I have been with my company for a little over 1 year and I love my job. My boss, however, is a different story. He has been with the company for over 15 years and has been pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes. I have caught him in several lies, stealing and harassing. He has generally just been exhibiting unethical behavior for a very long time. I went through my chain of command and requested to be pulled out from under his supervision because I just could not take it any longer. My request was granted. I now report to his boss.
Now he is talking about me to everyone. He has been going to other managers/co-workers and making very nasty and just untrue statements about me in a professional capacity. It is just gossip, pure and simple.
I realize that I am a good employee and I have “shown him up” since I have been here but I am just doing my job. So I realize that his ego is hurt, however, how do I handle him maliciously gossiping about me when I am being told by other managers that what they are telling me is in confidence.
OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY JENNIFER GLUECK BEZOZA
Dear Thin skin,
First of all, congratulations on successfully navigating the chain of command so as to no longer report to an unethical manager. This was a courageous and assertive course of action to take. The fact that you have only been with the organization for a year, and were able to report to your boss’s boss indicates you are well regarded and valued in the organization. Others around you see that you have “shown up” and done your job.
Seeing the situation from your previous manager’s perspective for a moment, however, I could see how he would interpret your actions as antagonistic and threatening. He may have felt blindsided by your elevating the issue before giving him any direct feedback and allowing the opportunity for change.
That being said, his retaliatory behavior is completely unprofessional and inappropriate. The fact that he would spreading malicious gossip about you indicates that he is a deeply insecure individual.
Here are a few suggestions on how to manage the situation. You may choose to employ any and all of those listed below.
1.) First, maintain focus on your job and continue to be the excellent employee who “shows up” to work each day. The fact that others came to you to share the negative gossip confirms that others care for and respect you, and don’t completely trust your former manager.
2.) Find a way to calmly demonstrate and/or communicate that the gossip is untrue. Getting overly emotional and worked up about the situation will only further your former manager’s goal of smearing your reputation. You may need to promote yourself in subtle ways that will show the ridiculous nature of the accusations made against you.
3.) Don’t stoop to this man’s level. While it’s tempting to want to talk about your former boss and his unethical behaviors with all those who will listen, you are too busy and good for that. Gossiping ultimately leads others to have some level of mistrust towards you, as the wonder when you might turn on them.
4.) Open up a dialogue with your former boss. As unappealing as it may sound, a conversation between you and him may be necessary to clear the air. You don’t have to share what other colleagues or managers have told you he said about you. You merely have to ask if there’s anything he’d like to share with you directly and imply that you are generally aware he is talking behind your back. You also can make a request that he not speak about you to others and instead, courageously direct them toward you. Once he talks directly to you about the issues, he may no longer feel the need to talk further about it with others.
5.) Monitor the environment and fit on an ongoing basis. The fact that an unethical manager has been able to remain with the organization unchecked for such a long period of time should be construed as “data” about the culture and values of your current employer. I would encourage you to be attuned to organizational practices on a broader level so that you can monitor whether this employer is a long term fit for your career.
Hope these suggestions offer some food for thought. Thanks for writing Office Politics.
Jennifer Glueck Bezoza, MA
Jennifer Glueck Bezoza specializes in leadership development and career coaching. Through her work in Organizational Development at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, Jennifer designs leadership development programs, and coaches teams and individuals. Previously, Jennifer led GE Commercial Finance’s employee engagement initiative and also served as an HR Generalist at GE. In addition, she worked as a consultant at Towers Perrin.
Jennifer holds an MA in Social-Organizational Psychology from Columbia University and a BA in Psychology from Stanford University. Jennifer is continuing her education through an executive coaching program at New York University.