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Two months ago, I was hired as a project and team manager in a multinational consultancy company. I have about 8 years of work experience, but only 6 months as a project manager (I worked before in marketing, HR, and IT fields).

Before I arrived, there was: the team (about 15 people, the most senior was John), Ann, the project and team leader and Bill, the country division leader. The team reported to Ann and she reported to Bill.

During my hiring process, Ann was promoted to international division VP. So now the hierarchy is: team reporting to me, me reporting to Bill, and finally Bill reporting to Ann.

In my first days/weeks, I noticed something strange with the team: they tried to avoid my 1-to-1 meetings to introduce each other, they answered only with “yes” and “no”, usually ignored my emails, etc. In general, I felt like everyone avoided me.

I finally found out the reason after 3 weeks. I met John in person to ask why he had not yet answered my previous email, causing a delayed response to our client. John started a 20 minute ranting monologue in which he openly accused me of having stolen the role everybody expected was his own. They even had the party for his promotion (Ann was present at that party) and all the team members already referred to him as the project and team leader.

Summing up my current situation: the team members don’t speak with me after I reach them in person, they do not answer my email, if I make a decision they follow it only if John agrees, etc.

I tried to speak with Bill, but, using his own words “I am less than 2 years to retirement, I’m here only to wait to get to the pension”. He simply ignores my complaints and help requests. I reached Ann (with many difficulties) but she said she trusts John and I should do what John thinks is the best. She also added that John deserved the promotion and that putting me in her previous role was not very correct. In the last 2 weeks, I made 2 specific decisions for the project, John wrote an email to Ann (with all the team in CC) and she, less than 5 minutes after, without even waiting for my response, blatantly overturned my decisions.

Of course my control over the team is 0. Is there a minimum chance of improving the situation? Or am I unsalvageable and the only way is to look for a new job?

EDIT: I see many answers/comments asking if I want to stay or not. I prefer to stay, not because I think it would be difficult to find a new job, but to avoid having short jobs in the CV

EDIT 2: I was hired by Bill (during hiring process I met Bill and HR, I've never met Ann or John before my first day). However, papers for hiring were signed by the previous international division VP, upon Bill's request, I was told (this VP left the company before I started or in the same days I started and I've never met).

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Kilisi
    Aug 10 at 5:21
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    @MatthieuM. During hiring process I met HR and Bill. I never met nor Ann neither John before I started. As I wrote however, the papers were signed by the previous international division VP (never met), who left the company
    – Edwig
    Aug 10 at 8:01
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    I don't know if you have this concept wehre you are, but it sounds like constructive dismissal (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constructive_dismissal) to me: you are being forced to resign because of bullying. IMO you shouldn't worry about the shortness of the job as long as you can give a reasonable explanation for why it happened (preferably without sounding like you are whining).
    – j4nd3r53n
    Aug 10 at 8:09
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    We are missing something. You boss wanted the path of least resistance, but put you in charge, rather than the heir apparent. What's the real story here? Aug 10 at 14:07
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    Is there a specific reason you can't start firing people until these insubordinate toerags start to fall into line? If it's clear that you're not going to be loved, you can at least be feared.
    – Richard
    Aug 10 at 17:17

24 Answers 24

198

Whatever you do, keep the evidence of decisions made, changed and overturned, by who and when. Sure as eggs are eggs, they will try to blame you ehen there is an error. – Solar Mike 2 hours ago

...but a dismissal made by me can be overturned by Ann, a PIP imposed to John or a team member can be overturned by Ann, a disciplinary action against John or a team member can be overturned by Ann... – Edwig 2 hours ago

You need to leave.

You do not want to be in a position where you have to take responsibility for other people's decisions, especially when those people want you gone.

Your team has been given the green light to be insubordinate. John knows he can override all of your decisions. You have worse than zero support from above; your boss's boss is actively undermining you. Not even letting John act as the PM will fix this because then he'll just get resentful that he's doing the job of a PM without the pay or the title.

I'm sorry, but this is not salvageable. Get out as soon as possible.

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    It's possible they view the OP as someone to scapegoat and everyone (including the twit who hired him) is using the OP that way. Run away, don't walk.
    – StephenG
    Aug 10 at 3:52
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    The only choice. OPs rapport with the team is obviously shot and won't recover.
    – Magisch
    Aug 10 at 7:00
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    Definitely leave. Don't worry too much about your CV: it's ok once in a while to decide a job isn't for you, and your career prospects won't be improved after a year or 2 of this.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 10 at 12:06
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    @Edwig: And after you choose this as your answer, send an e-mail to Ann and her boss tendering your resignation immediately and without further explanation. Don't bother putting this job on your CV. Only inform people about it if you are legally required to do so. This job needs to be in your past about 5 minutes ago.
    – user57488
    Aug 10 at 17:37
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    You're allowed a few job hops on your resume, especially in these pandemicy times. If you can get out before your first quarter, you don't even need to have it on there. Conversely, you could leave by looking for a new team within the company. While HR isn't your friend, I think they can understand the mistake of hiring someone without having them interviewed by their potential team.
    – LeLetter
    Aug 10 at 21:06
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I disagree with the suggestion that you should try to take a hard and firm stance with your team over with this. If your manager and the International Division VP don't have your back before taking such an action (which they clearly don't), then it'll almost certainly backfire. At best, the team will just go over your head (again) and you'll once again get told to "listen to John". At worst, you'll be fired.

You need to arrange a meeting with Ann and Bill

The only way to resolve this is to arrange a meeting with Ann and Bill (and perhaps even someone from HR), and explain that the current situation is unsustainable. Since John and your team seemingly have the power to override any decision you make, and also just flat out ignore you, it's impossible for you to manage the team and its projects effectively.

One example of the negative consequences of this is that it's impossible for you to actually promise anything to your clients if John can just overrule you. You could agree to make a clients request a priority, only for John to turn around and say "We're not going to do this", which will just piss off the client. An angry client is a client likely to take their business elsewhere, which is almost certainly not something the company wants to happen. I'm sure you can come up with numerous other examples to support your case here.

