My bosses boss has told me that my boss was to be moved out of a management role and I was to take his position. We discussed my performance in the past year and a half and he has been pleased with where I am going with the department.

The big boss has put me in a difficult position for the rest of the year as he does not want to tell my manager of the change until the new year. That said, he has given me several "special assignments" involving reorganization of the department and now my manager thinks I have been sidestepping him to do these projects. He has wanted information about the projects that his boss has been giving me and I am under a gag order from his boss. I have referred him to his boss about the projects a few times but he doesn't seem to want to go to him with these requests. He has been rattling his saber a bunch and I am uncomfortable with the whole situation.

Question: Which boss do I confront? How?

bflynn's picture

This may be the first time ever I have given this advice. Ignore your boss's saber rattling. As you point out, he is a lame duck boss now, he just doesn't know it. There is a small chance that the higher boss wouldn't back you up, but I'd judge that you're safely protected against any actions your boss would attempt. If he demands information or action, use your judgement. My instinct says your answer should be - no, this is a project for the higher boss and he has asked you to work on it without help.

My recommendation is to talk to the higher boss. I don't like that he won't tell the boss about the impending demotion...there should be no secrets. He is putting you in a difficult and stressful situation. If that is necessary, then so be it. But ask if the change could be made known. It would be easier all around to go ahead and let you take over now and let the paperwork catch up next year. Performance reviews are a concern.

Last - consider the future situation, after the change. If this boss will be working for you, it will be difficult. Be ready to give lots of feedback. I'd say there is an extremely high possibility that you'll have to dismiss your former boss...depends on him. Hopefully your higher boss is smart enough to do a lateral transfer.


jhack's picture

Machiavelli was naive.

OK, maybe that's a bit paranoid. Do you really understand all the political machinations here? Has anyone other than the Big Boss confirmed this reorg? Is there a larger reorg in play?

Are you a pawn? I've seen folks put into management positions where failure was a guarantee, as part of a strategic move to weaken a third or fourth party, or to weaken an entire group. The manager ends up resigning, and the real reorg takes place.

And maybe he's not telling your boss about it because it's not final final. I've seen these things fall through, and the guy we all thought would be gone somehow stayed. BIG OOPS if you acted unwisely.

Brian is right about not going to your boss.

Perhaps you and the Big Boss could work out a plausible cover story concerning an existing project, and he can provide the air cover. PS: you need to come up with the story.


AManagerTool's picture

Thanks for the replies,

jhack, I think that the big guy got in trouble from a bigger guy.

He needs help establishing a large scale cultural change in the department. The department is an engineering services group that has deteriorated into three separate site based departments. Each silo has begun to morph into individual versions of "Santa's toy shop". Projects are done because they are cool and run late, over budget and frequently have no customer at all.

I have been generating performance data on projects under my control as well as the service organization that I run. His plan is to have me do the same for the rest of the department so that he can use the data to effect the changes in behavior required from the entire staff.

My boss and the rest of the big guys direct reports have been critical of my performance data gathering for quite some time. I feel that they do not want the spotlight shone upon their problems. He also wants to give the rest of his staff time to embrace the new performance based culture. This looks like a shot across the bow for the entire management team.

bflynn, performance reviews are all in, he couldn't do anything at this point even if he wanted to.

Thanks again,

jhack's picture

Thanks for the clarifications - sounds like a very interesting situation(!).

If the big boss is conflict averse, he's not likely to talk to your boss. You're more likely to succeed if you back off your initiatives publicly (to mollify your current boss) and do that work when he's not around. You could ask the big boss to let you lay low until the ax falls.

Despite your excellent G2, this still could all blow over and you continue reporting to your current boss. (Someone might have kept the negatives, if you know what I mean...)

Remember that people are well intentioned and want to be treated well. You may well cross paths with your current boss again.

And please let us know how this works out.


Mark's picture
Admin Role Badge

Don't "confront" either boss.

Go back to the big boss and tell him what's going on, and ask him for clarification. Verbal is great, but an email would be really great. If he's lying, make him do it in print. (I don't think he's lying.) ( I do think he's part of the problem, but that's a separate post.

If it were easy, Manager Tools wouldn't exist. ;-)

It is GOOD to be back!


AManagerTool's picture

Thanks for the advice,

Re-org was announced to the rest of the management team and is on the VP's scorecard which was passed down this week.

I now see exactly why Mark insists that any SWOT analysis or Strategy discussions be the exclusive property of the boss. Just the hint of my involvement (my boss hinted about my involvement in a staff meeting) with the initial strategy for the re-org has resulted in some very uncomfortable discussions with the rest of the management team.

I told the big guy about what my boss was doing in an e-mail hoping to illicit a response in kind. He called me and told me to hang in there a bit longer but couldn't be specific. Sorry written confirmation of anything....Uh-Oh.