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An odd situation has been arising at work, specifically within the team I'm on, and I wanted to ask about it here to see if anyone's been in a similar situation.

People:

  • BigBoss - Team head
  • ExBoss - Self-explanatory
  • Sr - Senior dev
  • Sr2 - Other senior dev
  • PM - Current boss

Long story short, I was working under ExBoss for nearly a year. It was a pretty toxic relationship (e.g. there was condescension, depression about going into work, etc), but for the past 3 months I worked under Sr2---it was like night and day and we got along swimmingly. It seems that the rest of the team got the sense that ExBoss was being a dick and PM was made my manager instead.

I received a request from PM to revamp an existing project. Soon after, I received wind that ExBoss didn't want me to touch the project at all:

BigBoss: I think Bodrov should work on X.
Sr, Sr2, PM: Agreed.
(separate conversation):

Sr: (blah blah) Bodrov should work on X.
ExBoss: Absolutely not.

The Sr reported back to the rest of the team and they were pretty shocked that ExBoss was adamant about me not touching it, especially since they see it as a great learning opportunity.

The Sr dev then told me that the plan was for him to work on the project, but I'd really be the one making the changes. Either that, or the PM would take ownership so that ExBoss wouldn't have a say in it at all.


Could this backfire in a way that I least expect?

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  • 1
    What are you looking for us to answer this with? have we been in a similar situation can be answered with "yes" or "no" which don't seem helpful. Are you trying to achieve some specific outcome? Are you trying to get help making a decision? Can you refine your question in a way that makes it a little more answerable within the guidelines of the site tour?
    – dwizum
    Jan 27, 2020 at 21:29
  • 8
    What authority does ExBoss have in the matter? Looks like BigBoss has already made a decision and (important but not necessary) the senior people support it.
    – jcm
    Jan 28, 2020 at 0:28
  • I’m trying to understand the situation: 1. Is Ex-B against doing X in general, or just against you doing X? 2. What authority does Ex-B have?
    – Damila
    Jan 28, 2020 at 1:46
  • @Damila Ex-Boss is against me working on it. And in terms of authority, it's his original project.
    – Bodrov
    Jan 29, 2020 at 15:08
  • 1
    The chain of command is unclear. Who do you currently report to and what do they want you to do? Ex-bosses are entitled to their opinions, but they are ex-bosses. Feb 3, 2020 at 16:10

2 Answers 2

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Have any of you been in a similar situation? Essentially what they want to do is go behind my ExBoss's back...not that I care about that, but what I don't want is for this to potentially backfire.

As this person is not your boss or manager anymore, you should not do what they say, and instead carry on the tasks assigned by your current manager.

There is no "going behind my ExBoss's back" as that person is not your boss anymore.

This could backfire if you decide not to follow your actual boss's indications.

If ExBoss directly says to you not to work on something, politely redirect them to your PM, so they can process this request and take action on it.

-2

I have, and I'm firmly of the opinion that you should not go behind ExBoss's back, even if you don't report to that person anymore. Tackle it head-on by talking to BigBoss.

It doesn't matter where BigBoss and ExBoss are relative to you in the organization. The central issue is uncertainty about ExBoss's mandate. Whether it is malice, incompetence or a misunderstanding, ExBoss has directly countermanded a decision made by BigBoss. And this has created confusion. Given that your colleagues are suggesting workarounds, they either report to ExBoss directly, or ExBoss has a lot of influence.

Somebody (you, Sr or PM) needs to ask BigBoss to sort this out with ExBoss and to inform all parties (including ExBoss) of the decision they make, and who has what mandate.

If you (and Sr and PM) ignore this, you're trading a short-term solution for a long-term problem:

  1. The same thing will happen with different decisions.

  2. ExBoss will find out at some point. That will be fun.

  3. You'll be unable to communicate with stakeholders, for fear of ExBoss finding out.

  4. Sr is going to look really productive, you'll look really unproductive. Your team may understand, but the rest of the org may not.

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