Q: After an extensive search for a suitable workplace, I’m presently working as a secretary in a large office. The problem is that I have an issue with a co-worker who consistently veers into topics of lashon hara, causing other workers and myself to listen to forbidden speech. Time and again, I’ve tried to appeal to her gently, and to follow the Chofetz Chaim’s suggestion of leaving the room with an obvious expression of displeasure, all to no avail. I’m stumbling over these transgressions often, and have difficulty disregarding what I’ve heard. Is it fitting for me to continue working in a place that is the source of my livelihood, or must I begin my search again?
A: Halachically, when faced with a choice of forbidden speech or losing a job, one is required to forfeit the job rather than hearing or speaking lashon hara. In this specific case, it is unclear if you’re actually violating the issur of listening to lashon hara. Though you’ve thus far managed to withstand the test by following halachic requirements, because of the constant danger of serious transgressions and the chance that you may not hold out against this difficult nisayon, you are morally obliged to have a friendly, serious discussion with your co-worker. You should point out to her the halachah in Sefer Chofetz Chaim (Lashon Hara 1, 6) and appeal to her by explaining that her non-compliance could result in your having to leave the job.
It is reasonable to assume that this type of conversation would bring the desired results. If nothing changes, you can look for other options like a change of rooms or something else that could help you. After all is said and done, you may have to begin your job search anew.
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The views expressed are of the individual author. Readers are encouraged to consult their own posek for guidance.