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Here is the situation, I am (by my own admission) a bit of a Trouble Maker. Not in the 'The Police have been called' sense, but in the 'Hey, this system has a problem and we should fix it and make it better' sense. Often in a very pro-active Bull/China shop way. As Such, I have instigated and spearheaded many projects.

For reference - I work in IT and I'm in a relatively senior position.

I've got a pretty good relationship with my Manager who generally recognizes that when I've got a bee in my bonnet about something, I've got a good reason and that the outcome will generally be beneficial to all parties and as such, gives my great leeway in getting up to Corporate Mischief.

For a little back-ground info, the Company I work for recently got bought out by a big overseas corporate, who then merged with another big overseas corporate. As such, we've got one big team, where nobody really knows each other and everyone is doing their own thing on their own systems - the process of Integration is painfully slow - but given how big the new entity is, understandable. Also of note - because of the mergers and acquisitions, many people in the Management sphere have had a lot of Movement (Resignations, reshuffles, new roles/responsibilities etc.)

Things have been quiet (never a good sign) so I've been up to my usual tricks of finding things that piss me off or could be improved and then setting about a way to make them better. I have found one such system. I initially attempted to make it better in one way, got rather far and then hit a road block (it happens...) so I've attempted another direction - which would involve integrating that system with one that is currently maintained out of the main corporate office, NOT any of the offices for our Region.

When I raised this as an option to my Boss, I got a very VERY hard 'No' - reasons given were that previous systems had been integrated with the Head Office, with promises made of continuation of Access and relevant permissions etc. Only for this to be reneged on.

I've heard of this type of behavior, where Office located in one Region believe they are the only ones capable of maintaining a critical system and all other locations are mere plebians. But because of the region I work in, I've never had to contend with this sort of behavior at this scale.

So now you know the background (I have had to make it generic so as to not give away any identifiable info) - here's the Concerns:

1: I think my Managers concern is reasonable as there does seem to be a tug-of-war with certain systems where privileged access is only granted to users in a specific region (which happens to have the Head office and other large offices) - However I don't want to be stuck with an inefficient system because of an inter-department pissing match.

2: How does one navigate such a pissing match? Do you side with your boss and show Loyalty or do you try to toe the wider Corporate line of 'Everything must be integrated'.

3: Are there any major minefields I should be careful of wandering into when there is an inter-department rivalry? Especially with fresh structure changes?

4: Any Technical advise on how best to handle this?


Update 1!

So, before I had the discussion with my Boss, I had sent an Email to various parties - and this morning I got a written reply from said Boss and a number of things have raised my Spidey-Sense from 'Hmmm' to 'Oh Dear'.

Firstly it was very explicit "Please stop all communications on this subject" - but more concerning was that it was reply-all'd except for the person from the Head office who the original email was sent direct to.

Now, I don't think this was an accident as a number of people in the management team from the regional office were also CC'd in.

It's one thing to merely Omit sharing certain details, it is another to deliberately hide them.

Suffice to say, I believe I have just witnessed the opening Salvo.


Update 2!

I think I have a clearer understanding of what is happening, based on some comments here and there and some further discussions with another new part of the business.

It goes something like this - if I integrate it with the Head Office, my Boss is worried that we will loose access - I've got a suspicion that my Boss has Job Security concerns with Head Office taking over functions (and also some whispers about perception of my Boss made by ex-C-Suite people who I'm on good terms with).

He is looking to integrate with said other new part of the business, I believe so that we can deliver a working solution and then he can say to Head Office 'See, look what we have here, no need to take over ownership of it, we have the expertise to manage this complete within our region' and use that to sure up his position in the Company.

In Short, he's keen to use the Technical Methodology that I've proposed, he just wants to keep the Head Office out of it. This mostly makes my decision for me - my primary focus is on the Technical side - I should note that this still doesn't sit right with me and I've thought about dropping an anonymous email to some higher-ups, but the reality is that the people who are aware of this project can be counted with fingers and all the others bar me work in the same geographic location and also share other commonalities (Blood is thicker than water...), so it wouldn't take Sherlock Holmes to figure who it was.

So for now, I think this answers my question - address the technical issue.

I want to thank all the people that posted answers and gave feedback and insight - seeing the different perspectives has helped me to gain some clarity of thought.


Interesting Final Edit:

So this is just a short update because there have been some rather interesting developments. It turns out that my Gut Feel about where the Head Office (and therefore Company) wanted to go was 100% correct and the direction my Manager wanted to go in was... Not so much. Suffice to say they are now my Ex-Manager due to a pattern of behavior of them putting up roadblocks to integration and wanting to retain their own little kingdom without the pesky oversight from Corporate.

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    My experience (and the reason I'm not writing an answer) is "you cannot." The options you have? Live with that corporate politics BS, be a player in it, tolerate being thrown around by others playing it, or get the hell out and get a better job without that crap.
    – nvoigt
    Jul 1 at 7:24
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    What alternative do you think you have apart from following your boss on this?
    – Kilisi
    Jul 1 at 9:57
  • Which would you prefer? 1) 4 systems that talk to each other, and 3 that continue if 1 goes down. Or 2) one massive system that stops everyone when it dies?
    – Solar Mike
    Jul 1 at 10:01
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    What do you want to get out of it?
    – PM 77-1
    Jul 1 at 21:15
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    How much time are you wasting arguing about improvements, posting on here, arguing with people on here, etc? It's clear your primary motivation is to get one over on other people. There are plenty of other ways of doing this, if you can't do it at work. Try answering SE questions.
    – Stuart F
    Jul 6 at 12:20

5 Answers 5

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This answer applies to any disagreement between you and a superior, barring the existence of explicit legislature on the topic (e.g. worker protection), which is not the case here.

