Q: I work in a job I really like, but one of my colleagues constantly badmouths the other employees. I'm certain he talks about me negatively...

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I work in a job I really like, but one of my colleagues constantly badmouths the other employees. I’m certain he talks about me negatively when I’m not around. What can I do to stop his behavior, given he’s a close friend of the owner?

You can stop his behavior by making it unrewarding for him to continue. Your ability to stop him is unrelated to whether your colleague is close friends with the owner.

People who badmouth others typically feel powerless, resentful and disrespected. They are members of the misery-loves-company club. They want to bring other people down to the emotional level where they live.

It’s tempting to do to badmouthers what they do to everyone else. It’s tempting — and ineffective. Backstabbing a badmouther just makes them feel worse. When they feel worse, they want to badmouth all the more.

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Instead, speak to your colleague as if he were a noble, honorable and courageous man. People hate to prove you wrong when you think well of them.

The next time your colleague starts his favorite monologue, say something like, “If you’re concerned about the quality of other employees’ work, I know you would want to talk to them directly about it so they can improve. I know you realize I can’t help you fix their mistakes and I’m just rotten at keeping secrets. I don’t want to make things worse by slipping up and letting them know you’re unhappy with them.”

If your colleague continues his routine, you can talk about being certain he’s not trying to put you in the middle because he realizes that would make you uncomfortable.

By this time, he should be pausing in his automatic ranting.

When he stops, come up with something important to do and exit stage left. You may have to repeat this maneuver every time this guy tries to engage you as an audience for his list of grievances.

You’re smart to realize that your colleague will treat you just like he treats others. You don’t do him or yourself any favors by playing unwilling audience to behavior you do not respect.

The last word(s)

I think my boss is cute. Aren’t there any situations where dating your boss is OK?

Sure, when you’re about to get a new job.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., can be reached at 1420 N.W. Gilman Blvd., No. 2845, Issaquah, WA 98027-7001; by e-mail at interpersonaledge@comcast.net; or at www.interpersonaledge.com. Sorry no personal replies. To read other Daneen Skube columns, go to: www.seattletimes.com/daneenskube