Having John perform the duties of two jobs makes him a flight risk

I'm sure Ann will say that you should "Just listen to John", but the reality is that it's not John's job to manage the team, and it's not fair to expect John to do his job in addition to your job. That's the kind of situation that'll just lead to John quitting (since they won't be getting compensated properly for these extra duties), which I'm sure quitting is something he's already considering (I know I would be, in his situation). I doubt anyone wants John jumping ship, since it sounds like he's a key member of the team, so make sure you explain all of this to Ann and Bill as well.

Agree upon a solution with Ann and Bill

The three of you need to collectively come up with a solution to this issue. My suggestion would be to either ask them how they think the team should be run, or propose that John is promoted. A promotion for John could involve moving him to another team, or he could just be moved to a more senior position on your team (he could be made a "Senior Consultant" or maybe your role is split into "Project Manager" and "Team Manager", and John takes on the PM role). Whatever solution you come up with, it'll need to be something the three of you all agree on.

A job change may be the only solution

If the above fails, then I honestly don't see any solution aside from seeking work elsewhere. I would honestly be considering leaving anyway, since this workplace sounds really dysfunctional. Of course, saying "Find another job" is much easier said than done. Although if your skillset and local job market allows you to find another job without much trouble, then I'd strongly consider just riding things out while you hunt down another job.

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    This is the obvious answer to me. Ann is the key person in this dilemma,. If OP cannot resolve the issues with her, then he will have no chance to survive.
    – Chris
    Aug 10 at 11:57
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    This is worth a try but it probably won't work, so don't go into it with high expectations. If the company depends on John for technical reasons (and/or historical/friendship reasons) and John is sulking, then it will take a lot of effort from senior management to move him, and it already sounds like management don't care about their staff.
    – Stuart F
    Aug 10 at 12:14
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    @StuartF Since Ann is a VP, then I suspect she would actually have the power to promote John. Given her attitude towards the OP so far, then it does appear that she wants to try to fix things for John. That said, I do agree OP should go into this conversation not expecting it to go anywhere. Like I said in my closing paragraph (and has been echoed by others), this whole situation is a total mess. Best solution is to just jump ship, but that's much easier said than done.
    – Wipqozn
    Aug 10 at 12:35
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    There's another possibility here though: Anne may be working passive-aggressively to run off OP to right the "wrong" and make John the boss in place of OP. Those pieces definitely fit together. In which case going to Anne and Bill and making the case presented here in the best case accomplishes nothing, and in the worst case is seen as a perfect case for them firing OP and promoting John. In the latter case it's better for OP to simply quietly start looking for another job. I don't see a good reason to rock this boat in this way personally.
    – bob
    Aug 10 at 14:33
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    @bob OP definitely needs to prepare for that meeting. Stating that the team is dysfunctional might be used against you, whereas explaining how Bills and Anns behaviour interfere with his job to manage the team could be constructive. Obviously if Ann already decided to get rid of him, he won't have any chance anyway.
    – Chris
    Aug 10 at 19:15
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Not a good situation. So the problem was that John thought he has the job, but you have it, and he doesn't like it, and anyone on the level up doesn't want anything to do with it.

In principle, there are two possible solutions: You leave, or John stops playing up, either by leaving, by being thrown out, or by playing ball. If John posted a question, the answer would be totally different, since you asked, we need to avoid the "you leave" option.

Look back when your position was first advertised. That was the point where someone in the company who had the say knew that John wouldn't get the job. And it was way before you applied for the job, so none of this is your fault.

So get the team together. Tell them when your job was advertised. Tell them when you applied, and when you signed your contract. Tell them that whatever happened, you didn't "steal" anything from anyone so if they want to blame you, you won't accept it. Tell them that they should feel free to complain about the situation to anyone they like (Bill, Ann, or anyone above) but NOT to you.

And meanwhile, you tell them, there is a job to do. If anyone is not willing to do their job, they are free to leave. If anyone is not willing to do their job, and doesn't want to leave either, you are the boss, and everyone knows what the consequences are if they don't do their job.

This would be one of the few cases where you would use a PIP not to get rid of anyone (because you don't want that at all) but to get an actual improvement. That should be made very clear to that person, because 99% of the time a PIP is just a formality when a company wants to get rid of someone.

Meanwhile, you tell people what to do, next day you check if they have done it, check why they haven't done it, ask them if something is too difficult, or they don't want to do it, and if they say they are waiting for orders from John, you call John in, and tell both of them that orders come from you, and not from John.

Meanwhile make sure that anyone changing their behaviour will be just fine, that PIPs if they are necessary are removed without trace, and so on.

And then there is the problem Ann. What she is doing is totally inappropriate. In a normal company, someone two levels higher cannot override your decision. They can go to your manager (Bill) and tell him to convince you to change the decision, but she cannot change it without even asking you. You should have talked to her IMMEDIATELY when this happened. Tell her that what she does is totally inappropriate, that she is hurting the company by doing this without consulting you, and that you will make a formal complaint to HR about her.

You may lose the fight, but take it as practice which will serve you later.

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    That is good advice it if would work, but I sure doubt it will work. When your grand-boss is unprofessional and everyone supports her, chances of success are awfully low. Aug 9 at 15:38
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    Playing the bad cops can be a solution, but a dismissal made by me can be overturned by Ann, a PIP imposed to John or a team member can be overturned by Ann, a disciplinary action against John or a team member can be overturned by Ann. If one of these things happened, then I wouldn't have any chance to recover control, I fear
    – Edwig
    Aug 9 at 15:39
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    @Edwig This solution is worth a shot. It shows that you aren't gonna tolerate any of this schoolyard nonsense and that at the end of the day they can either suck it up or leave. It would also help to remind them that someone higher up obviously thought john wasn't suited for the role because if he was he would be in your position but as they can all see he isn't.
    – JMERICKS
    Aug 9 at 16:31
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    @thursdaysgeek They are low anyway, so OP as well can go on the offensive. The alternative is to try to get the team behind them by having a very frank and open discussion with the team rather than with the bosses with everything on the table rather than handing out PIPs, especially if the bosses are shirking responsibility. Newbies often have a hard time breaking into existing cliques, but if they can prove that they have leadership qualities, the team may grudgingly develop respect. Chance of success is not high, but it's not high in any of the options. Aug 9 at 17:02
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    If Ann is backing John and not OP, then OP going on the offensive is only likely to see OP get thrown out the door sooner rather than later as OP frustrates Ann. OP may have a legal case in that scenario to get some compensation, but in any case OP will be out of a job. OP should, at the very least, have some kind of exit strategy before trying to piss off his grand-boss in this way.
    – Ertai87
    Aug 9 at 17:22
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So here's a theory of the case in question (expanding on an insightful comment by @AndreasBlass):

  • Initially the hierarchy was old VP > Bill > Ann > John.
  • Old VP queued up to depart; maybe willingly or forced out.
  • Likely Bill assumed he'd move up to the VP role above him.
  • Instead, surprisingly, Ann leapfrogged Bill into the VP role, his former underling becoming his boss. Ouch!
  • Bill sees his career is finished at this company, and mentally checks out. But not before he responds exactly in kind, kicking Ann's buddy John in the face, denying him an identical expected promotion, and hiring OP in his place. In effect, Bill decides to sabotage the entire operation as his last functional act.
  • Possibly old VP also had some grievance related to their departure (maybe pushed out to make way for Ann?), and assisted Bill in torpedoing the team as their last act.
  • OP thus sits as the unwitting wrecking-ball swung in to demolish the entire operation and piss off everyone else, by Bill & old VP.

Some aspects this theory highlights: (a) Bill's motivation is specifically to keep the team as dysfunctional as possible. (b) Ann & Bill are now mortal enemies, and will never agree on anything, up to and including having a meeting together. (c) If a change to the position requires both the VP & Bill's acceptance (as per the OP's hiring process), then OP is pretty much screwed. (d) The only person in the picture who has the interest & power at potentially resolving anything here is Ann.

What are the possible resolutions for OP? I'm not an expert at that kind of baroque political situation, but consider these options:

  1. Just throw in the towel and leave; it will probably be emotionally, mentally, and physically damaging trying to continue on this track.
  2. Follow Bill's lead and just coast for a while, letting the team self-organize and John effectively do their job. Look for new job at the desired pace.
  3. Contact Ann and say, in effect, "I can see that this was a mistake. What can I do to help you resolve it?" Be ready to negotiate a change in position or a severance for leaving (at which point maybe Ann can fill the position to taste, whereas she couldn't one day before old VP left and OP arrived).
  4. Start kicking up such a stinkfest with PIPs, firing notices to John & other staff members, formal complaints to HR, etc., that Ann or someone else is forced to come negotiate similarly with OP. Personally I have no idea how that has a positive endgame.
  5. Go nuclear and get a lawyer to file a constructive dismissal suit, as other answers have suggested. I know nothing about that, but might be instructive -- or alternatively damaging to the young career.
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  • The only comment I can add: I honestly think that Bill is completley passive in all the situation. I see no malevolent will on his part and no machinations. For the little I have known him, I believe that he does not really care about anything
    – Edwig
    Aug 10 at 16:23
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    @Edwig: With respect, that's contradicted by going way out of his way to run a hiring process and squash the heir-apparent John's promotion to the position. I think he's playing you masterfully well. His pretending disinterest when he initiated the whole blow-up is exactly what he should do to keep things confused and broken. Aug 10 at 16:56
  • Yes, I'd echo that there are rarely any true "mysteries"... so a prosaic explanation that most simply fits the observables is probably correct. Aug 10 at 21:19
  • This is not a political thriller, folks - the genesis of the crux is immaterial. It's a young PM's career on the line as a result of him being used as a patsy in a dysfunctional organization. Despite OP having little enough experience in PM roles, he has to have control where he is given the legal responsibility: client problems can and will be deemed his fault. The global management will only accept its responsibilities here if they are compelled legally and reputationally to do so. So option #5 is the only viable one for OP. And he has to start a.s.a.p.
    – Trunk
    Aug 11 at 1:34
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    @Trunk: I disagree. Other answers have e.g. suggested a meeting with Bill, but if Bill is the instigating saboteur, then OP needs to realize that's counter-productive. I put the "go nuclear" option that you favor last because I think it's equally likely to destroy OP's career. I'm glad we both wrote separate answers for community voting purposes. Aug 11 at 2:42
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This situation can happen, and it sucks. The most common "solution" is: You quit. If people with sufficient political capital want you gone, it's a very uphill battle to work against.

You have several alternatives to quitting:

Play along. Leave all important decisions to John, and surf reddit all day. If Bill really doesn't care, you can play this till his retirement. Or ask John for tasks he would find helpful if you do. This might lead to a role reversal in effect (you do his tasks, he does your tasks). Or just do something for show, so if somebody starts investigating, you can prove you did something. Obviously, not the best move longterm. But this might buy you time while you search a new job.

Speak to everyone on the team 1 on 1, and try to convince them that they need to help you for the benefit of the company. If they are suffciently loyal to John, they will block you no matter if it's benefical for the whole or not.

Talk to Bill again, spin a story where him not helping you is worse for him than helping you. Depending on circumstances, this might be very though.

Speak to Ann again, convince her that you need help in order to perform your job, and it's bad for the company if you get paid for doing nothing. This might lead to you getting fired.

Go higher in the food chain, and speak to somebody with the power to change things. This might in several ways: You getting terminated and John getting promoted. John getting reprimanded and you doing your role. You getting transfered. A lot of people getting reprimanded and you getting terminated anyway. This is propably your best bet apart from quitting, but it's also a total wildcard.

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    Let john do my job is possible but I would feel useless. The team is loyal to John (and Ann), I already know. I can try to speak with Bill again with very very few possibilities of success. Ann is more or less unreacheable to me : I spent 2 weeks trying to talk with her, whereas John's emails recevived a resposne in less than 5 minutes. I've not investigated yet who is up in the food chain, there should be an international division president/chief/leader
    – Edwig
    Aug 9 at 15:33
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    The question was if you are unsaveable and you have to quit? I tried to answer that. I totaly agree, most of the alternatives are bad. Imo, either go up the food chain, or try gnashers advice. Or combine those 2.
    – Benjamin
    Aug 9 at 15:37
  • I appreciated your answer! I was just pointing out my doubts
    – Edwig
    Aug 9 at 15:41
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    The problem with OP trading jobs with John is that OP may not be trained in John's responsibilities. OP says he is a project manager, which presumably means that John is a producer in the company. Those 2 positions often require drastically different skillsets; I wouldn't want someone trained as a project manager to be the one responsible for putting together the girders in an office building, for example.
    – Ertai87
    Aug 9 at 17:25
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    "This might in several ways" you accidentally the whole thing (left out the verb)
    – stannius
    Aug 10 at 17:28
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The OP's comment "I was hired by Bill" is misunderstanding the situation. Bill didn't start "counting the days to retirement" only yesterday, Quite likely the senior management were perfectly well aware of what he was doing, but the cheapest option was just to give him a nice office to sit in and wait for the problem to solve itself in a couple of years. Maybe getting him out of the loop by promoting him to "VP in charge of counting paperclips" would have been too disruptive for some reason the OP (and we) don't know about.

