Thwart tattling co-workers by going to the source

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in Your Office Coach

Question: “ ‘Carol,’ our administrative assistant, loves to tell our manager about my problems. Yesterday, for example, I was late for a client appointment because I got stuck in traffic. When I called Carol to say that I would arrive in about fifteen minutes, I assumed she would just explain the delay to the client. Instead, she decided to inform my boss, who blew it all out of proportion.

“Although my manager doesn't want to be bothered with these trivial issues, he still gets angry when he hears about them. He calms down once I give him the full story, but I’m afraid he’s getting the wrong impression. How should I handle this?”

Answer: If your boss really didn’t care about these “trivial issues,” he would never mention them to you, so perhaps they’re not as trivial as you think. Carol clearly understands that he likes getting this information, which is why she continues to report it. She may also have her own agenda with you.  

To undercut Carol’s tattling tendencies, beat her to the punch by communicating directly with your manager. For example: “I just wanted to let you know that I’m stuck in traffic. I’ve asked Carol to tell the client that I’ll be about fifteen minutes late.” By providing an explanatory voice message or email when problems arise, you can give your side of the story before Carol has a chance to put her spin on it.

Concerned that a co-worker may be out to get you? Here are some suggestions: Dealing with Enemies & Adversaries.

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