What to do when coworkers won't stop complaining about the boss

Ashley lutz ask the insiderBusiness InsiderAshley Lutz

Ask the Insider columnist Ashley Lutz answers all your work-related questions, including the awkward, sensitive, and real-world ones. Have a question? Email [email protected]

Dear Insider,

I work for a large bank, although my department is just a few people. The six of us work closely and collaboratively together. I have no personal issues with any of my coworkers and generally enjoy their company.

The biggest problem in my department is that everyone seems to bond over a shared hatred for our boss. He can be a jerk sometimes, but I generally find him OK to work with. Regardless, I don’t feel comfortable bashing him.

Right now, I stay silent during the bashing because I don’t want to look like a teacher’s pet or brown-noser. I don’t want my coworkers to snub me. But I still worry that being a part of this boss-hating culture will come back to haunt me later.

How can I navigate this without offending anyone?


Reluctant Defender Of My Boss


Dear Reluctant:

It’s funny how elementary school dynamics persist into adulthood. You’re afraid to set a boundary or defend the boss because you’re worried about seeming like a “teacher’s pet.”

If the bashing is happening electronically, over email or other kind of chat, don’t engage at all. Keep it completely professional and only contact your coworkers to discuss pertinent work stuff.

In person, I’d change the subject when the boss comes up. Whether you decide to talk about work or the latest Game of Thrones episode is up to you.

I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with occasionally defending your boss and saying something like, “he’s not so bad compared to other people I’ve encountered.” The unprofessional behaviour is their problem, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to enable it.

Eventually your coworkers will get the hint and stop putting you in this awkward situation.


Ashley Lutz is a senior editor at Business Insider answering all your questions about the workplace. Send your queries to [email protected] for publication on Business Insider. Requests for anonymity will be granted, and questions may be edited.

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