Supervisor Intrusive Behavior

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about an employee’s love life: Is that harassment? I feel as if she was trying to sabotage me.

My immediate supervisor often inquires with people I know about my love life, is that harassment? I feel as if she was trying to sabotage me.

Signed, Not Her Business

Dear Not Her Business:

You are hired to do a job. There are off-limit questions that employers should avoid. Sexual preference and pregnancy are two such areas. The same is true for after one is employed; however, I doubt that asking about your love life would be considered harassment unless such data were used to discriminate, such as withholding a promotion because you were said to be sleeping around.

You don’t disclose what you have done to stop such inquiries. Rather you say you think your supervisor is trying to sabotage you. Thinking your boss as out to get you is an uncomfortable boss-bossed work relationship. It distracts from working as a partner for the good of the company for which you both are employed.

You have several alternative overlapping ways to cope with this:

–Never mention your worry about such talk. Rather steel yourself to the fact that people, including some bosses, gossip and one’s love life is grist for that. Don’t assume your supervisor is out to get you; possibly she is envious or just curious.

–Avoid talk about your or others’ love live with your coworkers.

–Watch your back. Note any action of your supervisor you determine paints you negatively linked to your love life.

–Confront her and if you don’t get a satisfactory explanation take it to Human Resources.

–Approach her now for a performance review. During that review broach the subject that bothers you, “Jane, I’ve been told you have asked about my love life of several individuals? I don’t expect you to admit this or apologize. This information might be false, but I’m sure you will understand that I feel that such inquiry is out of bounds. Right?”

You probably won’t get the worry about being sabotaged out of your mind until you candidly confront your supervisor.Your mention that your supervisor is trying to sabotage you is the most destructive message in your query to us. This suggests that it is not just worry that your supervisor is making inquiries about your love life that is negative between you.

The fact is you should do all that is reasonable to earn your supervisor’s respect if you want to be evaluated well and possibly to further your career with this company. This might entail changing your attitude as well as hoping she will change hers. How? By focusing on what will make her work more effective and easier. By arriving at work ahead of time and staying late to make sure all is in order before you leave. By being your most efficient and professional self–suggesting ways to cut wasted supplies, wasted time, and wasted energy and demonstrating commitment to serving your internal and external customers well. By being a cheerleader for her and coworkers.

Supervisors are human just like you. They have egos and lives outside of work too. Most of them, like you, want the good will of their subordinates and peers. In short, what you can do to help your supervisor look good is performing in the way you want to be treated. What too often is missing between the boss and bossed is talk about talk. You can benefit from talk about how you want to have assignments made and criticisms given. Your supervisor can benefit from talk about how she can come across more clearly and effectively.

Finally, consider how helpful it would be if you could see your job as a step along a career path with a boss that is a mentor. Is it out of possibility that you might ask her advice about where you are now and want to go career-wise? Seriously seeking her advice might be one step toward transforming your and her attitude toward each other. Isn’t it worth a try? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and that includes working with a supervisor you don’t like.

William Gorden