I’m Frustrated by a Colleague Who Makes Offhanded Comments to Our Boss That Reflect Badly on Me
The boss brings it up, and I feel like the bad guy. What to do?
Sounds distantly familiar. I used to tattle to my mom about my older sister all the time. Fortunately, she doesn’t read this column.
Your situation, a triangle, is a bit tricky. You, your colleague and your boss. And three’s a crowd.
Since your colleague is the fire starter, start with him. Try the direct/indirect approach. Take him out to lunch. Have some friendly chitchat, and then get down to business. “Igor, I’ve got a little problem I hope you can help me with. I’ve got a colleague who drops some unflattering comments about me to our boss. Then she kind of calls me on the carpet. I feel blindsided, embarrassed and kind of resentful. Do you have any advice for me? How should I handle this?”
With that opener, this should be an interesting conversation. It could be astonishing, providential, awkward or combative.
Astonishingly, he might actually give you advice. Take his counsel (try to hold down your lunch), and the next time an incident happens, circle back and tell him how it worked. That will be an even more interesting conversation.
Providentially, he might get your drift and fess up – the perfect outcome. Given his ignoble behavior, that’s very unlikely. But it’s nice to fantasize about.
Awkwardly, he could perceive that he's the culprit but not admit it. Then the conversation would probably need to pivot to the weather or your grandmother’s arthritis.
Combatively, he might get, well – combative. At least things will get out on the table. Just keep your fork handy. I’m just sayin’ …
If you make no headway with your colleague, you could raise your frustration with your boss. Given that she hasn’t handled this dynamic well to date, it’s not promising but still worth your while.
If nothing changes, you’ve done what you could. You can’t control the situation, but you’re still in control. Self-control, powered by the grace of God, is your ultimate solution and source of peace.