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My boss is talking about me to everyone!

Text drawing and layout by Franke James, MFA.; fisheye man ©istockphoto.com/Sharon Dominick

Dear Office-Politics,

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.

Thin skin

OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY JENNIFER GLUECK BEZOZA
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.

Warm regards,

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.

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  1. 5 Answers to “My boss is talking about me to everyone!”

  2. Jennifer offers sound advice.

    My take on it is:

    You need to avoid a silly ‘he said, she said’ exchange with colleagues about your former boss (frankly they don’t care who is right, they will just love the gossip).

    Remember, a favor never gets forgotten. In order to enhance your ‘brand’ with your co-workers do them little favors. They will begin to form their own opinion of you rather than being influenced by your former boss.

    Robert B. Cialdini, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University and author of Influence: the Psychology of Persuasion, has researched into the impact of doing favors if you are interested.

    By Ranjit on Feb 11, 2009

  3. Create a track record of what the person is saying so that you can refute their statements down the road if you find yourself in the hot seat over this.

    I recommend a gmail account that you can simply email brief email messages to yourself with a keyword title so you can quickly compile a list of dates and times that gossip was reported to you.

    How you do it is you sign up for gmail or any other free email service, and email yourself:

    title: person’s name, relevant keyword
    body: very brief note on what was said, and how you reacted

    Then in if you hear that a showdown is going to happen you can simply do a keyword search and you have all your documentation of what was said and how you reacted.

    There is no way a gossip is detailed. They prefer to keep their whispers in the dark and off the record so they never keep good notes. If they keep good notes at the very least you will have adequate notes so that you can RECALL what was said and have dates/times. This is much better than being faced with a confrontation where you have no idea what to say because you are unprepared. Gossips usually COUNT on that kind of response to increase their validity.

    Gossip kings/queens always champion their own cause for selfish reasons. If you have made them look bad they want to make you look 10x worse. Keeping a track record of what was said will probably result in a HUGE backfire.

    You could even lead into discussions by mentioning that the gossip around the office was enough for you to start keeping better notes about what was happening, as a way of protecting the company’s better interests. Gossip is frowned on because it is TIME CONSUMING and it often results in very little productivity.

    Hope that helps!

    Paige

    By Paige on Mar 19, 2009

  4. If you old boss continues to make false comment and nasty remarks towards you why don’t you confront him about it. He’s not your boss anymore right? Just let him know with a serious tone that if he keeps this up you’ll take it up with your boss. It seems to me that he’s scared that something you said to get you removed from his command is going to come back and get him fired.

    By Bill on Mar 27, 2009

  5. How refreshing to have a higher up that you can talk to. My boss gossips tot he higher ups as well has the head of HR – all of which are the gossipmongers of the company so I have no one to go to. My problem – not being a part of the gossip – so I say hooray for you and keep your head above his!

    By Lynn on Oct 15, 2009

  6. Report this the hr department then file a complaint with the eeoc.

    By Penny on Mar 15, 2012

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