Bully at Work Moody Boss Karma Office Gossip No Picnic Back stabber Plug your Ears Moody Boss

The Diva is bad-mouthing me

Dear Office-Politics,

Work in audiology, a very strange set of office politics – is a common problem at every office. Every office has a “diva” audiologist whose agenda is to prove that the other audiologists are inferior to incompetent and that she (usually she) is superior and everyone must do things her way.

In this office, the Director (who is over her) has to acquiesce to the “diva” because the diva and the head ENT have a ‘history’ that goes back about 20 years. (I.e., dissing the diva is likely to piss off the ENT which is likely get the director in hot water.)

Long story short. I am the new person to “pick on” who replaced the previously picked on person who had her reputation ruined by this diva.

I have no problem doing things the way the diva would; her audiology is okay to superior. Unfortunately, she is circumspect to confusing about how she does things.

I have asked the other 2 audiologists (whom I trust) what she has told them about how to do things and the other 2 have told me that she said such and such. Unfortunately, the diva told me “sometimes I do this, sometimes that, it depends on “my gut” or “my intuition”. (Really really bad science and bad clinical also.)

To make matters worse, she has consistently bad-mouthed me to the other 2 audiologists in order to (I suppose) make me look incompetent. They are starting to buy it, I suspect because they have no choice but to also acquiesce to the “diva”. The 2 other audiologists have told me point blank that I have to stop her behavior.

As I am still in my probationary period, I will not say anything more than I have said, which is very little but more than enough, although not directly to her, but to the director. At the same time, I agree that I have to stop this bad-mouthing and picking. She has previously ruined the reputations of 2 other audiologists in town with her mouth. Certainly I will not say anything until my 90 days are up, but I do need to do something to get this behavior to stop.

Any suggestions?

All Ears

dina beach lynch

Dear All Ears,

Congratulations for trying to be proactive in what sounds like a very frustrating situation. Sure, it’s important to get to the bottom of things by speaking with your colleague, but you might want to take a step back first.

Are you sure you have a good ‘read’ on the office politics? Several clues in your note indicate that there might be more going on than meets the eye. It’s easy to speculate about what you’ve observed regarding your Director and fellow audiologist. We all tend to speculate and rationalize when we have incomplete information. However, the wiser choice is to seek more information. Here is a modified set of questions, based on the work of Byron Kaitie, that will help you to separate what you know from what you think you know, and most importantly, your feelings about it.

    Is [fill in the thought] true?
    How do I know it’s true?
    How likely is it that it is not completely true?
    What would it be like if I weren’t thinking this thought?

For instance, you say your Director acquiesces to your colleague. Ok, if you consider that thought using the question set above, you might find that you don’t have enough experience (you haven’t been there 90 days yet) to say it’s always true; or, discover there are circumstances you aren’t privy to that impact the Director’s behavior. Same might be true for the colleagues who seem to be ‘buying it’. The best part about this strategy is the last question because it allows you to make a choice between remaining upset and concentrating on a more positive aspect like the fact that you have a new job.

You might also consider offering yourself and the ‘Diva’ some compassion. It’s tough being the new person who has to figure out how things work and make a good impression. I imagine it was also tough being a female audiologist facing prejudice and stereotypes over the past 20 years. Simply reminding yourself that you’re doing the best you can for right now (and that she’s doing the same) releases pressure and opens the door to future learning and growth for both of you.

Practically speaking, you can have a conversation with the ‘Diva’ to express how you experience her as a work colleague, but only if you can do it honestly and without the intention of blaming her. Or maybe those friends have a suggestion or two to share.

Here’s hoping you hear the sweet sounds of a happy office soon. Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.



Dina Beach Lynch, Mediator

Dina Beach Lynch, is an Ombudsman, Author and former attorney. An award-winning mediator, Dina served as the Corporate Ombudsman for the 7th largest bank in the US helping over 48,000 employees to resolve workplace issues.

  1. 2 Answers to “The Diva is bad-mouthing me”


    I am the person who sent the original request in and I suppose that I didn’t make some things are clear as I should have. With the information below, I am wondering if the advice might be different.

    1) Although I am in my “90-day probationary period” I have been there 6 months at 2-3 days per week, for the first 3 months contingent, covering a person on a 2-1/2 month medical leave (the diva), so I have had about 6 months to assess my situation.

    2) The boss is the person who has said “she and so-and-so (the ENT) go back a long ways, about 20 years”, during a meeting that I called because I had to address a very damaging and hurtful rumor begun by the diva, which I do know was begun by her. I independently verified through 3 different people what she said during a meeting (I was not there). And I verified it by asking the 3 people what she said at the meeting. I got the same answer and phases from all three people. When I asked the diva what went on at the meeting, her only comment was not to buy in to “wild rumors and seculations” – this from the simple question of what went on at the meeting.

    3) The field of audiology is approximately 98% female with very few males, so there is not the problem of being in a male dominated field. The other 2 colleagues have said that they also have to do things the way she says and does them. They are just grateful that it is me and not them that she is picking on.

    Any revisions? Thank you so much for your time.

    By Letter Writer on Feb 2, 2007


    Thanks for setting me straight. You were right — more information helps me to get a clearer picture and adjust my thoughts.

    Having been in many different work environments, including the medical field, my experience has been that it takes close to a year for a person to get a real sense of a job and the ‘behind the scenes’ dynamics of his or her colleagues. It’s like putting the pieces of a puzzle together. It looks like one thing until you figure out it’s something else. Your analysis may well be correct but be sure to keep an open mind about the meaning of comments and actions. Otherwise, you can easily waste much of your energy feeling angry and fearful.

    Interestingly enough, it is quite possible to face discrimination in a predominately female profession. Ask yourself: is it possible that the ‘diva’ is acting out of insecurity because she feels threatened by me in some way? You might discover that you can muster feelings of compassion for her that allow you to ‘take the high road’.

    Lastly, what about your colleagues? If they’ve experienced the same issues, I wonder if there’s an opportunity for all three of you to share your experiences with the appropriate management resources, i.e. human resources.

    I hope you find this revised answer more responsive. Thanks for writing again.

    Dina Beach Lynch, Mediator

    Dina Beach Lynch, is an Ombudsman, Author and former attorney. An award-winning mediator, Dina served as the Corporate Ombudsman for the 7th largest bank in the US helping over 48,000 employees to resolve workplace issues.

    By Dina Beach Lynch on Feb 7, 2007

What's your advice?

(You can also tweet it to @dearOP)