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I'm having a problem, in which my CFO "undermines" my direct boss by changing things without her knowledge, on some of the financial reports that I run. He doesn't have knowledge of my current list of to-do items, and frequently makes requests that reprioritize what was currently being worked on. When I ask him (the CFO) if he wants to reprioritize things, he says no, then follows up asking if I've completed his request yet.

When I tell him that I haven't, he remarks "We've really needed to get this done" and walks away angrily. If he asks me to make a change, I usually try to send a confirmation e-mail to my direct manager, to keep all changes above board, to which I am usually told "I wish you hadn't done that" or "Don't CC her!" by the CFO.

Inevitably, on my boss' return to work, she asks me "Why did you change X" and says "Don't make any changes without telling me" on her way to talk to the CFO. That, or I get chewed out by the CFO after my boss comes to talk to him.

I don't like being constantly chewed out for a dynamic that really has nothing to do with me. Generally tasks should come through my manager, so she can do just that: manage me and the tasks that I have on my plate. My CFO doesn't see it this way, however, and (understandably) doesn't like having to go through my boss to get to me. Neither of them have the ability to do my job, and were using consultants before this, so I provide great value to both of them. Still, I am considering leaving because of their lack of communication with each other, and the seemingly clandestine role they want me to play in their office politics.

At this point, I honestly feel like a bishop on a chess board of a grey color, and the leaders of each side are pulling at each side. I am an hourly employee in the United States, working for a private company for 7 months.

How can I prevent my CFO from getting angry at me for requesting that he work with my boss rather than me directly, or conversely have my boss accept that the CFO's tasks given to me directly are of highest priority? I don't necessarily care what the outcome of their fight is, but I would prefer that they don't include me in it. I want to have a clear directive on how they want me to handle communication issues between the two, regardless of their requests.

This is mainly a "in what scenario can I win?" question, but if a relocation to more stable pastures is required, I'm not above taking that option. I'm fine staying, but honestly dislike having to be seemingly underhanded or constantly in trouble.

  • Does the Big Boss only do this when your direct boss is out? What does this dynamic look like when they're both in the office? – djohnson10 Feb 6 '18 at 20:25
  • Also, is there a boss's boss's boss? – djohnson10 Feb 6 '18 at 20:27
  • @djohnson10 Mainly when she's out of the office, he rarely if ever does it when she's in the office but it has happened. Usually those are easily headed off by my manager, or they'll work together to prioritize his projects. – Anoplexian Feb 6 '18 at 20:28
  • Sort of, he's the CFO and she's the Controller. The CEO does pay cursory attention to the goings on, but it would really peeve my boss going to him, which is something she feels she should be doing. She probably has done this before, which is probably why he wants to keep it on the low, but I don't know for sure. – Anoplexian Feb 6 '18 at 20:29
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    could you please indicate who is "he" and who is "she"? call your boss Mr. Boss, and your boss's boss Mr. BigBoss and reflect the change in all your text. Unclear who you are talking about.. – Sandra K Feb 6 '18 at 21:02
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Since you are already thinking about leaving because of this, it is important you escalate now. I see three options for you and I´ll order them in order of severity.

  1. Talk to your Manager. Tell her whats wrong an that it is frustrating you to a point you are not willing to bear any more. She can then take it up with her superior.

  2. Talk to the CFO. Tell him how his interference is hurtful to your work and ask how you could find better ways of organizing these things. Take a overall just-want-to-solve things approach and leave out all emotion.

  3. Talk to your CEO. Tell him why you aren´t happy working for his company any more and how that could be changed. This is the ultimate escalation. Someone will get hurt.

You have to judge by yourself whom best to approach. In any event, request a formal meeting for this kind of talk. Have your resume polished and some opportunities open in case you need a new job fast.

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My CFO doesn't see it this way, however, and (understandably) doesn't like having to go through my boss to get to me.

I don't think this is particularly understandable at all. If the CFO wants to manage you, then fine, but he should do either:

  • Do so directly and cut out your manager from the equation entirely;
  • Make sure your manager is looped in, so she's aware that the changes have been pushed from above and aren't your fault.

My usual answer in this situation would be to make sure you CC / email both parties to keep them in the loop, but it seems that you've already tried that and received a hostile reaction. This is unusual - I see no good reason why your CFO wouldn't want your manager looped in on any changes to your workload.

I'd say the next step would be to talk to your direct manager, and explain your concerns - that she's constantly being overridden, and it's hard for you to know what the right thing is to do when you've got differing orders from two people. What should happen then is she liaises with her boss, and they sort something out (after all, this isn't really your fight, you're caught up in the middle.)

If that fails, then I'm not sure there's really many clear cut options left (other than leaving.) You could ask your boss and the CFO to a meeting and try to talk to both of them about your concerns. Likewise, you could ask the CFO if you can just work directly for him. Both of those approaches may work, but I'd say they have a greater chance of not working, and just creating more tension.

If the situation really doesn't seem fixable, and you are thinking of leaving, I'd just try to placate both of them as long as best you can in the meantime. That way you should get a good reference on your way out, then you'll be able to leave the whole mess behind you.

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There is definitely a conflict of interest between the CFO and your direct manager. One option is to try to resolve it.

Arrange a meeting between you, the CFO and your direct manager and try to set some acceptable unambiguous rules regarding task assignment from both of them.

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