Business Columns & Blogs

Badmouthing your boss is rarely a wise choice

Q: One of my co-workers recently became my supervisor. “Amanda” is great at managing tasks and projects but she has no interpersonal skills whatsoever. She tells jokes about people that aren’t funny and she can be very rude.

I made the mistake of venting about this to a trusted colleague who shared my comments with Amanda’s boss. Although he hasn’t contacted me, he did ask another employee whether she had any problems with Amanda. She told him no because she didn’t want to hurt her chances of being promoted.

Amanda obviously heard about my complaints because she has started calling me a troublemaker. I really enjoy my job, but I don’t like my supervisor. What should I do now?

A: Amanda’s abrasive personality cannot have come as a complete surprise. Having worked with her before, you undoubtedly knew what to expect when you heard she’d been promoted. And even though she could clearly use some leadership training, her communication style sounds more brusque than abusive.

Fortunately, this experience seems to have taught you two valuable lessons. “Trusted colleagues” are not necessarily trustworthy, and “venting” about your boss is always a huge mistake. When complaints about management wind up on the office grapevine, unwelcome consequences frequently follow.

Perhaps you should take a cue from your more cautious co-worker. She apparently realized that criticizing Amanda would automatically imply that the person who recently promoted her had poor judgment. So she made the politically intelligent decision to keep her complaints to herself.

Given that you like your job, your best bet now is to try adjusting to Amanda’s less-than-perfect leadership style. If you begin acting like an ally instead of an adversary, your relationship with her may improve, and her flaws might become more tolerable.

Q: A few employees of my business were unhappy with their work schedule, so I gave out a survey asking people to select either the early shift or the late shift. Unfortunately, almost everyone wanted the earlier time.

Because the survey didn’t help, I let people choose based on seniority, but now the junior employees are angry. Our job application asks people whether they can work outside the typical 8-to-5 workday, so I don’t see why they’re upset. What do you think about this?

A: Frankly, I think you’ve done a poor job of establishing expectations. Instead of making a vague inquiry about atypical work hours, you should clearly define shift times on your application. And if shifts may vary, applicants need to know before coming on board.

I also have to wonder why you chose to do a survey. As employee preferences and shift requirements were unlikely to be a perfect match, that was a recipe for discontent. While a seniority system won’t make everyone happy, at least it’s an objective, time-tested method for making such decisions.

The big question, however, is why you are doing this at all. If business needs have changed, that would be a valid reason. But making wholesale reassignments because of a few complainers doesn’t seem to make much sense.

Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and the author of “Secrets to Winning at Office Politics.” Send in questions and get free coaching tips at, or follow her on Twitter @officecoach.