Boss Criticizes Me Based On Gossip

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about loss of boss’s trust: My boss has indicated to me that he sets a play and then I decide to do something different, that I think my way would be better. I’m not sure what to do or how to react. I have been getting great reviews the past 5 years. Now it seems I cannot do anything right.

I have a boss that I admire and respect. I have never worked with anyone that is more transparent and accountable with his work ethic. He walks the talk. However, I am frustrated as a manager because he likes to know the gossip. He will take a small amount of information and fill in the blanks instead of just asking the question. Normally the assumptions seem to be taking out of context and the story telling goes in a negative direction. It is hard to defend.

I am the only women in my work environment, I get along with my co-workers but will never be one of the “boys”. I am told my approach to managing people is different but my end result exceeds expectations. I follow all policies and am as ethical as my boss.I feel that when I respond to his concerns that have been based off of gossip or something said that was taken out of context, I have to defend myself. I make excuses or I justify or I will say that is not how I meant what I said. The group I manage follows all policies, they enjoy working for me and I enjoy working for them as well. I have a group of 50. We are competitive and equally as productive as the two other groups. I’m not sure what to do or how to react. I have been hoping my actions will speak louder than words so in meetings about my behavior I say only “Thank you for the feed back, I appreciate you letting me know my shortcomings, I will work on making sure that you know I am on your team.” My boss has indicated to me that he sets a play and then I decide to do something different, that I think my way would be better. I’m not sure what to do or how to react. I have been getting great reviews the past 5 years. Now it seems I cannot do anything right. I feel for some reason that he does not trust me anymore. It’s hard to explain.

Signed, Worried

Dear Worried:

If your boss is as impressive and professional as you say he is, why not talk to him about your feelings and concerns? You say you’ve been there for five years. You have a management position. Surely by now you can express your thoughts more honestly than you apparently have been doing. You mention that your boss says you change things that he has directed or take a different approach. If that is true, stop doing it and promise him you’ll never fail to follow his directions and guidelines again.

If it isn’t true, show him how you have followed his direction. But at least, communicate about it.If you want to find out his feelings about your general work, you could say, “Mark, I’m feeling really concerned lately, as though something I’m doing is a problem or as though I’m not trusted anymore. How do you think I’m doing with my work? What do you want me to change?”He will either have to tell you your’re doing fine or tell you things he’d like to have changed. If he criticizes you again based on something he has heard, push back a bit. Rather than meekly apologizing, even when you think you have done nothing wrong, ask for further investigation.”Mark, I think you’re being given wrong information and if someone would lie or exaggerate to you about me, they’d do it about someone else. So, I wish you’d look into this accusation further and talk to some other people. I can’t defend myself against half-truths or untruths and I didn’t ever think I’d have to do that here. I’m really frustrated about it!”

Look at your evaluations and see if there are hints about problems. The fact that you have gotten great evaluations doesn’t mean your manager has had no complaints all along. You may find that he has had concerns he is only now expressing. Pay attention to those and double-check yourself to make sure you are not accidentally doing something problematic. At the same time, make sure you are communicating with the employees you manage and finding out their concerns or questions.

Keep in close contact with the managers of the other groups to ensure coordination.You said you have been hoping your actions will speak louder than words. Sometimes that works. But when things are really messed up, sometimes you have to talk about it too. I think this is one of those times! I’ll repeat what I said at the beginning: If your manager is ethical, open, honest, transparent and “walks the talk”, he’s a great guy to work for. If he is, trust him to treat you right and trust him to listen when you talk to him. At least that will be a way to find out if your high praise of him is accurate! I hope it is, but no matter what, I’ll bet you find out something worthwhile if you communicate more openly yourself.Best wishes to you.

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.