New Boss Is Treacherous

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a gossiping bad mouthing Administrator: It’s frustrating to try and do my job when I have a boss who sometimes undermines my authority and allows disrespectful staff to continue their behaviors.

I have been working for three months as a Financial Director at an Adult Home. I am also the Office Manager. The woman I replaced left after working there for 12 years. She stated that she left because of the gossip and how the Administrator treated her and talked about her to other staff. After three months I can see how this happened as the Administrator talks about other staff when they are not around and bad mouths everyone she has an issue with.

She has also started trouble between staff members with her gossip but does not admit to it when it comes to a head. Instead she blames others for not getting along. I have also found that the Administrator does not know how to manage people and just lets bad behavior continue without saying anything, or she’ll witness staff doing something they are not supposed to be doing, then calls me so I can handle it. I can go on for an hour but the question is, should I stay in an environment which is practically a no-win senario or look for other work? It’s frustrating to try and do my job when I have a boss who sometimes undermines my authority and allows disrespectful staff to continue their behaviors.

Signed, Fed Up Already

Dear Fed Up Already:

It sounds like a very unpleasant and unrewarding work environment. Sadly, the Administrator probably is not going to be replaced just because one employee complains, even if it’s the Office Manager.  However, if I were you I’d hate to leave without at least trying to get things to improve.If there are any employees who seem to feel positive about you, perhaps you can build influence with them to encourage them to stop listening to gossip and rumors or at least to stop reacting to them so much. Or, you can offset those with more positive conversations.

Perhaps you can be the one to start to build a more positive work environment by openly talking about how talk–especially negative talk–hurts everyone. If you can get employees to see how the rumors and gossip that people tell them is not designed to help them but to hurt them, they might be less likely to listen to it. (That’s probably overly-optimistic, but it’s a thought anyway!)You may not be able to stop the gossip about other employees, but you can confront the Administrator if you have proof that she is talking about YOU. If you think you might quit anyway, you won’t be out anything to do that.

Probably no one has ever said anything directly to her, so you could be the first.Or, you may want to wait awhile and see if you can find a way to work through the unpleasantness for the benefit of those who are trying to do the right things and for the benefit of the patients and their families.You may also want to keep in mind that if there are problems at work, you should intervene about them quickly rather than waiting or hinting. You won’t be disliked more because of it and you may at least create a better overall workplace. You don’t have to be curt or rude to do it, just make regular calm, confidential comments. “Oh, Lisa, I see that you haven’t done that report yet. Get it to me by noon,for sure, so we don’t have problems about it. OK?” “Barb, put that away, please.” “Hey you guys, let’s get back to work and get this stuff finished.” “Maria, I saw you rolling your eyes when I asked Jan to put the chair back where it belonged. Don’t do that,it looks rude.” “Lee, I heard you make a remark to Maria awhile ago and it sounded really upset. I want to find out what’s going on but I also want a promise from you that you won’t talk that way again.”When the Administrator tells you some gossip or says something negative, just make a nonjudgmental comment and change the subject. “Oh my.” is one thing to say. Or, “That sure doesn’t sound like her.” “I hope that doesn’t get spread around like nasty gossip.” “I can’t imagine that.”

Then, change the subject. As with the employees, the Administrator isn’t likely going to be your big pal anyway.You can try to stay and be Ms. Nice Gal or you can stay and take on some of the things that bother you–or you can leave. Just don’t ruin your life away from work by worrying about work. It’s important, I know that, but I doubt that it’s the most important thing in your life,so keep it in perspective.None of that tells you what you should do or even gives you a checklist to decide. However, perhaps you can decide by considering what you’re willing to put up with and what you won’t tolerate, and how much you’re willing to exert yourself about it. It will also be helpful if you know the odds of getting as good or better a job, quickly.) Best wishes to you. 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.