Thursday, August 11, 2011

Rumors at Work: When your manager is causing the problem

I recently wrote suggestions for handling rumors at work being spread by one's staff.  A recent visitor suggested a topic this complementary topic:  what to do when manager spreads rumours about you.

This is a trickier question because mishandling the situation poses greater risk of job loss.  This is the kind of issue that most Senior Management folks loathe even knowing about, never mind addressing.  The outcome is going to be depend greatly upon your approach and the kind of people running the business.

First, ask yourself how you really feel about your job.  If you don't absolutely love it, it's a good time to consider planning a move.  I'm not suggesting anything rash, but the simple process of beginning to explore your options.

If you work for a larger company, chances are greater that you may be able to get the issue resolved with help from HR.

In a small business, it's likely going to largely depend upon the role your manager has, and the value that management places upon each of you.

What you do not want to do is getting into a battle with your manager.  Most of the time, no matter what that person is doing wrong, the manager is going to come out on top.  That's because they were probably hired and/or promoted by the powers that be.  It's kind of like a person's favorite ball team - no matter how much they stink, the fans that choose them are going to keep supporting them.

Whatever you do, your best bet is to focus solely on your work, rather than on your feelings.  If anyone brings it to your attention by repeating things that have been said, tell them "I'm just so busy I don't have time to think about that."  Repeat this each time, or change the subject to something work related.  People bringing you this sort of news are just as guilty (and perhaps more so) than the person talking about you.

Here's a refresher on my suggestions for handling rumors at work with a modification:

  • Do not gossip at work.  If you do, you have no right to be offended when it comes around to discussion about you.
  • Choose your battles.  Don't bother defending yourself against gossip that is unbelievable or unlikely to harm your job.
  • Take gossip that will harm your position seriously
  • Address serious gossip perpetuated by your manager first with the manager directly above your own (if you can trust them). Do so as quickly and briefly as possible without whining; state unequivocally what occurred, but only the facts.  Ask how you should handle the situation.
  • In any discussion, focus on how it harms your work related goals.  Management doesn't always care if your feelings are hurt, they do care if someone is making it difficult to do your job.
  • HR is a last resort, ie; if the gossip is serious enough to harm you and you do not feel comfortable discussing with your own chain of command.

Why? Why? Why?

It seems like many people are looking for an answer to the question "Why do people spread rumors about me?"

Remember the really emotional scene in Good Will Hunting with Robin Williams and Matt Damon?  It's not your fault.

No matter what you did or didn't do, it's just not your fault.  There may be things you can do (or stop doing) to get off the gossip mongers' radar, but if people are talking about you then they are certainly talking about others, too.  It's either their habit, or it's in their nature to do so.  They are responsible for their own actions, not the folks that have become their target.  It is not your fault.

It's certainly one of the more tiresome aspects of dwelling on our planet - dealing with the human condition which includes this sort of behavior.  Seek to rise above this petty behavior by refusing to engage in hurtful gossip and rumor spreading yourself.

We are all children of the universe, deserving of love and respect.  Just remember that when dealing with the judgement and pettiness of others. When it gets to be too much, find a healthy outlet like doing a kind deed for another person, or engaging in a creative endeavor to get your mind off of the situation.  This will absolutely pass and if you choose not to dwell upon the issue and refuse to add fuel to the fire, it will be over even sooner.