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My technical manager and a Business Development person from my office have differences. They have complained about each other to the senior management. They are indulging in office politics and aiming to knock each other down.

Some time ago, the BD person tried to find out more about the internal working of the team I work with. He wanted to know team members' opinions about our manager, but I did not provide any details.

Now, my manager has asked me not to even talk with the BD person. He is really concerned while he is out of office that the BD person would again approach me or other team members. All these things are happening unofficially. Both of them are talking these things either face-to-face or over a phone call with me. Neither of them has sent any messages or emails regarding these communications to me.

What shall I do in such situation?

What if BD person again approaches me? Can I tell him that I have been instructed not to discuss anything with him?

Shall I approach HR? (This would really piss my manager off.)

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Stay out of it

If the BD manager asks about your opinion of your boss or team, say something like

"hey, I'm happy to help with any work related stuff, but please direct questions about our team, structure, how we work and organization to my boss, who knows way more about it than I do"

If he tries to sneak any extra work on your plate, say something like

"I'm happy to help you with this. Please send me an e-mail with all the details and copy my boss on it, so he she has full visibility of my assignments and current work load".

If you boss complains about you talking to the BD, use

I'm not talking to the guy. If he wants something I just brush him off and send him to you. If you want me do something different, let me know.

  • 91
    +1 for "Stay out of it". I think the wording of the second one needs to be softened - as it stands it would lead to the OP's manager's rival being able to derail the team by assigning them work they have no business doing. Something like "I'm happy to help you with this, please [raise a ticket/send an email to.../follow the normal process] and we'll add it to our work queue" might be better. Then the OP wouldn't be refusing legitimate work, but would be mitigating any malicious requests. – Player One Apr 28 at 14:51
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    What @JoeStrazzere said is correct, but that definitely counts as playing office politics. It's important to know the difference between trying to be a mover and shaker in the office politics, and doing what you can so that you don't get blindsided by them. – Malisbad Apr 28 at 22:03
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    I upvoted but I think #3 is too much... bushing someone off isn't something you want to come across as doing (even if you kinda are). You HAVE to talk to him when it's work related but I would reiterate to the boss that when he does approach, you tell him #1 or #2 depending on the request and make sure your boss is OK with that and adjust as necessary. – JeffC Apr 29 at 17:48
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Don't approach HR unless there is something that directly interferes with you accomplishing your duties, and even then discuss the matter with your manager as much as needed.

In such a conflict, be as neutral as possible, staying loyal to the company and to your manager. Limit your interactions with the other faction to what is necessary for you to operate successfully in your role.

Favouring the rival over your manager would be detrimental to your relationships as well.

Your manager is still your manager, and it would do you no good to favour her/his rival for future political gain. If you did anything that could be linked to go against your manager, your future in that company would be probably compromised.

1

I'd suggest a maybe not so 'professional' answer, but agree with the sentiment of not getting involved

Frame it in a way that makes them seem to be unfair by involving you, something like:

I can't get involved in this since i'm suspecting that it could come back to haunt me in the future. That said, I do enjoy our working time together and so don't want to jeopardise it

That is exactly the answer i've used before in these scenarios

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    I would avoid doing this. By doing this, you take a stance, and create leverage to continue: "What, you don't like me or something? Ofcource it wont haunt you". I'd stick to the "Im not gonna get involved with this kinds of things" aproach. – Martijn Apr 29 at 9:45
  • I don't think we're in disagreement here? But I think my approach comes across as less standoffish, and surely it's the truth? OP does get along with both parties and doesn't want to take a stance. I don't believe doing what i've said is taking a stance? – SuperSecretAndHiddenFromWork Apr 29 at 9:56
  • I think it does. You're letting someone know what you think of this situation ("i'll come back to taunt") and IMO that should not be the reason not to het involved. Not because the change of it haunting you, but because you simply dont want this kind of behaviour, i.e. a step more generic. – Martijn Apr 29 at 10:02
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    @SuperSecretAndHiddenFromWork - I think the issue with your approach is that by stating "I can't get involved" or "I don't want this to haunt me" you're implying that there are politics and you're well aware of them. That seems likely to make your situation even hotter, since now, the BD guy knows you know. To me, it seems better to plead ignorance about the politics and/or potential for conflict, and just direct the other person to "follow the rules" so to speak - send questions or requests for info through appropriate management, don't pester team members directly. – dwizum Apr 29 at 13:22
  • I agree that while this approach may have worked before in some circumstances, it is risky because as others are saying, it directly accuses BD of taking part in office politics, and in a toxic way, which could really backfire. For one thing, BD could accuse the employee of gossiping about BD. Best not to fan the flames of office politics if you can't also put them out. – bob Apr 29 at 19:03

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