I used to be part of a team of four people. One was the manager, the other three developers. The manager is/was my mentor and has always kept me under his wing, which I truly appreciate. Over the last few years the team has dissolved, primarily due to one person leaving for personal reasons (left organization) and the last team member eventually moved to another internal position. My manager became a Director but kept me as his direct employee because I'm a good problem solver and he wanted someone that he could assign to fires that he couldn't handle (a black bag man, in his words).

Eventually I ended up in a windowless office (this isn't a punishment or anything, it's just lonely tbh, even though I am very involved in office events such as organizing parties and internal employee sponsored studies. The point is I'm social, but isolated at the same time) in the System Engineering area of the IS department. I have no team, and no real manager in the sense of any weekly meetings and/or directions or plans.

Eventually, another Director starts "becoming" my manager. I say "becoming" because it just kind of happened, there was no official discussion or anything like that this person would be by manager, they just slowly began directing parts of my work.

The problem with this is obvious - I am now getting input from two separate high level people, input which often differs in scope and direction. I have no team, I have no manager who can help and guide me. And to be perfectly honest, cute situation has been grinding me down, my work has begun to suffer in my personal opinion, but I still received good reviews and bonuses.

All that brings me to my question: I ended up speaking to both Directors about how I feel. I spoke to the non-Mentor director about how I felt isolated and confused due to incoming information and without support. I admit that I was a little emotional in the sense that it was obvious the situation was really bothering me and I had to discuss it with someone who I work with frequently. After this conversation I spoke to my mentor and immediately explained that I had had this conversation with the other Director.

I feel that I handled the situation incorrectly, although I was honest, calm, respectful and polite . Although I feel I have to walk softly in order to protect myself and not also start some flame war between Directors (and possible future VPs).

What would have been the best way to handle something like this?

Note: my organization employs 4000 people and has an HR department. One of the people in this little drama (not me) is in a relationship with the person who runs the HR department. I can also see the writing on the wall and have already begun applying for new positions, internal and external. Office politics are confusing to me and I don't want be involved, but didn't know how to handle the situation.


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    I don't get it. If you're still in the same department as your mentor director, aren't you under his division or department?
    – Jack
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 14:21
  • @Jack our department is headed by a VP with two directors under him. These are the two directors I am speaking of. Under those directors there are managers who manage teams. I am essentially being "managed" by two directors and I feel like I could become "political". It's a weird situation. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 14:41
  • They may not have been aware you are getting conflicting direction. You should be specific on where you are getting conflicting direction and hopefully they will work it out.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 15:48

3 Answers 3


I feel that I handled the situation incorrectly, although I was honest, calm, respectful and polite . Although I feel I have to walk softly in order to protect myself and not also start some flame war between Directors (and possible future VPs).

You've said nothing here that would lead me to believe you handled the situation incorrectly per-se - you've been honest with both managers, spoken about it and now the ball is in their court to come back to you with a solution. Unless there's other factors at play here you haven't mentioned, there's no reason this should cause any animosity. It strikes me that you've let a reasonably simple situation become a massive burden, and as such you may be over worrying here.

The only thing I'd suggest (with hindsight) is that you should have probably kept both managers in the loop over the situation as it was occurring. It sounds very much like you waited for it to become unbearable before raising an issue, and that's never a good thing.

  • Thanks for the response. I believe I am over thinking it. But I also wanted to point out that it's an issue ( lack of manager, lack of team support, conflicting directions from people who don't have time to actually be managers) that I have brought up to my director, multiple times. it's really only recently though that I've questioned future career ramifications in the awkward situation. After listening to responses I think I did pretty well, but agree that maybe I should have requested being part of a traditional management structure. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 18:18
  • @Troubleshanks Chances are the simplest solution is the most likely here - you hadn't brought it up as an issue thus far, so management didn't believe there was one. Now they know there is, they can look at doing something (heck, no advantages to them from having an unhappy employee!)
    – berry120
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 18:21
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    I think I did the right think in regards to the multiple inputs coming in. In hindsight there are some other actions I would have taken sooner, but that's part of learning the game. Thanks for your assistance. I have accepted your answer. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 18:35

If you've not been formally told that you have a new manager, then it's reasonable to assume that you don't. My advice when you started getting conflicting requests would have been to discuss that with your manager (the mentor) - ask him whose direction you should follow. Hopefully that would end up with the new manager being told to back off, or with him formally becoming your manager. Either way you would now know how you should deal with conflicting requests.

I don't see that there is any need to immediately start looking for a new job. If you want a change in your role or working conditions then I suggest being clear with yourself what it is that you are after, and then asking for a meeting with your manager (the mentor) and asking if your role can be changed to meet those requirements.

  • Thanks for response. The changing of jobs is more about me not enjoying current role - a big part of that is the lack of clear direction and support. I'm going after an internal position that I really want so it's not a jump ship situation which may have been what it sounded like in my post. As to speaking to mentor, I had spoke to him previously re: concerns and when started working with the other director our constant interaction made it feel like they were a manager, which is why I confided (in err possibly) - it's complicated, but maybe not as big a deal as I'm making it out to be. Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 14:39

If the input overlaps on active work and conflicts, it is not likely your job to juggle that. If you find it is your informal job, if it were me, I would muddle through until one of them advances past the other or seek employment elsewhere.

Less long-term approach: You may consider requesting a meeting if the scope or problem statement from the two differs. This will allow them to hash it out, and for the three of you to be exposed to one another in the same setting so that a natural pecking order forms between them and you do not feel tugged around. They are your superiors in the workplace, so you will be stepping on eggshells if you allow yourself to be the arbiter of outcomes that leads to an imbalance between them.

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