Boss Gossip

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

I work at a school as a custodian, and my boss always talks about my performance to other co-workers; is this OK? Shouldn’t he keep opinions to himself?

Signed, Belittled

DearĀ Belittled:

Yes. As our parents said, “If you can say something good about someone, don’t say anything.” That goes for bosses when talking about those they boss unless it is in a supportive instructional way and this is especially important when speaking about someone to others.

The communication rules for bosses should be: Respect those you boss. Address those you boss by name.Don’t gossip about those you boss. Ask; don’t bark orders. Talk over assignments about what, where, when, and why; listen and learn from those assigned to jobs.Use please and thank you frequently. Expect to be misunderstood, and, therefore, take time to repeat and don’t put off questions of what and why. Put complicated instructions in writing.

Most importantly, boss and bossed should talk about how and when they want to be talked with. Schedule regular and short meetings and informal conversations that fit the kind of work. Too many bosses don’t have such a set of do and don’t communication rules as the way they can boss best. Too many bossed bite their tongues and are afraid to tell their bosses how they want to be bossed. Consequently, the bossed are forced to be bossed disrespectfully unless and until they have the courage to find their voice. That can best be achieved in a frank yet diplomatic way, such as, “Alice, I know you are the boss and know what assignments need to be done, but I work best when we can talk about them. Is that all right with you?”

Yet a more effective way is to ask for a work group meeting to hammer out rules about how to communicate most effectively. In such a skull session, a boss can be transformed into a coach and the kind of rules I listed above that fit the work group can be spelled out.

Sooo now you must think through and decide what you will do about the embarrassment and hurt you feel because your boss gossips about you. Will you say to him or her, “Alice, I hear you talking about me to others. Would you not do that? If you find things you don’t like about what I’ve done or not done to suit you, from now on would you come to me about them and not to anyone else?” Do these thoughts make sense to you? Keep in mind that you earn or don’t earn the respect of your boss by the quality of your performance and the respect to give her/him. So think big about your job, about what needs to be done to make your job and your school shine. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that means the ego of your boss and of you.

William Gorden