When Your Boss is in a Fight with His

March 25, 2019

When Your Boss is in a Fight with His

In the previous post, your boss’ boss, Jennifer, was assigning work directly to you, skipping your boss (Trevor). On the one hand, this gives you great profile. On the other, it can get you into hot water with Trevor. Look at it from Trevor’s point of view. Jennifer is signaling she doesn’t consider him value-added. No matter how true, it would be hard not to resent that. In fact, the more true, the more it will be resented. Trevor can’t pick a fight with Jennifer (well, not if he has any political savvy), but he can take it out on you.

Two things which bear repeating

  • This is Jennifer’s problem which she is handling inappropriately.
  • If you have a very collegial environment or a good boss, none of this may apply. But don’t assume that too quickly. Undercurrents are undercurrents because they’re hard to spot. If you’re not sure, I’d assume it is an issue.
  • Okay, three. Trevor can hurt you and your career.

Your concern is to avoid being the inadvertent instrument of humiliating Trevor.

What to do when your boss is in a fight with his

Well, obviously, it’s not an option to say no to Jennifer. And working directly for her gives you valuable profile. So, here is a way which might allow you to keep doing so but minimize the damage with Trevor. Might.

You: Hi, Trevor. Got a minute?
Trevor: Sure.
You: Look, I wanted to talk about Jennifer sending work to me directly. I’m feeling a bit awkward about it.
Trevor: Well, yeah. Where does she get off—
You: (do not let him propose a solution first) I know, but she is the big boss. (gesture of helplessness) But maybe I could blind c.c. you on everything that I send to her. That way you’d be in the loop. Would that work for you?
Trevor: Well, yeah, I need to know what’s going on in my own shop.
You: Absolutely. So I’ll c.c. you from now on.
Trevor: Okay, good idea.

If you’re lucky, Trevor will buy the idea and might even feel more positive about you for proposing a solution to what has probably been sticking in his craw.

But what if Trevor is more politically savvy?

The fly in the ointment above is if Trevor is good at underground current management. He can counter your proposal one of two ways:

  • Tell you to consult him (i.e. get his approval) before sending anything to Jennifer.
  • Or worse, tell you to prepare the reply which he will send to Jennifer himself—thus silently signaling that he’s wise to Jennifer’s end run and that you are on his side.

If he proposes either, you can’t ignore what is basically a direct order.

If it doesn’t work

Well, you tried. If Trevor successfully cuts you off from Jennifer, take it with good grace. That is, fake not caring. Trevor might see you as a loyal employee and stop doing all the nasties he could do. Might even consider you for the plum assignments. You want to live to fight another day.

The next post is a high risk, but possibly high payoff way to deal with this.

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