There is conflict in my workplace that is much higher up than me. I am a receptionist/admin person in a small branch of a large organisation.
As a result of this situation, I have been given contradictory instructions by my manager, Bob, and Bob's manager, Alice. Specifically, Alice told me to do something, and Bob told me not to do it. They are both aware of this.
My instinct is to follow the instructions of my direct supervisor Bob. He is the person I work most closely with, and a relationship with whom my day-to-day work relies on. I would like to think that implementing Alice's will is a matter for Bob, not for me. It also happens to be the do-nothing path. A friend of mine who works in the corporate world suggested to me that without further context, they would follow Alice's instructions as she is higher up and has authority over Bob.
This question deals with something similar, except that there is a knowledge asymmetry in that situation and differing roles of owners/managers. The other answer suggests following the most recent instruction, but that would not work in my case (the situation hasn't changed, and whoever issues the most recent instruction will be a matter of chance. I also don't want to agree to the most recent instruction, only to then subsequently agree to a future contradictory one).
The stakes here are in fact comically low. It doesn't really matter which path I take in this situation, and both Alice and Bob are sympathetic to me being caught in the middle of this conflict. However, I am interested in whether there is a broad expectation here. In workplaces in general, whose instructions would I be expected to follow? I am new to offices and already this situation has come up today, and once in my previous job.
Cultural context is that I am Australian. For American answerers, culture is similar but workers have more rights and are more highly paid and unionised. For European answerers, culture is similar but workers have less rights and are less unionised. From reading answers on workplace SE, I think the workplace is less rigidly hierarchical than in South Asia or East Asia.