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My department has a central support role (systems and IT) in the organization. My supervisor wants to discredit another department head. That department head wants to discredit my boss. They both use my work as a tool to do this.

I feel my work ethic is in great danger as I now have to choose between doing my job or following political directives. How can I navigate this but still maintain my integrity and my job? It is not cut and dry, doing my job helps or hurts the other side in equal measures depending on the circumstance. But there is always an illusion that I am taking sides.

If my boss tells me not to do my job, what do I do? If me doing my job is used to discredit someone, especially when it is my boss, how do I navigate that? Is it even worth it to care which side I'm perceived to be on?

specific examples I don't think this is necessary and I don't want to reveal too much, but here is an idea of the climate.

  • If an SSRS report (for any department) no longer pulls the required data because of a change in business process, said external director frames it as incompetence on my supervisor's part instead of just filing a request to change the parameters.
  • If the one director asks for a new SSRS report, I am not instructed to build said report unless the SOW is completely filled out in detail and everything that was discussed in it is put into question several times (other directors get a pass usually)
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    Do you have examples of what you're being asked to do that would benefit one side and hurt the other? Or at least more information about what your role is at the company? Mar 10 '16 at 17:28
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    Sweet, I love your question, it involves political strategy, my favorite :)
    – Kyle
    Mar 10 '16 at 18:01
  • I added some examples but I think the answers below are already very helpful Mar 10 '16 at 19:15
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The behavior you describe is very dysfunctional. You cannot fix it, but you can protect yourself.

Document everything you are asked to do with date and time. Everything. Preferably try to get it in an email. When your supervisor asks you to do something, say, "sure. No problem. Would you send me an email so I don't forget?" If department head asks you to do something, same story. If you cannot (or they will not), then send them an email with a description of what they wanted you to do. Example:

Hi [Supervisor / Department Head],

Just to review, earlier today you asked me to do X, Y and Z. I will do that by taking [steps].

Thanks,

[name]

Ultimately, you work for your supervisor, not the department head of the other department. If you receive conflicting requests, email is your friend once again:

Hi [Supervisor],

Earlier this week, X asked me to do [task]. However, this morning Y asked me to do [other task] instead. Can you please clarify what my priority is?

Thanks,

[name]

Again, if it doesn't make sense to ask, then just document afterward.

Hi [Department Head],

This morning you asked me to do [task]. However, the guidance I have received from [supervisor] is to do [other task] instead. Unfortunately, I will not be able to complete the task as requested.

Best regards,

[name]

The politics can be very difficult and depress morale. Furthermore, in a dysfunctional environment you describe, it is easy to become the fall-guy. So document everything! Then when the knives turn on you, you have your documentation history to back up every step you took. Every conversation, every request. Email is your friend.

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    But it is not that easy. OP is being directed not to preform his/her job. An email "This morning you told me not to perform X" is not so easy.
    – paparazzo
    Mar 10 '16 at 17:52
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    I agree; I said nothing about it being easy. Yes, this whole situation sucks big time, and OP is just a pawn. There's probably nothing he can do to calm these egos down. The only thing OP can do is protect himself. Eventually this conflict may become ugly, and OP doesn't want to become collateral damage. CYA, baby. Mar 10 '16 at 17:55
  • Yes not easy. You did not cover the not situation stated in the question.
    – paparazzo
    Mar 10 '16 at 17:58
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    is documenting really ALL I can do?!? I have to admit this is not my strongest suit and this situation has taught me the importance of that. I guess I was hoping that there could be more ... Mar 10 '16 at 19:23
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If you have a boss trying to discredit another department head then you have to figure he/she would have no problem with sacrificing you if you don't cooperate.

You are kind of stuck doing what your boss says unless it rises to violating a corporate policy or the law.

Since this is the director of IT then it is not likely you can hope to go to another department.

If you are explicit about documenting what you are told not to do then it will set off red flags with you boss and he/she is likely to turn on you.

But then if the other manager discovers you are specifically not doing your job and prove it they will likely go up the chain and you are in the middle of a big mess. Your boss may let you be collateral damage and say he/she was not aware you were not performing some tasks (that happen to make him/her look bad).

I think the best thing you can do is document what you are and are not doing in a way that does not set off red flags with your manager. If the other manager comes directly to you about work not done then I would send them to you manager.

If your manager asks you to falsify any report / analysis then you need to draw the line there. At that point you would complicit. He/she would not likely discipline you as then it would come out but your career is toast. You are forced to find another job but that is better than getting fired for falsify a report and try and find another job.

I know not comfortable but this situation is probably not going to get better until one wins. If you don't find it tolerable then you probably need to start looking for another job.

Could you conveniently ask to go to another role in IT?

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  • I've not been asked to do anything outside of company policy, thank goodness, but I am not under any illusions that if things hit the fan I would have any protection. I'll take the advice of asking to be put in other projects. Mar 10 '16 at 19:27

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