Boss Talks About Coworkers To Other Coworkers

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss:

My boss often talks about issues she is having with one coworker to another coworker. I was made aware today by a coworker that our boss was discussing an issue she and I had with another coworker. And, she was talking loudly enough that others could hear her. Is this legal?

Signed,  I’m Talked About

Dear I’m Talked About:

Our site answers workplace communication questions, not legal. However indiscreet it is, talking about someone else is not a crime at work or outside of work. Your question suggests that you think your boss should not have disclosed to others a problem you were having with another coworker. You are displeased about and embarrassed about that. Or, it could be that your boss was discussing an issue she (your boss) and you had.

Whatever is the situation, it’s frustrating for you, yet apparently a long-term management error for your boss. I think you sense it is not good bossing to gossip about issues she or you are having with others. It could be that your boss was venting her frustration and doing so loudly so that these matters might be corrected. Was she speaking about workplace matters that affect the quality of your group’s performance? If so, that could be why she spoke openly about the problem she and you had with another coworker.

What will you do about this? Allow it to fester? Let it create bitterness toward your boss? Complain to others about the way your boss discloses what she should have kept quiet? Or will you soon find a time to frankly tell your boss that you heard she spoke about the issue you and she had with another coworker, and if she did, you think that was breaking a confidence? Or, she was only talking about you and her, will you tell her that the problems the two of you have should be kept confidential?

Your unhappiness about this particular incident raises the larger matter of what are the unwritten rules about how she and your work group should communicate. Most work groups are so focused on getting their assignments done that they fail to talk about talk. Rather than just criticize your boss for the way she talks about others, you can use this incident to propose she conducts a session to engage your work group to spell out do and don’t rules of communication.

To show her what you mean, you might make a do and don’t list your self, such as: 1. Don’t complain about a coworker to the boss. Instead first talk with that coworker quietly. Only then, if you can’t resolve a problem, go together to the boss for advice. 2. Don’t gossip about the boss with coworkers. Bring her complaints you have about her. 3. Save most chitchat about non work issues for break and lunch time, but do be friendly. 4. Don’t be ordered to do something. Do be invited to discuss assignments.5. Do expect to be misunderstood and, therefore, be willing to repeat and ask questions to clarify what is meant. 6. Do have weekly work group skull sessions to answer questions, such as: What have we been doing well? How well are we communicating? Are there ways we might make each others jobs easier and more effective? 7.Do focus talk about cutting wasted supplies, wasted energy and duplication, wasted money.Will you use your frustration to challenge your boss to improve work group communication?

Will you tell us if you think these suggests make sense and what you will do now? Will you think about how my signature sentence applies to your workplace? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden