I'm having a situation at work where my boss (who I rarely work with) is telling me to do a piece of work one way, but a senior team member (who I work with often) is telling me to do it another way. If I listen to my Boss it is going to annoy my team member and I work with them often so I don't want this, and obviously I don't want to anger my boss, so who do I listen to?

  • Are your team members in the habit of going against the wishes of your boss? Seems hypocritical for them to hold this against you if they do the same. – user8365 Mar 28 '14 at 15:44
  • My I understand crossing my boss would be worse but i'm not one to stir up trouble and would hate to work in an awkward environment. – Srb1313711 Mar 28 '14 at 15:53
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    Although Styphon's answer is the correct "textbook response", the guide points by Joe above are immensely more useful in practice. Remember that at the end of the day, your own career is more important than building the empire of some XYZ company. When your next employer consults your current boss for a background check, your boss may say, "I fired him for disobeying my instructions." He will most probably not continue with, "However, he only did that so as to not stir up trouble in the team, because I was wrong and the team was right." – Masked Man Mar 28 '14 at 18:55

Can't you find a third option and speak to your boss stating your senior team member has told you to do it another way and he thinks it's a better way because of X, Y and Z? I don't know your exact situation but in my experience the senior team members often know the systems better and can find better solutions than the bosses.

It may be the opposite in this case, that the boss knows better, in which case when you present the above to your boss he may give you X, Y and Z reasons why you should be doing it his way, which you can explain to the senior team member. It may be that the senior team member doesn't have the full picture.

Either way, dialogue and communication between the three of you seems to be your solution.

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  • I have voiced to both my Boss and Team Member what the other thinks is best, and they both still say there way is better, you are absolutely right my Boss does not know the system as well and I have no doubt my Team Member is correct, I think the problem lies with Lack of communication between the two of them. Being Junior I don't want to tell them to talk to each other about this as it seems disrespectful. – Srb1313711 Mar 28 '14 at 12:27
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    Set up a meeting with the 3 of you, explain that you do not feel comfortable performing the task and would like more clarification and direction. Do not make it 'Senior' vs 'Boss' make it a 'I am a silly junior and want advice from both of you since you are both so smart' type of meeting. Prior to the meeting, plan what you consider the middle ground between the two and when those middle grounds are brought up say 'I like that idea, (Boss|Senior) what do you think of this?'. that would be how I would handle the situation at least. – Paul Muir Mar 28 '14 at 12:39
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    PaulDonny: I second the idea of a conference call involving the boss, the senior team member, the team leader and the OP to resolve the approach to be taken. Ask either the boss or the team leader - if the team leader has that authority - to set up that conference call. Right now, the senior team member and the boss are volleying their positions to each other, using the OP as the volleyball, and not taking any responsibility for resolving their differences. This can't go on. – Vietnhi Phuvan Mar 28 '14 at 12:56
  • It's not a matter of one or the other; if they both disagree then look at the arguments and make the decision YOU feel is superior, provided you have the power to do that. Look at the options and as what they are, and not who they're from. When it comes to the person signing your stub though - understand that you may not get to make the decision anyway. If you ultimately have to do as the boss says than you can relay this to the other member with a clear conscience. – Kver Mar 28 '14 at 13:14
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    Cheers guys Ill take everything you've said into consideration and get this sorted thanks for your help – Srb1313711 Mar 28 '14 at 13:32

I agree with Styphon's answer, that what really is needed is an increase in communication. Unfortunately, you are not the primary party -- the Senior team member needs to discuss this with the Boss:

  1. The Senior team member may posses detailed knowledge that the Boss does not have the benefit of, which potentially invalidates the direction the Boss is giving.
  2. The Boss may posses strategic knowledge that the Senior team member does not have the benefit of, which potentially supersedes the detailed concerns.

However it seems these two are not communicating effectively. Thus your difficulty, since you lack any explicit authority to make them discuss the situation.

Your highest priority at this point is to follow your Boss's orders. The Boss will most likely want some sort of immediate action, but what you can do is express concern to the Boss that the directions as you understand them do not align well with your understanding of what the more experienced team members are saying. Ask for a meeting with all parties (as Styphon suggests) -- if possible before you take action, or if a delay is unacceptable, request a modified (e.g. partial) action immediately which everyone is OK with.

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  • ... and by doing what the boss wants, but informing your colleague that you have no choice, will cause the colleague to take up the issue with the boss directly - either he'll get told to do what the boss wants, or he'll persuade the boss to change his mind. You win either way. Either you get to do the "right thing" or you get on the side of your colleague as two oppressed workers side-by-side in the face of PHB stupidity. – gbjbaanb Mar 29 '14 at 0:04

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