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There's a conflict over responsibilities in my company. It goes back to the time I didn't even work here. It's about one area of responsibility: both my and another department wants to be the unique responsible unit. In the other unit "Tom" is responsible for the area, in mine it's me.

The truth is we need each other and neither of the departments can be the only responsible.

I've tried to solve it by cooperating with the other department but, after an initial visible progress, failed. I've been cooperative towards the other unit, they aren't towards me.

My boss doesn't want to be involved and claims I need to find a way to fix it. What do I do?

EDIT: I've shortened this post.

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I've seen office politics like this on several occasions and it can be very painful. It's natural for folks to want control, credit, and autonomy, but not blame if something goes wrong.

The 7 Habits book has great advice on this topic and says it more eloquently than I can.

Suggestion 1: Proactively cooperate with the other department

Maybe they're not too interested, but it would still be good for them to be in the loop. You could share the occasional status report with your recent accomplishments and next steps. You could invite them (maybe as optional) to a demo. If you feel you need input from them before you can proceed, politely ask for it. As far as credit is concerned, I've had more success shunning credit and thanking others than trying to "strategically" win credit. It's obvious to smart people who the real contributors are.

Suggestion 2: Proactively tackle the challenges and deliver the solution iteratively

If you or your team has the bandwidth and know-how to take on the challenges - go for it! Politely and with consideration for your team, other teams, and the company - present solutions. It's ok for a solution to be not-totally-perfect on the first iteration because feedback is so valuable and helps ensure you're on the right track. Again, be careful to avoid gloating or seeking credit because this tends to attract hostile feelings. Be generous and positive - never whiny.

"But we really can't make progress without this other team!" If this is the case, maybe it best that another team own it - you could propose this. Maybe you can own it if you just get a little advice on how you might proceed.

"But my boss wouldn't want me to take such risky ownership" I've seen this case too often. Risk taking and iterations are necessary. Be careful to present awesome solutions but without wasting (or being perceived as wasting) a ton of company resources. I once had to explain to my boss that I really really wanted to keep dabbling on this project even though he said, "don't work on it" and it paid off very well. Bosses are sometimes arrogant and misdirected and occasionally they have egos. Handle this with sensitivity.

  • You are describing a good solution, which however in my case hasn't worked. As mentioned in the initial post, I do share information with them, they don't share it with me. And after months of trying I need to discard this strategy as useless. – user87133 Jun 16 '18 at 6:46
  • @european333 what information do you wish they shared? Is there a way you can work around it or get it through other means? – Rich Kingsford Jun 17 '18 at 19:02
  • that's precisely why I posed my question here. If there was another way of getting the info, I wouldn't bother trying to convince the colleague to cooperate. – user87133 Jun 23 '18 at 7:42
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I agree with Rich about getting input. There wasn't enough information in the initial post about why cooperation between the two teams failed, but a good way to open doors is to either ask for help or advice. If the other team can feel like they're needed or are coming to your rescue, that may make them feel good about participating.

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It sounds like you made a mistake in the beginning by attempting to share your responsibilities with Tom, who was being territorial. He saw this as an opportunity to give up only the minimum amount of information and responsibility necessary.

I recommend coming up with a plan to fully transition that area of work to your responsibility and yours alone. Schedule a meeting with yourself, Tom, your boss, and anyone else relevant to the transfer of these responsibilities. Clearly outline a plan to execute the transfer. Then follow through on that plan, and document any ways in which Tom strays from or obstructs the plan. Frame it as a "process improvement" or some other kind of diplomatic label so that Tom can save face and is less likely to be combative or difficult.

This sounds like what your boss had wanted in the beginning so hopefully he will have your back. I would try to avoid speculating too much on why he has seemed upset with you - I doubt he is upset because of YOU, per se, as much as he lacks the energy to resolve what he sees as a petty interpersonal dispute. It should be his responsibility to help here as well, but not all bosses are skilled in this area.

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    Tom shared info with me at the beginning and I did profit a lot from it. This was information about internal process which I couldn't know. Transferring the responsibility only to me won't be possible - it was impossible from the very beginning, only my boss didn't see it. As mentioned, the responsibilities have been divided between us after a long conflict and our bosses don't want to hear about any changes. – user87133 Jun 10 '18 at 12:22
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    This would be fighting fire by putting gasoline on it - the other person has been in place longer and will probably win any territorial fight. – HorusKol Jun 11 '18 at 7:09

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