Bill's signature might be on the hiring paperwork, but IMO he was just taking the line of least resistance to what somebody else wanted.

So the key question to understand this is "who did hire the OP". It doesn't seem likely it was either Ann or John.

Of the people we know about, that leaves "the previous international VP who has now left the company." We don't know what his/her motives might have been (possibly, the objective was to throw both Ann and John under a bus!) or why he moved to a new job - was that already planned (and hiring the OP was actually an act of malice against the company to settle some personal vendetta) or that something unplanned and unexpected happened.

If the OP can't discover the real politics behind being hired, the most realistic option is find another job and leave the other ants in the anthill to sort things out among themselves.

And even if the OP does discover the "true story", if it does involve the "VP who is no longer an employee" there might not be any rational solution - though finding out if the VP's new employer is hiring people might be an interesting piece of information to have.

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  • I'm pretty sure that my hiring is somehow connected to the previous VP that left the company, but I am not able to find the true story (previous VP is not here, Ann is unreacheable to me, Bill simply ignores my requests)
    – Edwig
    Aug 10 at 5:53
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    You've got social networking. You can find that former VP and reach out. If it's an 'evil master plan' they love to talk.
    – J.Hirsch
    Aug 10 at 15:08
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    @Edwig I'd bet that John has some idea what went on, and will be willing to talk (probably quite angrily) about it. I doubt they're so naïve as to think you stole their job purely out of your own initiative. They've almost certainly done some digging into who stabbed them in the back and why. Although the most you stand to get out of this is interesting information - I doubt it helps you. If you are thinking of leaving, it might be an easier conversation to have after you've handed your notice in.
    – James_pic
    Aug 10 at 18:40
  • This "story" is tangential. OP has a real client with a real time limit to provide services up to that client's expectation. OP needs advice on how to restore proper order and control - or else how to extricate himself from that organization with no loss of career prospects.
    – Trunk
    Aug 11 at 1:43
  • Bill had the means, motive, and opportunity. He'd be aggrieved at being leapfrogged for a promotion by Ann. He could hire someone to screw John, with old VP's help. Indeed he did hire OP, in that he both ran the interview and has his signature on the hiring papers. IMO all signs point to Bill as the true hiring agent, for malicious purposes. Aug 11 at 15:49
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Since the situation is desperate, I would propose an unorthodox approach. Of course this is assuming that you want to stay with this company.

Everybody agrees that John deserves your job, so do everything you can so that John is promoted to a level which gives him some responsibility and recognition. Apparently he's already doing the job anyway, so it's a matter of giving him a title and a raise if possible. If you have to fight for it with upper management that's even better, it could help to get you accepted on John's and the team side. You need to work out the details of John's role and yours, for example John could be in charge of technical decisions and you would keep general management. I would imagine that it's up to you, given that Bill doesn't care and Ann would probably prefer any peaceful arrangement rather than having to micro-manage the team and deal with internal conflicts.

Assuming that this works out, hopefully reasonable team members should realize that you're doing your best to solve the problem and they should start treating you normally and respectfully. They can perfectly be loyal to John without turning you into a scapegoat for somebody else's decision. In case your efforts don't convince some of them, it's important to make it clear that you're not going to accept non-professional behaviour. For example it should be clear that somebody who doesn't answer their boss' emails is not going to get a good evaluation at the end of the year.

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    Other than quit, this is by far the best advice. Make it work, by getting John on board. Management isn't something you do by fiat, if you're good at it - it's something you do by getting everyone's buy in.
    – Joe
    Aug 10 at 16:36
  • Given that OP has already tried to "have it out" with John and John just regressed to childish resentment about his non-promotion, I think OP's prospects of getting him aboard are little to nil. Any attempt to indulge John will only condition him to display more narcissistic conduct in future.
    – Trunk
    Aug 11 at 1:39
  • @Trunk this strategy doesn't necessarily need to convince John. Of course it's better if it does, but if it doesn't then the rest of the team will probably start rethinking their support to him: they will see OP make a nice gesture by offering John a really good compromise, so they will face the choice of following a man who keeps acting like an irrational selfish brat (not exactly the kind of person one wants as a leader btw), or side with the reasonable boss who's trying to make things work. The key is for OP not to appear as the enemy anymore in the eyes of the team.
    – Erwan
    Aug 11 at 9:44
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Talk to Ann's boss.

The solution that I would take is to email Ann's boss and ask for a meeting. Explain how Ann is undermining your ability to manage your team, and ask them if they would be willing to arrange a meeting to discuss it. If they respond positively, then go to the meeting and lay out the facts (not opinions or interpretations), and explain how it hurts the business (you getting paid to do nothing, John having to do two jobs at the same time, the increased risk of John jumping ship, etc).

Obviously, immediately escalating things has its own risks, but it seems like you've already tried working with your immediate superiors to no effect.

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  • I'm still trying to find who Ann's boss his. Even the role/position is not clear to me: there shoud be a international division president/chief/leader or something similar
    – Edwig
    Aug 10 at 7:47
  • Well, you could consider asking Bill or Ann. You're new there, and still figuring out hierarchies and things. It's possible that it might be somebody in the C suite.
    – nick012000
    Aug 10 at 8:07
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    @Edwig you need to find out who she reports to and resolve any issues with her to have any chance of success. She jumped two levels so must have some political power. To get your team on board, it needs to be clear that Ann backs your decisions 100% and that taking issues to her will not change what you have implemented. Also that it is inappropriate for her to manage these issues directly with your team in the VP role that she now occupies. She is key to resolving these issues. Once that is seen and observed by everyone, your team will realise they have to work with you and not against you Aug 10 at 8:20
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    This is most unlikely to work. Whoever is Ann's boss most likely appointed Ann and would be likely to take her part. Besides, if Ann is deemed wrong in her conduct - then what is to be made of the person who promoted Ann to an international VP position ? It says that Ann's boss is a dud at judging people too. You expect Ann's boss to commit career hari-kiri ?
    – Trunk
    Aug 11 at 1:21
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    This isn't about whether she's qualified for the position, @Trunk, as much as it is that she doesn't seem to be acting appropriately for it; in particular, she still seems to be operating with a small-group-leader mentality, with a goal of using her new position to aid "her team". This is understandable for such a drastic increase, and a firm talking-to and explanation of the situation (and particularly, why John was passed over in favour of hiring someone new) from a higher-up may be just the thing to help Ann put her focus on the company as a whole. ...Or not, it's hard to say. Aug 12 at 20:26
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You should not choose to stay in situations where you have little chance of making any progress toward accomplishing your goals. So, the first question is “What did you want from this job when you accepted it? and the second question is “Can you get that given the current reality?” We can’t answer those questions for you.

