I recently submitted a task to my line manager’s boss. That work had been assigned to me by my immediate supervisor, but his boss forced me to do it. Needless to say, this didn’t go down well with my supervisor. He felt undermined and we argued bitterly about the matter.
What should one do when there are conflicting sets of instructions from his or her superiors?
The reason we have well defined structures and reporting lines at the workplace is to ensure situations like these are minimised. Although not all work-related conflict is bad, when a hardworking employee is caught up in unhealthy rivalry between managers, a difficult work environment is created and this may affect his or her morale. This kind of situation may arise from a number of reasons.
Firstly, when you have a boss who always tends to undermine your capabilities, there may come another senior person who will see and value your potential. While this is a good thing, there are risks involved that should be mitigated.
Secondly, where you and the senior boss may have worked in the organisation for a longer period than your boss, the two of you may develop some degree of familiarity which could be detrimental to your relationship with your supervisor.
Third, your boss may be afraid that you are, or will outshine him before his boss, or that you could make him seem incompetent or unreliable.
There are options you can employ to navigate such a scenario. When you are assigned any duties, remind your superior that it would be best if the work was assigned to you with the input of your line manager.
Be honest and say that while you have no problem taking the assignment, you are keen to avoid conflict between them.
If this does not sell, ask him to be ready to step in and mitigate any repercussion that may arise from the broken chain of command.
If he still proceeds to assign you, let him know that you will have to declare the assignment to your immediate boss to keep your relationship healthy.
Mwikali Muthiani - Managing Partner, MillennialHR (@MwikaliN; [email protected])