing. For example: "Hannah, the email which you sent from my computer was extremely inappropriate and could create a lot of problems for me. Unless you send another email explaining what you did, I will have to ask our manager to handle this."
If your childish co-worker still refuses to cooperate, present the facts to your boss and ask him to either require a retraction from Hannah or send out an explanation himself. Should he also find this amusing, you will know that you are in a truly juvenile environment where you can probably expect more of the same.
Marie G. McIntyre, author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics," can be reached at www.yourofficecoach.com.