My Boss Threw Me Under The Bus!

Question:

I confided in my boss about a problem I was having with a co-worker. I had documentation between my co-worker and I as a “sample” of the “issue” I was having with the co-worker.

My boss asked if she could have the documentation. I gave it to her and she gave it to my co-worker. My co-worker did not speak to me for 3 days and finally told me what happened. She was very upset about it and it has caused more turmoil between my co-worker and I.

Is this a valid reason for me to go to Human Resources?

Signed,

Feeling Betrayed


Answer:

DearĀ Feeling Betrayed:

I think you should talk to your boss about what happened and work with her to keep the workplace working smoothly. At this point you are assuming that your boss misused your documentation. However, you only have the word of a coworker with whom you were in conflict to begin with. It sounds to me that for the first time your coworker realizes she was doing something problematic enough to get a complaint made. That is the first step toward stopping problem behavior.

Consider this logically–as HR hopefully would. You were upset enough with your coworker that you complained to your boss and showed her evidence to support your complaint. Once your boss became aware of it, she couldn’t ignore it. That’s why employees should think twice before going to a boss with a complaint. If all they want to do is vent, they should talk to a coworker. If they want action, they should talk to the boss.(Sadly, even then they might not get action, but it’s at least more likely.)

So, you gave your boss the proof that your coworker was causing you problems and your boss agreed with you and talked to the coworker about it. That doesn’t mean she threw you under the bus. She may have said, “Lisa, it’s come to my attention that the way you’ve been communicating with Jan is not as courteous as it should be and also isn’t following our production policies. Here’s one example. (Shows the proof you gave her.) That email wasn’t the correct way to deal with the situation. Let’s talk about that so we can have better relationships around here.” If you wanted the coworker to change, that would have been one way to make it happen. The only other way would be to bring the two of you together and require you to confront Lisa with your complaint. I don’t think you would have liked that!

It’s your supervisor’s responsibility to find proof of problems and do something about them. She did–and you’re the one who provided both the complaint and the evidence. So, it would be difficult now to say you didn’t want her to help you make it better.

On the other hand, if what happened was something else entirely, you may have a reason to complain. For example, if your boss said, “Lisa, you’re not going to believe what Jan has been saying about you! She brought me this letter and was going on and on about you. I think she’s a complainer and I don’t think you did anything wrong, but you ought to know about this to protect yourself from her lying allegations.”

THAT would merit a complaint to HR! But, you don’t know that’s what happened. (And I doubt it did.)

Your best way to handle this is to go to your manager now and let her know you’ve talked to your coworker. “Lauren, I noticed Lisa wasn’t talking to me and finally she said you had showed her the letter I gave you and it made her angry. I think things are probably worse now because she’ll barely acknowledge me! So, I’m wondering what her reaction was when you talked to her, and what I should do at this point.”

Or, you may say, “Lauren, Lisa said you showed her the letter I gave you. She’s been pretty upset with me about it, but hopefully she’ll get over it and realize that I only complained because I didn’t know what else to do. Do you have any suggestions at this point?”

The bottom line is this: If your coworker was causing you problems through her willful poor behavior or performance and you had proof, something had to be done or it would continue forever.

Your manager may not have approached it in the best way but at least your coworker now knows the issue that bothered you. I hope you didn’t back-pedal and act as though you weren’t really concerned, as some employees will do at that point. (That is throwing the BOSS under the bus!) Maybe your coworker will at least realize the situation won’t be ignored any longer.

If you have some reason to think that your boss said something slandarous about you in order to make you look bad to the problem coworker, you may have a reason to go to HR. Otherwise, I think HR will tell you there isn’t anything to complain about.

So, I’ll stick with my first suggestion: Talk to your boss. If you think everything you say will get back to Lisa, keep it positive so anything that is repeated will sound good. “Lauren, Lisa seemed really upset with me and she finally told me you had showed her the letter I gave you. I didn’t realize you were going to do that so I cringed! But, I’m hoping she and I will work great together from now on. Any ideas for down the line?”

This was probably the first time you ever had a supervisor react to something of this nature, and it was unexpected. But look at it another way and be glad you got the problem out in the open. Move on from here. Your coworker might not be happy but apparently YOU weren’t happy before. Something else will replace this as a problem for both of you and you may be glad you said something–and that your supervisor did something.

Best wishes to you with this. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

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.