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Question: “My manager frequently talks to one of my co-workers, “Claire,” about the performance problems of another team member. I've told Claire that I think it's wrong for our boss to be discussing this other employee with her. Claire says she doesn’t mind being used as a sounding board. She’s convinced that she's helping, but I disagree. What do you think?” — Offended

Marie’s Answer: I tend to agree with you. Unfortunately, however, neither of the people involved has asked for my opinion. Nevertheless, here are my thoughts:

•    If I were talking with your gossipy boss, I would tell her that it’s inappropriate for a manager to discuss one employee’s performance with another. If she feels a need for consultation, she should seek guidance from her boss or HR manager.

•    My first suggestion for Claire would be to stop broadcasting her boss’s private comments. I would also recommend that she try to discourage these confidences by minimizing her response or tactfully changing the subject.

•    For you, my advice is simple.  Since these improper discussions don’t affect you directly, you might as well stop fretting about them, because there’s not much you can to do to prevent them. Your only other option is to confront your boss, but that strategy is likely to have adverse consequences for both you and Claire.  

There is one valuable lesson to be learned from this situation, however. You should be very careful about what you say to Claire, because she’s evidently quite a chatterbox.

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