Dear Teressa: I’m Caught Between My Boss and A Colleague. HELP!
My boss is an excellent manager and a very inspirational leader. However, I have a colleague, who I think is a good person, but who seems to very much resent this boss. This colleague is also very good friends with my boss’s boss. The colleague is now making life very difficult and taking great advantage of the situation. My boss’s boss cannot see this due to the friendship. Can anything be done?
Lucky you to have a boss who manages and leads well. Excellence in both realms is a real and rare asset.
You’re also lucky to be faced with this challenge. This unhappy situation provides you with an opportunity to stand in the power of your personal truth – to differentiate your point of view from that of others. For you, your boss is an excellent manager and inspirational leader. Period. You don’t have to slide into the middle of what sounds like a potential political squeeze.
Being in the middle of other people’s tensions and antagonism can be uncomfortable, and, ultimately, untenable. You know you’re in the middle when you feel unclear about what to do, torn about whom to align with, tempted to defend one person to the other, or you slide into the middle, feeling like it’s your job to step in and solve their problem.
Your question seems to indicate that your boss is the target of your colleague’s behavior. Given that, here’s my suggestion: stay out of the middle of this potentially messy situation. Barry Oshry’s Seeing Systems provides deeper exploration of ways to be effective when caught in the middle.
To support you as you stand in the power of YOUR authentic truth, here are a several tips.
- Remain true to your point of view. Your assessment of your boss’ effectiveness as a manager and leader is based on your experience of her/him. Don’t let the negativity of others contaminate your opinion.
- Don’t let their problem with your boss become your problem. You’re not responsible for your colleague’s opinion or behavior, or that of your boss’ boss. If they express concerns to you, a helpful response might be to ask, “Have you talked to [name] about that?”
- Empathize, but don’t agree. If you’re stuck in a situation where you can’t easily escape, listen respectfully and empathize with the other person’s feelings or experience. You don’t have to agree, just hear and understand.
- Don’t believe toxic talk and spread gossip. If your colleague, or your boss’s boss, speaks badly of the manager and leader you value and admire, just listen. You don’t have to respond. Or, without debating the point, you could simply say, “That surprises me. My experience of [name] is different. I see [name] as…”
Almost always, when one person has a complaint about another, a good strategy is to encourage them to have a constructive conversation in an effort to resolve the issue. If they don’t want to work at finding a solution, their talk is a waste of time and energy – yours and theirs.
Tina, I hope this is helpful. I wish you well as you work your way out of the middle.
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