If you’re just looking for a paycheck, your choices are different than if you’re looking to have meaningful management experience for your resume or for fulfilling work on a great team. If this job is important to getting what you want for yourself and it would be difficult to find a different job that could provide the same thing, then it might be worth the effort to fix things. If this job isn’t that special, then don’t waste your time and energy on it; find a better job where you have a better chance of your hard work being valued without having to fight just to get people to respond to your emails.

Sometimes leaving a job is the best thing for everyone involved, including oneself. Sometimes a job is worth fighting for. It’s difficult for people who don’t know what you want, or how much impact the stress of the situation is having on you to tell you whether you should stay or go. If an entire team of people want you to quit, and you have no allies in the company at all, that’s very difficult to overcome.

1
  • 1
    All true, ColleenV. But OP's next would-be employer will want to know from his current employer if there were any failings behind OP's decision to leave them. Now, consultancies are very reputation conscious: they will hardly admit that their workplace was a madhouse and OP was dead right to dive out the door, will they ? They will phrase it in a way that apportions an unsuitability by OP for the job. After that, what are OP's chances of getting the new job ?
    – Trunk
    Aug 11 at 1:15
6

I finally found out the reason after 3 weeks.

Learn from this experience.

The next time you get offered a job, ask to interview your subordinates (without a manager/director present). And prepare a good list of probing questions to ask.

not because I think it would be difficult to find a new job, but to avoid having short jobs in the CV

That ship has already sailed.

Quit now, or get eventually fired a few months from now. Either way, you'll have a short job on your CV and no one will want to give you an honest positive reference. Except, the situation will be worse, because you will have been fired by then.

You need to move on to a new job now. There is really no other good choice.

6

Reading all your comments in the existing answers, in addition to your edits: I see no useful solution except for you to leave. Normally I am of the mindset that most situations can be fixed, but not this one.

Most importantly: there is no reason for you to invest heavily into fixing it. You have no ties to the company or any of the people. You are clearly not at fault. Unless the salary is orders of magnitude over what you can expect elsewhere it seems like there simply is no reason for you to be there. Most importantly, you will be bored and frustrated, which is worth no money whatsoever.

Also, in my book, if you are the one to quit after 2 months, instead of the other way around, that seems not to be a problem for your CV (assuming this is not a repeating pattern in your past). You can explain this later easily: "The circumstances in the company were not as agreed beforehand, and after futile discussion with all parties involved, I decided to go my separate way." You do not, and should not go into details, in your upcoming job interviews - not ratting out their internal problems is simple professionalism.

5

Here's my question: Who was the hiring manager who hired you? Companies don't just hire people for no reason; some manager has to ask HR to hire someone in order to get HR to kick off the recruiting process. So, some manager asked HR to post a position, which you applied to and got accepted for. Who was that manager?

The first thing to do is to find out who that hiring manager was. It seems to not be Ann, because according to Ann, she thought John was getting the job. Maybe this person is Bill, or maybe it's someone else.

The problem seems to be that a hiring manager posted a position, a person was hired for the position, that person is trying to do the job of their position, but the position never actually existed in the first place. Simply speaking, you were hired under false pretences. IANAL, but there is probably a law against this somewhere, and you may want to speak to a lawyer to see if this meets some legal standard. Before you speak to a lawyer, though, find out who that hiring manager was and see if they can do anything about the situation (I'm assuming the hiring manager was Bill and hence you have already done that due diligence).

Now, the issue is not that you aren't doing anything or that you have complaints, or that people are shoving you out the door. Technically, you don't have to leave, at least not right now; Bill isn't doing anything, your team won't complain about you doing nothing, nobody is really checking on you. Meanwhile John is doing your job, so it's not like the work is not getting done. In theory, you can simply coast, and as someone else has said, surf Reddit all day or play games on your phone and get paid for it. There are worse places to be.

The problem is, eventually someone will ask a question, and they are not going to like the answer, and you're going to find yourself in hot water. Maybe it will be in quarterly results, maybe it will be at an annual meeting, maybe you can coast as long as Bill is there and will cover for you (or at least not do anything about terminating you since he doesn't care). The problem is, even in the best case, you're probably only going to be able to coast until Bill is gone, which he said is going to be in a year or 2. So you're going to have a job for a year or 2 in which you have done literally nothing that you're going to have to answer for in an interview when whoever replaces Bill inevitably asks you a single difficult question and you're unable to justify your salary.

So the best course of action is to find your way out of this company ASAP; you're clearly neither needed nor wanted, neither by those under you nor by those above you. You were hired under false pretences, you should get out of there and find a real job. And, in the meantime, you may want to talk to a lawyer and see if you can get some kind of settlement from this company for the trouble.

