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Director of surgical department is a backstabber

Dear Office-Politics,

I recently found out that the director of my department has stabbed me in the back. I work in a small surgical hospital. The persons she talked to were the lead nurse and the main doctor at the facility. She has told them that I told her to watch her back with them. This is true to an extent. What I told her was that someone had told me that she and I needed to watch our backs with the two mentioned individuals. I wrestled with this info for a long time and decided that if it were me, I would want to know. I can, however, understand where the “miscommunication” would be. I have clarified what I said to all parties involved without mentioning the sources name.

However, I still feel that (1) the trust that I had is now gone and (2) that the director is really out to get me! I feel that I should just go into work, do my job, and hope that all of this blows over. My question is how do I rebuild the trusting relationship that I had with my lead nurse and the doctor I’ve worked with for 8 years?


Feeling Backstabbed

jennifer glueck bezoza

Dear Feeling Backstabbed,

I understand that you are feeling angry and hurt that your manager would break your confidentiality, especially after you went out of your way to protect and warn her. It certainly appears that your manager could have used better judgment when she disclosed to the lead nurse and main doctor that you had warned her—after you received a warning—that she should “watch her back with them.”

You state that you now feel your boss “is really out to get you.” While it is possible that she consciously implicated you with the nurse and the doctor, it’s just as possible that your manager took your warning seriously and wanted to confront the matter directly with the source of the issue. She may lack sophistication and/or savvy in knowing how to navigate this type of situation without involving you. What is clear is that you will need to be politically astute and careful in communicating with your boss going forward.

Before moving on to share some thoughts on how you can rebuild trust with the nurse and doctor, I wanted to encourage you to take a closer look at your actions in this situation. Here are some questions to consider: Did you feel confident, based on the data and reputation of the source, that the warning was credible? Being that you have seemingly worked successfully with the nurse and the doctor for the past eight years, have you ever had reason to think that you and/or your boss need to watch your back? What did you hope to accomplish in sharing this with your boss? Might you have encouraged the original source to take his/her concerns directly to your boss, so as not to involve you? As is sometimes the case, the messenger got “shot” down in this situation. Thus, it’s important to be confident in your message when you decide to bring it forward.

Here are some thoughts on rebuilding the trust you established with the lead nurse and doctor.

    1. As you have already done, it’s good to speak directly with the nurse and doctor and clarify your message and intention. You also want to take responsibility for your role in the matter, and apologize for getting involved.

    2. Do a great job in your role. Exceed expectations of your boss, patients and all those you come in contact with in the surgical hospital.

    3. Be positive and direct with all those you work with in the hospital. If you have a problem or concern with someone you work with, go directly to that person and work through the matter.

    4. Be trustworthy. Honor your word, maintain confidentiality and avoid engaging in gossip and hearsay.

While you cannot rebuild your trust with the doctor and the nurse overnight, you can do so in time if you follow these recommendations. Thank you for writing to Office Politics.


Jennifer Glueck Bezoza, MA

Jennifer Glueck Bezoza has an MA in organizational psychology from Columbia University and a BA in psychology and humanities from Stanford University. She currently works in Organizational Development for the largest not-for-profit home health organization in the country where she focuses on succession planning, leadership development and coaching. Previously, she worked for GE Commercial Finance and HR consultant, Towers Perrin.

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