Q&A: Working with a Chameleon

Dear Dick: I’m a confidential secretary. The problem is my boss. In an effort to please people, she tells them what they want to hear. This means that many times she is untruthful, telling one person one story and another person a story that conflicts dramatically. These are not minor variations of the same story, but are huge misrepresentations. Sometimes neither version she tells is accurate because both are designed to placate the people she’s talking to rather than to be true to any set of facts. How do I confront this behavior? Should I tell these other people what she’s doing?
—Working With a Chameleon

Dear Working: You don’t confront it at all. If you do, this person will deny what’s happening and tell you that you don’t understand what you heard and shouldn’t be listening in, anyway. Even though this would also be a mistake on her part, it won’t bring you closer to a solution. Then she’ll see you as a problem, rather than someone who’s trying to help. She’ll create more and more distance between you, which will make your job harder to bear. It’s not your job to tell the others what you know, either. Besides, if this has been going on for any time at all, they already know.
You need to change jobs and get out of there as fast as you can without incurring undo risk to your livelihood.