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?

JonathanGiglio's picture
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If work was easy, it would be called fun.

I honestly am tired of the answer always being to quit in bad environments, and bravo for discounting such an option. I don't think Jack Welch, Jamie Dimon, or anyone successful simply quit when the going got tough. Don't get me wrong, they all had  setbacks, including professional desires to quit or were fired. And then they redoubled their efforts.

What are the long term goals of the organization and where will you fit in when the dust settles?

Are either one of them improving the position for YOUR career? And which way are you willing to bet?

For example, if the High D offers you the best  opportunity for advancement, will you support his re-org request even if it doesn't happen?

Would you rather work for your current boss, even if he loses this power struggle and you both end up being replaced?

Who is the more successful of the two and who's long term strategy can you get behind?

Think of yourself as the owner of the company. What would you want to see happen, why, and which strategy would get you there?

Also, you may want to consult others in the organization, perhaps in a mentoring capacity. There's no harm in talking to others to get a different perspective on the situation.

While this may seem like a no-win situation, it is far from it. The behaviors necessary to implement your desired course of action may be rough, but they are certainly surmountable.

Good luck, your task is not enviable.

jhack's picture

First, it bears repeating:  you have to get your resume in order, reach out to your network, and seriously search for a new job.  

Second, neither of these managers seem to be interested in either you or what's best for the firm. 

Third, what to do?  Focus entirely on what's best for the firm.  Stake out your own opinion, based on that premise, and keep conversations with both bosses in that regard. 

John Hack

mkalas's picture

In my first job (at GE) I quickly got too many bosses for my own good. GE was quick to assign projects or tasks to anybody who showed any interest and then I found that i had to report on stuff to all sorts of people who wanted results and updates. Eventually one kind senior manager took me aside and he said: it's easy: "your boss is the guy that can  give you a payrise or can sack  you. Everybody else is NOT your boss." It has helped me ever since.

(Quick note; definitely doesn't work in the NHS, you cannot sack anybody and you cannot give a payrise. Works in normal companies, though)