I'm a software developer in a small company. Recently the company hired a new department head after the previous one resigned. Thereafter the new department head hired his friend/colleague from his last job.
It didn't take long for dynamic between the boss and his new sidekick to alienate me and some others in the department. While not officially or in practice anyone's superior, the sidekick clearly fancied himself second-in-command, and engages in a kind of status-climbing, condescending behavior (though subtle enough to be imperceptible to those not on the receiving end):
- attempting to micromanage other employees, including senior ones
- scheduling a daily meeting, serving no apparent purpose, which had the structure of him asking each team member in turn "what are you working on today?"
- casually dropping facts in to conversation that emphasize his in status with the boss, including company details he was privy to
- using the royal "we" as a status differentiator: we really appreciate your work on this project
- eagerly taking credit for others' work, not thinking to give credit to others where due
- expecting junior members of the team to account for their whereabouts, yet not bothering to inform the team when he himself will be away from the office
All this might not be so bad, except that the boss clearly plays favorites with his sidekick. Again, the behavior is subtle, but it clearly suggests a kind of two-man clique. Furthermore, the sidekick has (wisely) schmoozed with other departments and has them in his corner. The resulting dynamic has been quite frustrating for me and for the majority of the dev team. Our only solution has been to try and leave as quickly as possible.
I'm trying to learn from this experience and gain some perspective. These are the questions I have.
Regarding the sidekick: Is this a common type of character in office environments? I'm reminded of Dwight from The Office. If so, what is the best way to deal with or neutralize someone intent on ingratiating themselves to superiors, and going on creepy power trips? My approach has been to try and ignore him, but of course that was not productive. Do I have to become the office Jim, using sarcastic humor to take the office Dwight down a peg?
Regarding the boss: To me, the fact that he needs such a sidekick indicates that he's insecure as a leader and the fact that he overlooks his sidekick's officious behavior suggests that he's not serious about building a cohesive team. I would like a reality check: is there some kind of etiquette that my boss is breaching by appearing to play favorites with his sidekick? Or am I being too sensitive?
Lastly, do you see any resolution that doesn't involve me either being miserable, or leaving the company? Would it be advisable to talk to the boss and relay my feeling that I am not in the "inner circle"? Would it be better to go to HR and openly communicate my concerns?