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I'm on a project and have a defined role. A colleague who has been with the company for 15+ years (I've been there for around 6 months) has been regularly doing what I'm assigned to do: communicating the project results and aligning with stakeholders on a specific topic presenting himself as the person responsible.

I've asked him not to many times. I've also asked the stakeholders to treat my communication as the official one, not my colleague's. It works a bit sometimes, then it doesn't. And the discussion has to be conducted again and again.

Above all, I've asked my boss to clarify and communicate the responsibilities. My previous boss jumped in a lot to explain to the colleague and me the role division and intervened in front of the stakeholders when needed.

Then I got a new boss, who doesn't want to take a stance. I'm getting criticized a lot by different people, even in my boss's presence. People claim that I'm not doing my job, that the communication isn't consistent, alignments aren't met. Mine are. But I'm not responsible for what a colleague is doing.

I've asked my bosses to clarify the role division explaining that if I'm not to be responsible that's completely fine, but let's clarify and communicate the responsibilities. They don't want to do that.

We've had a discussion and escalations about that almost every week for months. I feel that my boss doesn't want to lose popularity points with the colleague (who knows a lot of people in the company) by explaining the role division. What's the way to do here? I'm at a point when I fear starting my work every morning because I know I will be attacked for what doesn't depend on me.

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    Have you explained to your manager how this issue is affecting you? Mar 4, 2022 at 12:48
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    @PhilipKendall, he's sitting in a lot of these escalations and not reacting when angry people tell me that I suck because the alignment done by my colleague isn't sticked to and when I try to explain the situation, sometimes with tears in my eyes, to people shouting at me. I've repeatedly asked him for an intervention. Yes, I've explained to my manager how this is affecting me and he sees how this is affecting me. Mar 4, 2022 at 12:52

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If you're in a team where you boss is too scared to act against one of your colleagues, it's likely your potential options are somewhat limited.

Phillip's answer has some good points about what your next steps are.

I want to add another based upon a comment you said.

he's sitting in a lot of these escalations and not reacting when angry people tell me that I suck because the alignment done by my colleague isn't sticked to and when I try to explain the situation, sometimes with tears in my eyes, to people shouting at me. I've repeatedly asked him for an intervention.

First of all, I don't think it's the best that you're getting abused. It's possible that this is normal, or somewhat accepted in the culture you are in, so I won't really comment on it.

Anyway, during that meeting, stop the discussion, and ask your boss at point blank who is responsible.

If your boss says you, then they other parties know you are responsible for reporting. You then apologise for the confusion, and you absolutely clarify that they should come to your for reporting purposes. Send an email after the meeting, again apologising, and once again confirming what was said in the meeting.

If your boss says your colleague, then you're off the hook.

If your boss absolutely refuses to name who is responsible for reporting in front of others, the other people in the meeting won't be happy. Because they want somebody to be accountable. But at that point, this becomes their problem.

I usually wouldn't advocate putting your boss on the spot, however, they don't have your back anyway. If they sit back idly watching you cop abuse, let alone abuse that was not due to your own actions, that is absolutely disgraceful behaviour, and I have absolutely no confidence they won't throw you under the bus anyway should I more serious issue occur.

So I think your best bet is to put the squeeze on, and literally make this the other business units problem, by making them try to reconcile what they have been told by your boss, and the actions of your coworker.

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You've done the right thing and explained things to your manager. For reasons of their own, they've chosen not to do anything. This gives you a number of options, none of which are going to be easy:

  1. Escalate the issue to your manager's manager.
  2. Escalate the issue to HR, either formally or informally.
  3. Raise the issue with your union / workplace organisation if you have one.
  4. Start looking for a new job.

We can't tell you which of those to do - just ensure you keep a written record (away from your work computer systems which you could potentially be locked out of) of everything that's happened and happens in the future.

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