9
  • 1
    I feel like questions should be posed as comments to the question, not in answers. In this case, it's already been answered by first comment from OP: "I was hired by Bill" (etc.) Aug 9 at 22:25
  • 1
    @DanielR.Collins I confirm: during hiring process I met HR and Bill. I never met nor Ann neither John before I started. As I wrote however, the papers were signed by the previous international division VP (never met)
    – Edwig
    Aug 10 at 6:49
  • The situation could be busted open in a day if a client is annoyed with work done or poor communication on things that are very pressing to the client. This would suit John, Bill, Ann, etc as you are holding the baby as PM. So scout around for a latter-day Sam Horovitz . . .
    – Trunk
    Aug 10 at 15:24
  • @DanielR.Collins It's called a rhetorical question, to show OP what question he should start asking to solve his problem.
    – Ertai87
    Aug 10 at 15:40
  • 1
    They might not care if he's coasting but if a major project fails or a bunch of projects fail, I'm guessing that OP will be blamed instead of John because suddenly John will claim he's just an unimportant worker bee and not messing with schedules/priorities/decision making. In fact, John & friends could intentionally make something fail.
    – HenryM
    Aug 10 at 17:30
4

You're caught in the middle of a nasty office politics war

If I understand the situation correctly, this boils down to: Bill made a hiring decision that Anne and everyone else hated, and right after his hiring you the office hierarchy shifted so that he cannot directly protect or support you (Anne is over both of you now), and he's unwilling to spend any "political" capital trying to do so indirectly, as he's nearing retirement and doesn't want to rock the boat for himself. So basically, this isn't really about you at all--you're just the unfortunate soul who got stuck in the middle of a passive-aggressive war between Anne and Bill. Personally I'd try to extricate myself from this situation ASAP. Can you transfer to another part of the company? Otherwise I'd start interviewing now. This situation is really messed up.

1
  • 1
    Bill made a hiring decision against the preference of Ann but also made it in the light of (1) Bill's own assessment of John's promotability based on his knowing John for years and global management's expectations of PM's capabilities and his character (e.g. the rant); and (2) the knowledge that Ann was going to become international div VP - a role above Bill. Where a lazy manager wants to be seen as responsible but not so much as to create a confrontation with an unpromoted colleague, he will often approve a weak appointee who is likely to defer to the "experience" of the unpromoted one.
    – Trunk
    Aug 11 at 0:21
4

Many answers here focus on speculation on why/how you got appointed in the first place. But as curious as this may be it is 100% irrelevant to favorably resolving your situation.

The company hired you - whoever signed off on it.

Now the same company's senior local management is trying to remove you in an unfair and stressful way.

Go to a good employment lawyer. After he/she hears you out, I expect that they'll say that you have a good case for constructive dismissal against your employer. And they may well recommend immediately stopping work and notifying your employer (in your case, the HR department of the multinational consultancy's HQ in your country) of your intention to take an action within days if this matter is not satisfactorily sorted out. Maybe you might also send a copy of your letter to the HR department of the global HQ of the consultancy - your lawyer will advise on this.

Then it's a matter of sitting it out over the next few days - not idly, perhaps looking for another job. If your employer doesn't come up with a resolution for the crux that is convincingly viable, e.g. Bill 'retired' via a pension top-up, John moved out of the consultancy, Ann kept permanently away from directly influencing your decisions on protest from subordinates and a global management person assigned to supervise the transition, then the legal action must proceed.

The biggest allies you have here are your company's local clients. The very notion (through publication of your suit) that their consultants could be in such a ridiculous state should be the drum-beat for a mass defection to rival consultancies. The company's global management know this only too well. But there will still be efforts by them to negotiate a solution so as to minimize the cost of fixing the mess.

How you negotiate is up to you. Your intro suggests that you are relatively young in your career. It may well be that you might find it less arduous to settle for a no-fault reference on your time with this company plus some inconvenience compensation and move on elsewhere if the best reorganization offered is not acceptable to you. Your employer will then no doubt be in a mind to properly discipline John, Bill and Ann for creating the mess.

But I see no acceptable solution emerging from talking to local team members - it looks like they reckon that they "have got you" and you've got to bear it. And unless you get to a lawyer, that really is pretty much the case.

EDIT

The only thing that might derail your case somewhat would be if an objective assessment of your qualifications and experience for a project management position in such a consultancy, and with such clients as they customarily have, were so slight that even you yourself should have been suspicious as to the motives of the company in appointing you.

Were you plainly under-qualified for the role given to you, then anyone could see why John (assuming he is properly qualified and suitably experienced) would be resentful - and indeed why Ann would be supportive of him.

It would be helpful for respondents here - and indeed any employment lawyer to whom you turn - if you would provide a clear self-assessment of this aspect.

2

Since an option for you is to leave, you may consider doing something strong to see if it rights the ship. After all upper management put you there and you're the one in a difficult position.

It is likely that firing John will put people in line.

Sometimes it provides a necessary reset. People are very happy to go tribal until they see that their job is on the line. Usually, when you fire the ring leader, people are brought back to reality and you get a moment of calm.

At that moment, you will have exactly one chance to prove that you can be a good leader. People will know you mean business so you'll have their ear, but all eyes will be on your for a little while.

Since you're now the manager, there is a good chance HR and upper management could side with you. Not respecting you is also not respecting upper management's decision to put you there in the first play and everyone in that hierarchy may have something to win (but John) by doing this.

I've had situations where I could see issues growing and firing the ring leader has a surprisingly powerful calming effect. HR is there to protect the company, and if John is organizing the resistance, he'll be gone very quickly. The project is in the state it is right now anyways, and you could be leaving, so there is not much to lose in this situation.

3
  • 2
    OP has clearly indicated that a decision like this would be blocked by Bill and/or Ann - both of whom outrank OP. What's more, a move like this might reinforce the bad impression Bill, John and Ann are creating about OP - which would only hasten a formal complaint about OP.
    – Trunk
    Aug 10 at 23:57
  • @Trunk exactly. I can fire John. 2 minutes later Ann will overturn my decision (and probably fire me)
    – Edwig
    Aug 11 at 6:52
  • These situations are like politics, you need to enlist the powerful people to your side. At a certain company size, management become politics.
    – Thomas
    Aug 11 at 10:10
2

I've had this same issue; this is how I resolved it. I emailed the team including those above me outlining the company hierarchy, and that I'm here to work with the team but any attempt to jump me or go around me will be met with a warning and then a HR incident report. While I believe in cross information flow, decisions for projects of those below me stop at my office. I am a leader, not pleaser. I did not steal my position I earned it. If you do not like it you can "Earn a Termination".

I will say we lost 1 "key" member, but they are gone and forgotten, My team works hard and earns large bonus now. Morale is at an all-time high.

