Ah, the coveted position where you are your bosses confidante. Finally, after months (or years?) of feeling on the outside, suddenly your boss has confided their thoughts about another employee to you. You think, “Does this mean, ‘I’m in?’”
STOP. WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT – I REPEAT – DO NOT ENGAGE!
I speak from experience, as most of our content here comes from when I say that engaging in a bosses gossip talk is dangerous. The problem is, our egos get in the way and we start to think we’re in a new “above it all” club and our common sense goes out the window. Here are three reasons why gossiping with your boss is trouble, and what you can do about it.
1) That common sense I spoke of…have you ever considered that if a boss (or anyone really) is gossiping WITH you, they are not immune to gossiping ABOUT you, too? Yes ego, stay in check. The fact that your boss is gossiping with ANY employee at all, is a clear indication that you are not the exception to the rule. If your boss needs to let some steam out, they can turn to their spouse, a sibling, a friend. But NEVER an employee, no matter how high the employee’s rank is. It is unprofessional and speaks volumes that one day, you might be the subject of the same gossip as well.
2) A gossiping boss creates a toxic environment of exclusivity. In a time when we are all rooting each other on and encouraging teamwork, this sort of behavior is really setting us back, especially as a demographic of women. We (women) have worked SO hard to get to where we are and where we want to be, it is quite frankly disrespectful to allow that sort of setback.
3) Productivity loss. End of story. When an atmosphere of gossip is created, you can just feel it in the air. The constant fear that you are being talked about behind your back, creates a lack of trust on your part, and as a result, a loss of productivity. Ever notice a stellar co-worker, who all of a sudden starts making mistake after mistake? It’s not a coincidence. More than likely, they can feel that tension of gossip and it starts to affect their work, even if they aren’t directly related to or are the topic of the gossip.
There are a few tactics you tap into to “fight back” without losing your job.
1) The simplest thing to do is to just not engage. If your boss comes to you and starts discussing an employee and the nature of the conversation doesn’t make you feel comfortable, try to respond as neutrally as you can. Tell your boss that perhaps they should approach the employee and have an honest conversation with them about what might be bothering them.
2) Speak up. Tell your boss that you really love the company they have created but you just do not feel comfortable discussing another employee behind their back. Try to stay away from words like “gossip” so that your boss doesn’t feel like you are attacking them.
3) If all else fails, take it with a grain of salt and try to do the best job you can. Maybe keep your options open because if your boss continues, maybe this job just isn’t the right fit for you. If the gossiping is bogging you down, it will affect the quality of your work as well.
(Now wouldn’t that have been a show!)