Boss Wants To Know Who Reported Her

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about tattling:

The boss had a closed door session with me and asked me if I tattled on her to her boss or if I knew who did.

Signed, Keeping Quiet

Dear Keeping Quiet:

Apparently your boss is either upset, angry or hurt that someone whom she supervises reported something about her, higher up the chain. You don’t say the tone of voice your boss used and how she approached you about it. If she was angry and accusatory, demanding that you tell her what you know, that would be very wrong. If she feels she was wrongly accused and wants to know what has gone wrong in work relationships that such a thing would happen, that might be an acceptable reason to ask you more about it; but it still was probably not a good idea.

It sounds as though it was very awkward! Another aspect of this would be the kind of relationship you have had with your boss. If, in the past, you have talked with her about a variety of things and she considers you to be a close colleague, she may think you will tell her the truth now. If you’ve had a bad relationship in the past, she should realize that asking you about this will not help.You also don’t tell us what you said. I’m assuming you denied all knowledge of the situation. That is probably best, unless you feel very confident about acknowledging what you know. You might say, if she asks you again, “Jan (her name), I don’t know what happened, but did Mr. Dean (her boss’s name) tell you to ask everyone about it? I would have thought he could just tell you on his own.”

That would remind her that if the boss wanted her to know, he would have told her. It might also remind her that her boss wouldn’t like her questioning people. If you know her very well you could even go further and said, “Jan, I know you must feel awful about this, but I think you could get in trouble for questioning people about it, don’t you?”Now, you are wondering what to do next. If she starts to treat you badly, based on what she thinks you reported, you may be forced to report that, even though it will probably get her in even more trouble. If she has generally been a boss who treats people decently and doesn’t go out of her way to cause them problems, I hope this will calm down so everyone can move forward. If she has been a mean person or someone who has created many problems for others, her bosses needed to know about it, so anything else she does she be told to them.The most important part of this is for you to focus on your own work and let this be handled by your boss and her own manager.

Avoid gossiping about it to others or spending too much time speculating on who talked and who didn’t. Even if your boss talks about it, don’t you get involved with it. You’ll be much better off to just keep at your job as though that is the only thing you care about. These kinds of things happen in many offices. Sometimes bosses are wrongly accused and sometimes they are reported correctly, but usually everyone gets over the upset and situations either improve or they don’t. Your boss’s managers will probably be more aware of the situation now, so hopefully no further reporting by employees will be necessary.Best wishes to you as you deal with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens with this.

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.