Boss Gossip About Me

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss’s gossip:

What if you hear someone that is supposed to be over you gossiping about you to one of your peers? The superior did not ever get my side of the story, just the peer’s side. I heard negative things said about me by both of them. What now?

Signed, Target of Gossip

Dear Target of Gossip:

Hearing gossip about you obviously has caused you to be angry, and that is understandable. You asked: “What now?” What happens next hinges on your relationship with that superior and your peer. Apparently, what you have not described in your query is conflict with that peer. Right?

Something must have gone sour once or has been an ongoing between you two. Work is work and difficult enough without conflict and gossip, so what you probably want and should want is to mend fences with your coworker and to have a good working relationship with your superior. You don’t have to be friends, but you’ve been hired to do a job and so have they, and those jobs are at risk when a boss and coworkers are at odds.

Finding how to come to enough cooperation to get your jobs done well should be your main concern rather that raising a raucous over who gossiped about you. Doing that does not to appear to be your main concern. But I propose that it should be your first business before I will suggest how you might react to the gossip you heard and that you think painted a one-sided picture of what occurred between the peer and you. Conflict is inevitable, especially when peers don’t have clear job descriptions of who is to do what, when and where.

Might you need to get straight who does what and what you two each need to communicate in order to do good work?Working on a good relationship with your boss helps when you can put yourself in his/her shoes. Think like your superior. What can do you that makes her/his job easier? Have you ever suggested ways you’ve thought about that could cut wasted supplies, wasted time, and/ or wasted money? Have you thought about what causes this boss headaches, such as squabbles between coworkers? Might you create a better understanding by checking from time to time about what he/she sees could improve the quality of your work?

Obviously you want your boss to see your side of the situation between the coworker and you. I imagine that you have thought about several ways you might react to what you overheard said about you that ranges from ignore it to confronting one or both of them. One possibility is to confront him/her and say something like, “Two days ago, I overheard you talking with Sally about me.”

Your superior probably will say, “No, we weren’t.” Or might say, “We were discussing the trouble you two had.” Here is where you can say, “If you need information about that, I expect that you will tell us that you are investigating it and then will call both of us in privately or together. The important thing is for Sally and me to find a way to work cooperatively. Were you speaking with her with that in mind?”

Such a few words from you are enough to let your boss know that you don’t want to be a subject of gossip. To make that even clearer, you could say, “Can I count on you from now on not to talk about me? I think a boss should not talk about a coworker unless it is necessary when investigating a complaint?”

Do any of these thoughts strike you as sensible? The important thing is now for you not to make the matter worse by gossiping about the gossip you over heard. Either swallow it and put it out of your mind or confront your boss about it coolly and firmly. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that’s what you want; for from this day forward to learn from what goes wrong and to do what you reasonably can to make your coworker, superior and your own day be productive and happy.

William Gorden