The Boss Who Tells Tales

This came from Chris in New York:

“I have a boss who simply cannot keep his mouth shut. Whenever I (or anyone else) make a mistake, he tells everyone about it. If you confide in him about a personal situation, it’s not long before everyone knows. The worst part is the way he spins everything way out of proportion…”

The tale teller. Someone who can’t resist a juicy story. It’s bad enough when it’s a coworker who’s the office gossip, but when it’s your boss, it makes for a very awkward work environment – and certainly not a trusting one. What do you do?

It would be nice if you could change the behavior, but unfortunately that’s highly unlikely. Experts suggest that this is very often a quite deeply ingrained behavior pattern. You do, however, have to protect yourself from him (her), because you just never know when he’s going to say the wrong thing the wrong way to the wrong person, with negative consequences for you professionally and personally.

Here are a few important tips for surviving a Tale Teller boss:

1. Stick to business – always

If your boss asks about your personal life, just deflect it with a question about work, e.g.:

Boss: “How is your daughter?”
You: “Great, as always. When are we getting our new shipment of widgets?”

2. Keep your opinions to yourself

Assume that everything you say will be repeated. Stay neutral. Think of yourself as Switzerland.

3. Pre-empt bad news

If you make a mistake, let everyone that matters know about it before your boss has a chance to. This at least allows you to get the real facts in before the embellished version comes out.

Treat this boss as a celebrity treats the paparazzi. Be good at what you do, be courteous, and try not to do or say anything that might draw unwanted attention to yourself.

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