Dealing with workplace gossip
September 2, 2015 12:46 PM   Subscribe

The boss has a husband who is gossiping about me to my co-workers. Can anything be done about this?

I have been working at a small private school for the past 8 years, on a series of 1-year contracts. This year, I was told that my contract will be renewed for the coming school year, but then that's it. They want to go in a different direction, etc. but since they did not give me enough notice to get another contract elsewhere for September, I get one more year, in a somewhat different role, and then I am done.

I was depressed at first, but as the start of school has approached, I had resolved to make the best of it, do a good job, get a good reference and move on with my life. I had heard that several co-workers had snooped just enough to know something was up (I am friends with a former co-worker whose cousin still works there) ad when I touched base with my boss re. the start of school, I casually mentioned that I did not want to say anything to others besides 'I am in a different role.' She affirmed this, said that was all she planned to say, and I assumed the matter was done.

I learned today from my friend that her cousin was in the school early last week, and while she was there, the boss's husband started chatting with her, and my name came up. He basically spilled the beans about the whole thing---how this will be my last year, I will not be coming back after this, and indeed, if I get another contract now I am free to go etc. I am a bit floored. I really had thought that the particulars of my contract were private business between me and my boss. I understand she must surely share such news with her husband, but it is not his place to be discussing this with other staff. And I specifically did not want the to know this because I am trying to put a positive spin on the impending school year, and I don't want to go back to all sorts of snoopy questions from them about is it true what they head, and what happened etc.

Do I just have to suck it up, get through the first couple days, and then let the gossip die and love on with my year? Is there any way to approach my boss about this without leading to bad blood here? I know she has screwed me over (at least four people have independently suggested that my demotion is punishment for trying to get pregnant) but I do wan to get a good reference and leave on good terms. So what do I do here?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I know she has screwed me over (at least four people have independently suggested that my demotion is punishment for trying to get pregnant) but I do wan to get a good reference and leave on good terms.

There is no way you're going to get a good reference out of the establishment that's done this to you. It will be a generic "Anonymous worked here for eight years and was perfectly competent in her duties and you should probably hire her, whatever." And if anyone calls the school and asks what the real dope is, you'll never get hired.

You should talk to your boss immediately. Don't go in guns blazing, but say "A friend of a friend told me that your husband is talking about my contract to people outside the school. I don't feel that's appropriate, and I was wondering what you plan to do about it."
posted by Etrigan at 12:53 PM on September 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Boss's hubby discussing your employment was highly inappropriate but since they had already announced to you that you were officially in a new role and you have started in that role I don't think it would be regarded as unusual. This kind of thing would infuriate me, as I absolutely hate anyone knowing my business at work, but this information is always going to get out there. At least you know. I doubt saying anything to your boss would help. Take the higher ground for the sake of your own sanity and make it a great year.
posted by waving at 12:53 PM on September 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

If your boss is the kind to punish you for trying to conceive she surely won't react well to criticism of any kind.
Also, the damage is done, the cat is out of the bag. Do what you can to get the good reference. Decide on a code phrase like "excellent!" and have it mean "fuck you!" in your head and say it to her chirpily and often.
Write your own reference if possible.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:56 PM on September 2, 2015 [14 favorites]

Vent about it at length to friends who have zero affiliation with your work, and bask in their affirmation that your boss and her husband are rude, socially incompetent scumbags.
posted by lizbunny at 1:11 PM on September 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Your boss is going to do exactly dick about her husband gossiping about you. Shit, she already demoted you and is blabbing about you to her to her husband. Suck it up. Do your time and in a year you'll be out of there and in a better job.
posted by Rob Rockets at 1:26 PM on September 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I would start documenting everything, especially if I was never ever going to do anything about what is happening. Especially.

It will make you feel proactive. If you need to get a lawyer's opinion down the road, you'll be 10 steps ahead.

(I was under the impression that your family status is not your employer's business, no?)

On the first day of your new job next year, happily throw away any notes you've been taking. I don't trust these folks at all, so keep records until you no longer need them.

For goodness sake, stop talking about your personal life with anyone associated with your current work place. No more talk of trying to conceive, or roles, or current or future plans, where you went to dinner last night... just, no more. OK? Good.

Hold your head high. Focus on yourself. Disengage :))
posted by jbenben at 1:36 PM on September 2, 2015 [11 favorites]

Does this private school have a board? As a parent, I'd be concerned what other confidential stuff the boss's husband is gossiping about. I wonder iif the board would be concerned about that, too.
posted by anastasiav at 1:37 PM on September 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you don't feel comfortable directly saying anything about the husband, you could say, "Boss, details of my contract that I understood to be private personnel matters are circulating amongst the staff, and I have concerns about the handling of HR files" or something like that. Sometimes saying "I know X happened" works better than "I know you/your proxy did X," because it puts them on notice that you know they're misbehaving, but without a direct accusation their instinct isn't to attack back, but to cover their ass and repair damage as fast as possible, which puts Boss at least nominally on your side.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:59 PM on September 2, 2015 [16 favorites]

Hoo boy. Another year of working for The Punisher? Hell no. I'd quietly start looking for new work immediately, in a different field if you have to. She will never be on your side.
posted by hush at 2:11 PM on September 2, 2015 [5 favorites]

Your boss spoke to her husband about your demotion, and you appear to have spoken to at least 4 other people about it - that kinda tells me the cat is thoroughly out of the bag and you and Boss Husband opened it.

Stop gossiping about your boss, keep your head down, do your job competently and look forward to your next job which will hopefully involve less drama.
posted by Julnyes at 2:58 PM on September 2, 2015 [2 favorites]

I agree with jbenben, with one exception: don't throw those notes away as soon as you start another job, keep them for at least an additional year or even more --- get a great new job, but keep those notes just in case your current boss tries something vindictive down the road.
posted by easily confused at 3:53 PM on September 2, 2015 [3 favorites]

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