You have finally settled into your new office. You’re not the “new guy” anymore, you’ve made a few friends and you have your own mug in the kitchen cupboard. Your desk finally looks like it is occupied by a contributing member of the organisation and lunchtimes are easier now that you actually know where to go and who to sit with. Corporate life is starting to feel familiar, something you can identify with as part of the whole. All is well.

Next thing you know, BAM.  A tremor rips through the delicate arrangement of the tectonic plates of your newly found bliss. Your boss calls you in. That thing you mentioned to a coworker at lunch yesterday had been modified and contorted, mentioned to a manager, who then mentioned it to another manager who happens to occupy the office next to your manager and felt the need to share it with them over the tea trolley. Now your boss is looking at you disappointed, ashamed and pissed. You put on a brave face while hiding your acute embarrassment at your own naiveté, try to explain what you actually said within context, realise your boss does indeed not give a rat’s ass about your explanation and quietly vow to never speak to anyone in the office ever again.

Good news is, you don’t need to take a vow of silence. There will always be a snake on the grass of your corporate paradise, one person you realise cannot be trusted. While you would love to give them the piece of your mind your mother wouldn’t be proud of, it is not wise to openly make enemies in the office – especially if this person is a superior. Now you’re faced with a moral dilemma: being the bad guy who shuts this person out, or being a hypocrite.

Simply turning a colder, but still friendly cheek to this person does not make you a hypocrite. The fact of the matter is that you cannot be openly rude to a colleague or superior. Instead, try:

Still being friendly, but more selective of information you share.
Subtly disengaging from conversation – answer when addressed, but refrain from initiating conversation.
When they ask you specifically about information you don’t want to share with them, be it work or personal, respond vaguely without elaborating.
If you are feeling attacked or uncomfortable when they address you, excuse yourself with a work-related excuse like an email response you’re waiting for.

Important to remember is that being nice to someone who doesn’t really deserve it, says more about you that them. You will gain a reputation as being friendly and mature. When they try to badmouth you in the future, people will be less inclined to believe them because you have proven yourself to be nice to people even if they didn’t return the favour.