2
  • I think you must have also CCed the manager above your Ann in your organization - otherwise your Ann would have crushed you. If the manager above your Ann was also rotten, you'd be the person chucked out. Having a lawyer's input is vital for OP as I feel the overall company is a bit rotten and OP's chances of swinging it with senior global management are slim on his own.
    – Trunk
    Aug 11 at 0:39
  • Yes, you would be correct, Ann is a member of the team.
    – Bradley
    Aug 11 at 13:08
1

This is the most incredible opportunity. Lots of teams strive to become self-organising. You have that mentality already baked in to this team. Do you know how rare it is to actually achieve that goal in a large burracratic company? You play that card for all its worth and you pat yourself on the back.

Meanwhile remember you don't work for yourself. Your boss is Bill. You work for Bill. Ask yourself what Bill wants?

This a high functioning team. Bill told you "If it ain't broke don't try to fix it".

Maybe Bill needs some help entertaining clients with a round of golf. Maybe Bill has access to expenses/budget that you don't. You've been very dismissive of Bill so far and you should address that.

Your team will be happiest self-organising, and if they decide later that actually they did want you to take a more active role in the team they are free to raise that issue with yourself or Bill.

6
  • 4
    What does Bill do all day? You should align yourself with that. John is allowed to be petty and he can have your job. But only once you get Bill's job.
    – Swesus
    Aug 10 at 10:24
  • 2
    Maybe Bill needs some help entertaining clients with a round of golf. Maybe Bill has access to expenses/budget that you don't. Maybe Bill needs a kick in the ass out the gate.
    – Trunk
    Aug 10 at 13:47
  • 1
    But OP didn't say anything about Agile. And this isn't really a self-organizing team; it's everyone undercutting OP's authority: their peers, their boss (passively), and their boss' boss (actively). And Bill didn't tell OP "if it ain't broke don't try to fix it"; Bill communicated a lack of desire to help, while Bill's boss is communicating strong direction to OP. So I'm not seeing how this answer helps OP.
    – bob
    Aug 10 at 16:41
  • 1
    @bob and Trunk... that's a lot of glass half empty thinking. It doesn't have to be so negative. There are alternatives to people loosing their jobs.
    – Swesus
    Aug 10 at 16:49
  • 1
    IMO all signs point to Bill being the malicious instigator here, and if OP tries to cozy up up to Bill it just results in more frustration and backstabbing opportunities. Aug 11 at 15:54
1

You are between a rock and a hard place. If you really want to fight the uphill battle of properly fixing this situation, you are in for quite a journey. You risk a lot, but if this turns out to be good, you'll have a reputation and quite a story to tell.

From what you described, Ann, John and the team are the active parts of the equation, and from the good answer by Daniel R. Collins, it might happen that Bill is the black sheep in the story.

There is one argument left out of the equation in the current answers: even if you leave, due to the political nature of the situation, I think your backfill will come from outside of the company again. "Scapegoat 2.0" if you will. If you leave the company - one way or another - Bill could label John as the reason for you quitting, marking him unfit for leadership...

This argument can be used to sway the situation with John and the team, making it possible to follow the answer from Erwan, e.g. to set John up for promotion, which could turn John and the team around: from culprit, you can make it to be the key to get John promoted, and from enemy, you can turn to be on their side. I'd expect this might help with Ann's support too (at least, attendance on John's promotion party seems to confirm this). And this would inherently lead to saving the client too.

The key is to have an honest, mature discussion with John, clarifying your motives and plan. Not sure how well that would go though. Probably with the argument that if you leave, possibly someone worse will come...

  • If you manage to accomplish this and get John promoted, this would give you a reputation among the team and John (and possibly Ann, or even higher up), which could help you in your future career - you never know who remembers and recommends you. And also, at that point, you can leave the company with a straight face - you might even get a leaving party of some kind...

  • If you fail, but your efforts are recognized, that leaves you with people who are not actively hostile towards you - I think still better than a bunch of people who is mad at you and remembers your name.

  • If you just leave: you are now a thief and a coward in the eyes of the team and John, and Ann isn't positive about you either. I consider this one of the worse endings.

Good luck!

2
  • 1
    Even if Bill lables John as the reason for me leaving and decides to not promote John, Ann can easily overturn his decision and promote John anyway. Having an honest and primarily mature discussion with John is very difficult, given the circumstances
    – Edwig
    Aug 12 at 6:56
  • This is not an option. Ann's deference to John over a period of years has made John incapable of working under normal management supervision and childishly assertive of his 'right' to carry on like that. Christ, how can you even think of promoting John after what he's been doing ? It isn't just the absence of PM skills, it's the character issue above all that should exclude him from management. From what I read, John probably shouldn't even be senior developer due to his professional immaturity. I'd hate to be in a coding team with him.
    – Trunk
    Aug 12 at 10:05
1

I have worked as a team lead for a few years now and also have also been a project manager. I have faced similar situations before. This is quite common and it happens when a team lead has bonded with a team and then a project manager comes on top of them. No doubt this is a very ugly situation but this is a part of office politics. I think the reason why this happens is because in IT, project management is not defined very well. Project manager does the exact same thing that a team lead does (e.g scrum meetings, timelines, product owner) apart from coding and therefore the project manager does not receive the kind of respect that a team lead gets from the team, especially if he is really good at his job.

If you are willing to leave in case the team doesn't wants u there, then u should have a chat with the whole team including john and tell them about the whole situation. Also tell them that you are willing to leave if that would improve their situation.

Also being a project manager you should try to convey Johns accomplishments to the HR, so he can get a raise. Also you should have a separate discussion with John, telling him that he can never do the things that you do. So you both can work together side by side without stepping on each other's toes.

Some basic advice for team building: You should always try to have a good relationship with your team mates, even if it needs you to go out of the way for them.

  1. Always highlight your team and their achievements. Even if you have worked on something alone, credit it to the whole team.
  2. No matter how big the mistake is. A genuine mistake is a mistake. Be careful about confront members with their mistakes, and dont overdo it. The team does not need to fear you in order to follow you.
  3. The team should be more comfortable in talking to you then their own collegues.
1

Right now, you appear to be John's enemy, and your boss's boss is John's ally.

But you and John don't have to be enemies.

Fundamentally, a primary part of any Job is to make the people you work for lives better.

Before your hire, the chain of command was:

Team > John > Ann > Bob > Old VP

now it is

Team > John > Edwig > Bob > Ann

and you where hired by (Bob + Old VP). Bob even requested the the old VP sign off on the hiring.

