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Thread: When your direct supervisor and department director don't get along

  1. #1
    moderator in moderation Suburb Repairman's avatar
    Jun 2003
    at the neighboring pub

    When your direct supervisor and department director don't get along

    So here's the situation...

    My direct supervisor and the interim department director (an assistant director) are on the outs. There is obvious tension between the two of them and they have openly disagreed with one another in staff meetings. I don't know the real cause, but I'm pretty sure my direct supervisor feels he is being micromanaged and circumvented by our interim director. This is a very distinct possibility since our interim director was previously in a two-man shop in a smaller town and might be having trouble letting go of tasks.

    It appears to me that the two of them are not communicating with one another. The interim director has assigned me a few tasks without going through my direct supervisor or even telling him. Also, the interim director has gotten more involved in our downtown master plan kind of late in the game, which has been my direct supervisor's baby.

    Today the Interim Director came in, shut the door, and asked me if I knew what my supervisor's issues might be with him. I make it a point to stay out of crap like this, but I'm not getting much choice about the awkward position I'm in. In addition, I know the interim director is processing an out-of-cycle raise for me because of some changes in my qualifications and new job duties. I am not sure if my direct supervisor knows this.

    I would really like some advice on how to handle this. I want to stay the hell out of it, but I may get pulled in more and more. I did not give the interim director much of an answer on what I thought the issues were, subtly hinting that I try to avoid getting into the office politics.

    I'm thinking about stopping by the Interim Director's office and suggesting that he take my supervisor to lunch and try to get to the bottom of everything. This seems like a good idea because it will force them to communicate and gets them to a neutral site. Thoughts? Anything I should be watching for?

    "Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

    - Herman Göring at the Nuremburg trials (thoughts on democracy)

  2. #2
    Cyburbian mike gurnee's avatar
    Feb 1998
    Greensburg, Kansas
    You are in a lose-lose situation. Evade, evade, evade.

  3. #3
    Jul 2006
    You've got to stay completely out of the situation. The interim director is trying to engage you in a conflict triangle with your supervisor and that is a no-win situation for you.

    You've got to tell the interim director that while you appreciate all he/she's done for you, you cannot and will not participate in a triangle and that the relationship issues need to be resolved between the two of them. You would expect the same of your interim director if the tables were turned. I would not go to your supervisor and tell him about the interim director's action (again, engaging in the triangle). This is their problem and you've got to keep out of it.

    I realize that is overly simplistic given the closeness in which we usually work, but I've learned the hard way to avoid squirmishes between supervisors.

    One way to be more confrontational about it would be to get both of them in the room and tell them that you're being placed in an uncomfortable situation and that you would expect that as adults, they figure out a way to resolve their problems without getting you involved. But that takes guts that I wouldn't have! Whatever you do, do not do anything separately with each of them (lunch, e-mails, etc.).

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Habanero's avatar
    Dec 2001
    Quote Originally posted by mike gurnee View post
    Evade, evade, evade.
    Yes, this sounds like a great plan. Evade, even if you have to ride the elevator all night to do so. Kidding aside, staying out of it is the best thing you can do professionally and for your own sanity. I find it a little immature that a director, interim or not, would try to gossip about such things when it's really none of your concern why they don't get along, kwim? I like your idea but I think they need to come to that conclusion on their own.
    When Jesus said "love your enemies", he probably didn't mean kill them.

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