I’m stuck in between two people and not quite sure what to do. Recently Manager 1 came into the company - extremely high D. I worked for him for a few months and then moved to another position within the division reporting to my current boss. However, my current boss works in another country and I spend most of my time still interacting with Manager 1, his peers, direct reports and internal customers.
Manager 1 and my boss are also peers and do not get along. When they are in periods of detente, no issues. However, whenever they are not getting along, Manager 1 alternatively becomes both very intimidating and tries to court me to ‘his side’ (carrot and stick). In some cases he has tried to ruin my reputation with other individuals. Manager 1 has, at times, also accused me of manipulating my boss against him – when my boss naturally does this on his own. The issue is that I cannot be successful for my boss without support from Manager 1 (it’s a tangled matrix position).
Now Manager 1 has proposed a complete reorg of our part of the division. He did it in an end run around his peers and his direct manager going straight to the division head armed with data from an external consultant he hired about how horrible everything was before he arrived. He’s also got support from some key internal stakeholders and the division lead is considering it. I give it 60-70% chance to succeed.
My boss is looking to fight back and has given me a direct order to to help build a case against Manager 1. Manager 1 has basically given an ultimatum – I’m either with him or against him.
If the reorg happens I will be working for Manager 1 again (although not pleasant, it’s tenable if I just shut up and perform.) However, I also have a direct order from my current boss to work against him. If the reorg doesn’t happen I will continue to work for this boss.
I feel like I’m a pawn in a game. I’ve requested several times that they both stop bringing me into the middle of this. I’d just like to do real work instead of being part of the games being played at levels above me.
Other than starting a job search, what should I do? Any way to navigate this while staying neutral? Both consider 'sitting out' as playing both sides which is not my intention. Any way to avoid having to pick a side?