So people with authority over you, and probably hiring/firing authority over your position, think your job should be Johns.

Work with them.

Talk with Ann about the fact she thinks your job should be John's. Work out how you can make that happen. This makes your Boss's Boss's life better by fullfilling their needs in a way that quite probably aligns with the entire business's needs.

As noted, you think you can find another job if needed, and a glowing endorsement by Ann would more than make up for a job hopping situation. Even if someone wants details, the details here aren't very salacious.

Work to get John your job. Maybe the smoothest way is you finding another job and John getting promoted. Maybe the smoothest way is you getting a lateral transfer. Maybe the smoothest way is to work with Bob to understand his job, and transition into it.

Reach out to Ann, and ask to have a meeting about correcting the injustice of John not getting the promotion. This is something Ann wants, and you can be part of the solution instead of trying to fight against someone with far more ammunition than you.

I mean, probably the worst possible case is that Ann asks you to quit to open up the slot, you say "no problem, I'll start applying for jobs; can I use you as a reference?", and you start applying for jobs.

Trying to undermine John or overthrow or go over Ann's head isn't likely to work, and will result in a far messier situation than that.

And it is plausible the easiest way to fix the injustice is to find an internal transfer to another appropriate job, or maybe create a box attached to Bill where you assist/shadow him and position yourself to move into his job when he retires.

Or maybe positioning John to take Bill's job is the right solution, and you slide back into the job you where hired for.

Your duty is to yourself. But, as an employee, your job is to solve problems for your company. Right now, the biggest problem appears to be that you need to fix the fact you where hired into the job you are in, and you are in a great place to help fix that.

So keeping in mind your duty to yourself, work on helping the company.

0

Depends if you want to stay at this place.

Depending on size of your employer there may be several options you can utilize.

It will be a struggle though, may end up with you leaving, but in the case of the hostile environment you got from the start, that may be an ending any way.

As a general rule - document everything

Find support from the person who hired you, or someone higher than Ann in order to enforce your decisions.

Do your job at your position, and escalate any instance where you are overruled without a consultation.

Big question is - do you want to stay?

0
-1

Register all of this behaviour

Register all of this behaviour (from the dev team to Ann). Get very clear evidence; exaggerated delays on answering your mails, ignoring your calls, overriding your decisions... When the time comes (someone questions your position in the company), present all of this to higher level company staff and HR (maybe even your lawyer or syndicate if you have one) as a complaint and proof of what you had to endure.

On a personal level I would really try to talk 1 on 1 again with the team and john and sincerely explain them that their behaviour is really affecting you as a person. Tell them that you even asked for advice in this forum, that your hiring wasn't a machiavellian move on your part. You were simply hired to a role that was advertised. If anything ask why the previous VP didn't promote John and instead urged HR to hire someone new. If you can't reach them with this reasoning it's most likely they're shitty people and really deserve some bad karma, and in that case, I would flood them with loads and loads of work, being as mean as possible (respecting reasonable limits), but detaching the good mood and empathy from your interactions.

If you can figure out who Ann reports to, you could also explain to them what is going on. This measure would put you in a bad position, but their behaviour is unacceptable and very childish, it's a company where grown-ups make a living not a kindergarten class where someone gets mad when their favourite toy gets used by another kid.

Best of luck to you mate.

4
  • 1
    Tell them that you even asked for advice in this forum . . . This is really silly advice. It's weak to the point of being pathetic and totally futile with hard-nosed people. You don't stop narcissistic people hurting you unless you show them they'll be badly hurt by you.
    – Trunk
    Aug 11 at 0:43
  • @Trunk They indeed seem to keep up some fantasy, which does not match the given reality... Jon may be their cult leader and one cannot just replace the leader of a cult, unless effectively sending him into exile (this seems to be an ingroup vs. outgroup situation). Aug 11 at 3:44
  • I wouldn't recommend bringing up asking for advice here. But, having 1 on 1's with staff members can be a good way to address the issue, or a team meeting, so long as the behavior is presented in a more neutral manner as unproductive, with specific examples available if asked. I'd only recommend this if you're willing to accept a slight risk to your employment in order to improve the situation - tackling these things in the open has a tendency to bring them to a head. If they are unprofessional and not just narcissistic, this can give them an opportunity to rectify that.
    – Bruno
    Aug 11 at 3:47
  • Rather than just "loading on the work", it's best to set reasonable, well-defined goals within set timeframes (sent by email if they won't meet 1-on-1) and just recording when these goals aren't achieved within the timeframes. This can be the start of raising actionable issues with team member performance, and evidence of work being done to manage the performance of the team.
    – Bruno
    Aug 11 at 3:59
-3

First of all it's not your fault that this got f'ed up and none of them should take it out on you, instead they should take it out on the ones that made the decision.

Now since you like to stay you have 2 options: A) Don't care about it and finish out your 2 years, play solitaire etc. B) Demand that your orders are carried out and start keeping a record of all defiance's etc., then when you have some goodies speak to the offender to try to straighten them out or go straight to hr, but if they don't listen then go to hr. Basically if you want to be a boss you can, everyone may hate you but it sounds like they already do, so if you want it you should go for it.

-3

Put an ultimatum

Obviously, team cannot have two leaders. You need to force decision, would it be you or John.

First of all, immediately call the meeting of the team including John. Tell them that you know everything about supposed John's promotion and tell them that you did not have anything to do with it, but also tell them that you are the boss now and would not tolerate insubordination and boycott.

Second, overrule any decision Ann made about your team, i.e. any attempt of micromanaging. Do not overrule decisions made in her domain of work, outside of your "jurisdiction" . Also, forbid any team member to talk with her or Bill without first notifying you.

Third, immediately punish anyone disobeying your orders (especially John) . Do not let anyone overrule you, especially Ann. If you for example told someone that he is removed from the team, do not let that person enter team's office.

This way, situation would have to clear itself - either they fire you, or let you do your job. Only other alternative is to resign immediately, because in present circumstances they do not let you do your job and could potentially made you a scapegoat.

1
  • 3
    I really shouldn't have to say this - but advocating "physical confrontation" in the Workplace is not acceptable here on TWP and I have removed that from the answer Since most of the comments here were discussing that aspect of the answer I have moved them to chat.
    – motosubatsu
    Aug 11 at 16:17

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