Bad Mouthing Supervisor

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctor about boss’s remarks:

I am a federal employee. My supervisor has been saying untrue things about me, such as I called in sick so another employee couldn’t get off that day. He also has said I’m purposely doing my work slow, which I am not. These things get back to me and are very upsetting. What can I do?

Signed, Upset

DearĀ Upset:

It is natural for you to be upset when you have heard that your boss has said untrue things about you. What might you do about this? What have you done? It could also be natural for you to cuss him out to the ones who reported this gossip to you? I hope not. If you did, might not that get back to your supervisor? Are there more constructive ways–such as confronting your supervisor to learn if indeed he impugned your good character and badmouthed your intention? Federal employees usually have well-established guidelines on what to do if one is upset about a supervisor and also there are Human Resources and/or union protocols. Check these out. Apparently you and your supervisor don’t have an on-going conversation about what’s happening regarding your performance. When was the last time you talked about your performance and projects? When was the last time you asked for your supervisor’s advice? When were the last times you made suggestions about cutting wasted supplies, time and effort? When was the last time you suggested ways of better meeting internal or external customers’ needs? When was the last time to did something to make a co-worker’s work easier? When was the last time to referred to your supervisor as coach? Have you ever complimented your supervisor?Get my point? Your tendency now likely is to see your super as an enemy. Seeing your supervisor as an adversary, as one who monitors and evaluates borders on seeing him as an adversary. A supervisor has responsibilities; do you know what his are and have you walked in his shoes? He, like you, can see you as an adversary rather than see you as a cheerleader and vital team player in your work group. Some supervisors gossip. Some misinterpret the motives of those under them. Some may be malicious. And if so, they need to be confronted eye-to-eye and if necessary be brought to a three-way meeting (with their subordinate and a representative from Human Resources) to clear the air and clarify responsibilities.What you have heard, although stressful, is not serious enough to go above your supervisor’s head. At least not now. Rather, since you are upset, you can take the initiative to meet with your supervisor privately. You might ask if what you have heard is true or you might tell him what you have heard and say that you will not ask if it is true, but that in the future you want him to tell you face to face whatever troubles him about you. You might ask directly if from now on this could be the rule. Also talk with your super about how it makes you feel not to please him and how you want and need his help to do high performance work. Possibly suggest that you two meet briefly at a regular time each week for the next several weeks to discuss your assignments. Do these suggestions make more sense than biting your tongue or complaining to your friends, co-workers and family? Will you do your best to appreciate the thought that working together with hands, head and heart takes and makes big WEGOS?

William Gorden