Would you rather:

  • Do what you believe is right even if it risks costing you because someone with authority over you disagrees and takes it out on you (within the bounds of what they can get away with)?
  • Remain quiet in order to avoid any possible negative repercussions for you personally?

That's really what it all boils down to, regardless of the specifics of the topic you and your boss are disagreeing on.

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  • Generally, I'm more of a Do what is right person. It's definitely had it's ups and downs, but on the balance of things, more ups than downs. However, as per my last edit - I have a 3rd option - Fix the technical issue and then deal with the Politics later (but from a position of having a delivered and deployed solution) Jul 6 at 8:51
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    @TheDemonLord Your "3rd option" is just the 1st option in disguise; fixing the issue is "doing what you believe is right", and when you "deal with the politics later" that's when it'll cost you. Even if they accept the fix and you come out "winning", it'll still cost you in goodwill and reputation at your having acted without full approval. Doing so will demonstrate that you're an insubordinate loose cannon, regardless of results. Good results may show that you're also well-meaning and competent, but in some environments, that's not enough to offset the dangers of you acting without approval. Jul 6 at 9:11
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major minefields

Rocking the boat with people who know and respect you is a very different beast to doing it with people in authority who's only knowledge of you is a headache. So the potential for repercussions of some sort or other exists.

Do you side with your boss

It's not a matter of taking sides.

wider Corporate line of 'Everything must be integrated'.

This 'Corporate line' doesn't exist. YOU found an issue and YOU want to change it, you failed changing it one way and want it now to be a problem involving others. So it's (by your own admission) your line.

Technical advise

I would try and find a solution that I can implement without needing outside resources. That way you have fewer constraints and your only real issue is that your solution covers all the needs. Relying on others doesn't always work out long term (or short term sometimes). And it always has the potential for conflict.

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  • So, there is a Corporate line - again, can't get into details - but suffice to say certain people at certain positions above my direct Boss were already discussing effectively what I am proposing - There is both a general desire to integrate systems and a specific desire for this System to be integrated. My direct Boss, however, after being burned by other integration projects (decreed from people much higher than him) isn't too keen to follow said desire from the C-Suite team. Jul 1 at 13:35
  • @TheDemonLord: Is there a corporate line that those who go around their direct superior will not face any backlash from doing so if they were proven to be correct? Because if not, and I doubt there is, then you're really just asking whether being correct can mitigate blatant insubordination.
    – Flater
    Jul 5 at 14:07
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Simple answer that includes the edit you have made:

Your boss's job is (among other things) to shield you from politics (i.e. power-struggles, emotions of other managers, misunderstandings between teams, etc.). Just like you know more about the details of the code-base and technical implications, he knows more about the company-politics and implications.

Unless your boss is extremely bad at his job, bypassing him is most likely sabotaging his efforts. Imagine it the other way around: A manager suddenly deciding to do your work and changing code against your warnings.

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  • Thanks for the input, based on further interactions, I think this is more about him trying to keep his job/position/relevance in the Company than it is from shielding me from Internal struggles. There's clearly more going on - but as per my last edit - I have a technical solution - so I'm going to focus on that. Jul 6 at 8:50
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The unfortunate reality of working in a highly political environment is that many decisions become political even if they shouldn't be. For instance, system access is often a mechanism to force the reallocation of headcount from one place to another. As a manager if I manage a 100 people instead of 10 then I can add a layer of heirarchy, give myself a fancy title and ask for a pay raise. Nothing in the above even touches on what is the most efficient way to get something done. So in such an environment, you have to consider the political effects of any technical decision. To not do this is simply illogical. Personally when I worked in such places I hated this aspect of my work. That's why I work at much smaller tech focussed companies now. Improving processes is what I do and I'm rewarded for it. I don't have to feel like I'm doing something wrong. You need to decide on this for yourself. Either accept the reality of a political environment where politics is a factor in every decision or just go somewhere else.

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  • In general, the side of the business I'm in, by nature of it being more Technical is generally immune to politicing, it's just when it comes to integration projects or dictates from Head Office that things get a little friction - generally, I'm okay with the level of Politics and given the updated info, I think this is more about my Boss than me - but I have my way out for now. Jul 6 at 8:55
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Unless you're prepared to exit the company in an immediate fashion, you need to back off. Your boss gave you a hard no in private and now has given you a very public "knock it off" message.

There is likely a lot about the system integration happening that you don't know, and you are about to really mess with a system or process in a manner your manager will not be able to protect you.

In addition, by reaching out after you got the hard no, you've pretty much burned up any desire your manager may have to help you out now, and you've also managed to paint a target on your back with people who are likely above your manager in the organization.

Once upon a time your "bull-in-a-china-shop" tactics were probably looked upon affectionately by your team. "Oh that's just TDL being TDL". You're in a much bigger ocean now, little fish. These other people don't care about who you are, and they're unlikely to tolerate any shenanigans or tomfoolery.

Another concern you should have even if you're ready to be terminated: Your actions may get your manager fired too.

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  • it probably didn't come across clearly - but I reached out before I got the Hard No - so that does change things a bit. As for target on my back with people above my Manager, Suffice to say I am known to the higher-ups, but generally for positive reasons - mainly on account of my bullish ways of getting shit done. But as per my last edit - I've got my out - fix the technical issue, let the Politics fall where they may. I think this is more about My Boss's job security than mine. Jul 6 at 8:54

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