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What Do You Do When You Overhear Your Boss Talking Bad About You?

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Awkward work situations are bound to arise at some point in your career. The most uncomfortable situations to manage can be those that occur between you and your boss. Office gossip is undermining to a healthy and productive work atmosphere and when gossip involves the person you report to, it's critical to plan your response carefully. If you have to face dealing with your boss talking bad about you behind your back, there are a few steps to consider to defuse the situation.

Verify Information

One mistake you definitely don't want to make is accusing your boss of saying something he didn't. Even if you heard the words with your own ears, write down what was said. Run the statements by a few friends and see if if they find them as offensive as you do. Once you've established that you're not just being sensitive to what you heard, you can further strategize how to handle it. Taking this time also gives you some distance from the offense to think clearly.

Be Straightforward

If you think that what you overheard your boss say is bad enough that it will affect your relationship or how productive you are, you may want to approach him directly. Your boss could hold your life at the company in his hands so carefully consider if you want to reveal what you heard him say about you. It may feel awkward to tell someone that you caught them talking negatively about you so plan ahead what you want to express. Be firm, direct and don't talk around the subject. Any meeting of this kind should be private and behind closed doors if possible.

Keep the Emotion at Bay

It can feel terrible to hear that someone is talking about you behind your back – but don't show your emotion during business hours. If you approach your boss about what was said, stay calm and seek a mutual resolution to what he was complaining about. Don't add fuel to the fire and talk about your boss behind his back in response. You want to protect your job as much as possible so don't allow the incident to grow into something bigger than it needs to be.

Look Elsewhere

Ongoing situations where a boss is talking badly about you may have to be handled more seriously. Before thinking about quitting your job, consider talking to human resources to see if there's a solution. If all attempts to correct the situation fail, looking for alternative work may be a good idea. Finding a comfortable job isn't easy, even if a boss is making you miserable. On the other hand, being bad-mouthed at work can make even a dream job unbearable. Look for easy solutions first and try to talk it through – or consider changing departments within the company before you resign from a position because of the gossip.


Based in the Midwest, Gina Scott has been writing professionally since 2008. She has worked in real estate since 2004 and has expertise in pop culture and health-related topics. She has also self-published a book on how to overcome chronic health conditions. Scott holds a Master of Arts in higher-education administration from Ball State University.

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