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I started at my current company just two months ago. I'm a manager responsible for leading the whole functional area in a big market (let's say the whole Finance in China).

I'm reporting to, let's call him, Bob, who's responsible for the functional area at the international level.

I've had several meetings with Bob and asked plenty of questions about his vision and plans for the area.

However, it now becomes clear that Bob leads a "divide and conquer" tactic, not sharing information, even if asked about something directly. There were several topics that had big consequences for our team, about which I learnt from third parties, not directly from Bob. I also got some comments from people that Bob doesn't like sharing information.

The information I received from other people wasn't complete - they told me they didn't know more. However, they also asked me not to tell Bob that I know anything about what they mentioned to me since they are worried that he won't share info with them as a result. This was important information about projects he plans for my market or the headcount.

Given that just changing the job is not an option, what is the best way to handle this? My goal is to have as much information as possible to be able to work normally.

P.S. Our relationship is good, my first ideas were also well-received, so I don't think it's about me or him not liking me.

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  • Given that you're working only off hearsay I don't think we can give any substantial advice that doesn't amount to "discuss what you heard with him". How to have that discussion without "betraying" your sources might be a good central question but I'm not sure it's what you're after? – Lilienthal May 11 '20 at 13:58
  • @Lilienthal, it's not hearsay. When IT tells me your boss asked us to prepare for project A, which I haven't heard about - I don't think it can be considered "hearsay". – user5327547 May 11 '20 at 14:02
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    Perhaps a poor choice of words. The problem is that it's hard to act on incomplete information as I think you've realised given this question but that also makes it hard to provide any useful answers here. Your first step would be to talk to your boss to see why you're getting incomplete information and what you should do to work around that / address it. I imagine you haven't actually spoken to your boss about this yet? – Lilienthal May 11 '20 at 14:18
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    Did you immediately set up a discussion with "Bob" when you found this extra information out? Or are you feeding into the "he-said-she-said" narrative by not addressing it directly? they also asked me not to tell Bob that I know anything about [it] - This is the kind of nonsense that tears teams apart. You should actively work to put a stop to this behavior. Find out why. Push back on Bob for permitting it. – Joel Etherton May 11 '20 at 15:12
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    Assuming there's no legit reason for information asymmetry and this is a personality defect, it means Bob is an information hoarder. It happens a lot. These people have issues with insecurity or control. – teego1967 May 11 '20 at 18:09
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Given that just changing the job is not an option, what is the best way to handle this?

If it were me, I'd do the following:

  • Determine what I actually needed to know to get my job done, as distinct from what I preferred to know
  • Keep asking my boss how I can get the information I actually need
  • In the cases where my boss still didn't provide the information, I'd look for other sources (peers, other departments, etc)
  • If all that still failed, I'd make sure to note the information that was missing on each and every weekly report I sent to my manager.

And if the result was that things still came up that surprised me, then I wouldn't accept the blame. "Oh, really? Project A? I hadn't heard that. Boss, have you heard about this?" would be my response if asked.

In the end, you can only do your best (until you can find a new job as necessary). Sometimes you can be proactive, sometimes you just have to be reactive.

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