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Complicated office politics - need advice

I'll try to summarize the problem: 3 supervisors run the day to day operations. The manager of the 3 expects the supervisors to be able to do this professionally. Two of the 3 do not get along though. Supervisor One, the newest employee, is trying to show he/she can do the job, while supervisor 2 (long-time employee) is trying to tell One how to do it. Supervisor One does have things to learn, but Two tends to be controlling and short with people so they bash heads. Three has been asked by Two to mediate, but then Two complains to the manager that three is overstepping bounds. Again, it appears two is trying to control everything. Supervisor One and Two's employees are following in their supervisor's footsteps and bashing each other. What can three do?

Answers

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

You are asking the wrong question and the approach the manager has taken is misguided. This is a MANAGER problem not a PEER (among supervisors) problem. The Manager is responsible for not only the work but the "subculture" (in line with the company's culture) of his team. This involves among others, work quality and work relationships between his supervisors and down the org structure.

I will say this, concern yourself with the toxic personnel (if any) that acts like a disease and infects others (as you have indicated to be happening).

If supervisor one has better ways of doing things (being new), then he/she should present and justify it initially to his peers and then to the manager (if not received with open minds). With the conflict, the manager might have to decide and put his foot down.

Supervisor three should never have been involved in this.

Anonymous
(Associate) |

Thank you Emerson. That makes sense and is a relief. As I am supervisor three, I naturally want to work it out to impress the manager to eventually be a manager too. The overstepping bounds complaints though led me to seek this counsel.

A follow up question...because I do want to advance, is it wise to volunteer to handle the situation for the manager after letting him/her know what's going on? Then I'd have a blessing to proceed and any complaints of overstepping bounds would cease.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

I am a believer of not playing office politics. However, as a CFO, it is hard NOT to and more often than not, I get to do the "dirty" work. My advice is... If the issue does NOT affect your work, then I would stay out of it. If it does, it is time to inform your peers that their squabble is affecting YOUR work. If that does not get it resolved, then time to elevate the issue to your manager. The concern is about YOUR work...and not their squabble. The overstepping comment (from Sup 2) will be there with or without your manager's blessing/consent. I would even surmise that you will be labelled as a suck-up/kiss ass by your peers if you try to get the manager's consent. That is just my reading of your peers (per your comment).

Your efforts will be more visible if you focus on YOUR side of things.

Topic Expert
Jaime Campbell
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Tier One Services, LLC
(Chief Financial Officer, Tier One Services, LLC) |

Emerson, first-class advice.

Aaron Packeys
Title: General Manager - Finance (CFO)
Company: NSIA Insurance
(General Manager - Finance (CFO), NSIA Insurance) |

Great advice, Emerson

Anonymous
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis) |

You must stay fact based and focused on behaviors, not personalities. And, remember you are a peer. You are simply trying to make sure the three of you get accomplished what is expected of the team. You can only do so much before a higher authority will need to step in.

Oliver Sicat
Title: Sr. Enterprise Solutions Advisor
Company: FortisAlberta Inc.
(Sr. Enterprise Solutions Advisor, FortisAlberta Inc.) |

Emerson, those were excellent advice... every statement.

Anonymous
(Accounting Manager) |

When looking at the bigger picture, look to the manager's motives for having his supervisors at odd's with each other. I also was involved in this same scenario, and looking back in retrospect, I believe that our manager intentionally put his supervisors at odds with each other. We were more focused on impressing our manger and staying in good graces, that we didn't realize that he was taking credit for all of our work and ideas up the reporting chain.

It may be that your manager is just a weak manager and is managing via non-managing, but take a look from the bigger picture. It maybe that your manager is playing all of you.

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Conflict is another way of managing things. However, managers miss the fact that it should be conflict of IDEAS and not PERSONALITIES. Amazon's Jeff Bezos is a well known proponent of this method. He is known to just sit back and let his managers duke it out and justify their positions and recommendations in meetings. I have also once or twice decided on something that I initially was for the other side just because the other side was able to justify it better or more clearly. Afterwards, I approach the other party and tell them that if you were only able to justify it better.

However, one must be vigilant in keeping the conflict to ideas. We are only human and there is a tendency that the conflict bleeds into personalities. Previous reports (allegations?) on Amazon workplace atmosphere may reflect that danger.

Anonymous
(Associate) |

Interesting view, but I don't think the manager is playing us. From what I seen over the years, it's more of managing by non-managing. The shame is that the manager is brilliant when forced to manage. I try to soak up as much knowledge as I can from those times.
The non-managing manager is one of the reasons why I feel the need to get involved all the time as a supervisor. You all helped me realize though that I shouldn't stick my nose in every dispute/situation. It's been a pattern in my career where I want to fix/improve everything so my new goal is to encourage those who are responsible and not do it all myself.

ArLyne Diamond
Title: Owner - President
Company: Diamond Associates
LinkedIn Profile
(Owner - President, Diamond Associates) |

You are describing what I see as a fairly common problem - people have different skill sets and different personalities. People who like to control often see themselves as better than others - they also tend to be somewhat suspicious of others.

My style of intervention is to bring the conflicting parties - and groups - together with a skilled mediator (be careful who you select - because bad or mediocre mediators can make the matter worse) to air their grievences, learn about each other, and learn how to have more respect for those who have other skill sets.

Your example is of personality differences, not idea differences - so that's the level at which you need to intervene.

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