Boss Repeating Confidential Conversation

Question:

I went to my boss about a problem with a co-worker that has been ongoing for about three years. I sit very close to this co-worker and I asked to be moved. That request will not be granted due to lack of space available. I find out today that my boss went to my co-worker and repeated some of the things we talked about in our confidential conversation. What can I do? This has obviously caused a lot more problems.

Signed,

Trying To Do Damage Control


Answer:

Dear Trying To Do Damage Control:

The key to this would be what your boss told your co-worker and why. If your boss talked to your co-worker with a tone that said he didn’t agree with you and wanted to warn your co-worker that you were complaining–that would be very inappropriate thing to have happen. If your boss talked about things solely related to you–such a personal problems you were having and so forth, that too would be inappropriate.

But, if your boss talked to your co-worker to try to resolve some of the issues related to the conflict between the two of you–that would be at least a good motivation. I think it would have been helpful for you to have been told the conversation was going to take place, just to allow you to be prepared.

When a conversation to a supervisor involves work effectiveness, the supervisor is obligated to do something about it. Often that doesn’t happen, but it should. For example, in your situation, if later you had more serious issues, you could say, “But he KNEW I was having problems, because I asked to be moved!” Your boss may have thought he was being proactive about the situation. Those very issues are raised frequently in civil actions, when claims are made that supervisors knew of conflict but didn’t do anything about it.

There is nothing you can do about it, if the boss’s remarks were truthful and focused on finding out more or trying to resolve the issue. If you feel the boss said inappropriate things or lied about what you said, you could consider going to the position higher than your boss, or to Human Resources or a similar group if your company has one. If your organization is a small one, it may be that you have no recourse except to go to the boss and let him know how awkward things have become.

The one other thing I would like to mention is that perhaps if this had been gotten out in the open earlier, rather than trying to keep your feelings a secret, maybe it could have been permanently solved by now. If something has been happening that bothered you enough you want to move your desk, there is something distracting enough that it should be handled. Moving locations isn’t the solution–stopping the disruptive behavior or situation is the best solution.

However, I can see how difficult, awkward and even embarrassing this could be. You may feel you don’t want to talk to your supervisor again. But really, he is the best person to express your concerns to. If something really negative occurs because of this, you certainly need to let your supervisor know.

Best wishes as you work to deal with this in a good way.

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.