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What to do if your coworkers are making you question your boss

HI, I live in Anchorage and am a management consultant and writer. I'm founder of www.bullywhisperer.com™, www.workplacecoachblog.com and www.thegrowthcompany.com. I'm author of Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. I author...

My coworkers are telling me things about my boss, and I don't know if they're true

This week I'm answering a question about a bad office environment that wasn't noticed in the interview process.

Question:

Three weeks ago, I started a new job that’s promised to be more interesting than any job I’ve ever held. I like my new supervisor and coworkers, but we’re a small office and two of my three new coworkers can’t stand my supervisor.

On my first day of work, these two coworkers took me aside and told me a number of things about our supervisor that worried me. The next day, the three of us went to lunch, and I learned that this supervisor has not given my coworkers the raises he promised them when hired and has unreal expectations. They said, “You don’t dare say ‘no’ to overtime.”

Since then, I’ve kept quiet and been watchful. My supervisor does seem to be a workaholic but also seems to be a nice person. My coworkers, though, are really nice and have gone out of their way to befriend me. I don’t think they’d say negative things about my supervisor if those problems weren’t true.

I’ve tried to make friends with my third coworker, but he keeps to himself.

Also, my supervisor seems to be nicer to me than he is to my two new friends, and I’m worried that this will, in the long run, alienate them. I worry that I’ve made a mistake in taking this job. What do you suggest?

Advice:

What happened to thinking for yourself? In just three weeks, you’ve become someone other than the employee your supervisor hired. Three weeks ago, your job excited you. Now, you’re unsure, watchful and distrustful. Stop treating your coworkers’ views as facts rather than viewpoints.

When you step back and assess about what you’ve directly learned about your supervisor, what do you think? Is he straightforward or a jerk? How does he treat you? No matter how nice your new coworkers appear, there’s always more than one side to a story. Perhaps your coworkers haven’t earned their raises. If your supervisor is actually a straight shooter, do you want to let your coworkers’ discontent kill your chances?

Does your supervisor expect employees to work unfair amounts? Or do your coworkers resent a supervisor who expects them to work a full day when they’d prefer coasting? Could it be true that your coworkers and your supervisor are all nice — yet still view each other negatively? Maybe what you need to learn is how to work with individuals who don’t like each other without being drawn into anyone’s camp.

Should you tell your supervisor what your coworkers are telling you? No. If you do so, you throw your coworkers under the bus. Worse, have you heard of “kill the messenger”?

What if you decide your coworkers gave you the straight scoop and you’ve walked into a career box canyon? If so, consider leaving your job after giving your employer two weeks’ notice. When you learn you’ve accepted a no-win job, your best choice becomes saying, “This isn’t the job for me,” and resigning. If you leave a wrong-choice job before the end of the first month, you escape a long gap or a difficult to explain short-term job on your resume.

What makes a new job a no-win situation? Sometimes, you discover that you can’t get along with a new supervisor or can’t do the work. Or you discover that the job isn’t what you though it would be. Sometimes, as may be true for you, you find yourself forced to choose sides between permanently dueling camps. Side with your supervisor and your coworkers freeze you out. Side with your coworkers, and you risk joining the ranks of the permanently discontented.

So, did you make a mistake or should you quit? I don’t know. I do know you can’t afford to let your coworkers tell you what’s true and what’s not without assessing the situation for yourself. Your coworkers might be wrong and if you continue to act based on their viewpoints, you lose your opportunity to enjoy the most interesting job you’ve ever held.

Have a question for Lynne? Email her at lynne@thegrowthcompany.com with the subject “SheKnows” and she may answer your question (confidentially) in an upcoming piece.

Her book, Beating the Workplace Bully, released on Kindle in December. You can also follow Lynne @lynnecurry10 on Twitter or access her other posts on SheKnows, workplacecoachblog.com or bullywhisperer.com.

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