“My Boss Complains Behind My Back – How Should I Respond?”

Question: My boss is a guy who loses his temper quite easily. He loves to scold his subordinates, and complains about them to others, behind their backs. When I hear from others how he complains about me, I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions?

Jenny, from Taipei, Taiwan
(All names are changed)

Answer: First, I have this question for you: Are you sure you need to respond at all? If he talks behind everyone’s back, even negatively, do people really care what he says? If it does you no harm, you may not need to respond, at all. I’m not commenting on your boss, but it is often said, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” That is my first suggestion: do nothing, unless something needs to be done.

My second suggestion is this: to anonymously remind your boss that what he is doing is hurting only him, and will hurt him more if he continues. That is, you might consider sending him an anonymous note (but make sure it is not traceable back to you in any way) that says, “Your habit of complaining about subordinates is hurting the morale of the employees, and in this way it is hurting the shareholders. You should stop, because if you do not, we will have no choice but to let Senior Management and Human Resources know that you are doing this. We would not like to do that. Thank you.” Because he wants to keep his job, he just might control himself.

Third, a more direct way, although potentially harmful to you, since your boss loses his temper easily, is to write him an email note that says, “I have heard others say that you have told them that certain parts of my performance are not what you would like them to be. It is very important to me to be the best, most productive, most loyal, most valuable employee I can be. Can we talk privately about my shortcomings, and how I can improve myself, so that I am more valuable to you? I would appreciate that very much. Thank you.”

The goal: your interests come first. Try to adapt your methods to best promote your interests. There are always many ways to do that. That’s what smart workplace “navigating” is all about.

Best, Al Sklover