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Franke James is Editor/Founder of Office-Politics.com and Inventor of the Office-Politics® Game.
Peter R. Garber has worked as an HR professional for over 25 years and is the author of many business books including: Winning the Rat Race at Work and 100 Ways to Get on the Wrong Side of your Boss.
Dina Beach Lynch, is an Ombudsman, Author and former attorney. An award-winning mediator, Dina served as the Corporate Ombudsman for the 7th largest bank in the US helping over 48,000 employees to resolve workplace issues.
Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries.
Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America's most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.
Arnie Herz, is a lawyer, mediator, speaker, author and consultant nationally recognized for his practical and inspired approach to conflict resolution and client counseling.
Dr. John Burton LL.B. M.B.A. M.Div. Ph.D. is an ethicist, mediator, lawyer and theologian. John is currently located in Prince Rupert, B.C., Canada, working with Canada's aboriginal communities.
I am concerned regarding the last project I was given by my boss in private. I was told not to share the information with anyone..
I am concerned regarding the last project I was given by my boss in private. I was told not to share the information with anyone. The project is as unreasonable as it is untimely. I have been working at the company for a few months and this has to go to a more experienced worker. Who can I go to and what can I do about this? Please help.
But here are some questions to ponder as you try to unravel this scenario.
HIDDEN AGENDAS OR LACK OF ETHICS
Can you give thought to why the assignment is being kept behind a wall of silence, since it is sometimes a warning signal that the boss is running a "Private Power Pocket," purposely hiding something? If so, you may become trapped and need to make some tough choices. What could he be hiding? Do you want to unwittingly participate? Please document everything requested for your own private files so you are protected later. Does the substance of the work itself suggest any questionable intentions or borderline issues morally? The boss might be picking you as a "naive newcomer" or know you're on thinner ice needing to pay dues so more likely to collude in troublesome initiatives. You need to decide whether you'll take part.
We have NO way of knowing truth here so don't get paranoid, but some other signals of a Private Power Pocket pointing to an unethical leader are:
If this is an issue of an overly political power tyrant forcing you to participate in quasi-legal or hurtful behavior, then we would suggest a clear valuing decision on your part since becoming a whistle blower is dangerous and has trade-offs. Document and consider whether to approach Human Resources with your concerns but do so with open eyes to possible consequences. Also, the laws are just now changing regarding employers protecting whistleblowers!
SIMPLE POOR MANAGEMENT
YOUR "BUZZ" OR PERCEPTION
How will that be impacted by your saying "no" and/or expressing concerns about the project? Maybe you're selling yourself short and ARE the right person, making it a confidence problem on your part?
If the problem is one of too little time on your part due to too much else on your plate, that, too, is a different issue deserving of problem solving with the boss.
We are suggesting that you first diagnose the reasons for this and surface concerns directly with the boss first, which demonstrates respect for his turf and ego and avoids jumping to conclusions. As we said, hidden agendas are not likely the driving force, so unless you have strong evidence of "a snake slithering," treat it more matter of factly and express concerns tactfully.
Remember, how you handle this WILL impact his perception of you as a complainer or doer, a team person or self-serving, a friend or an enemy, etc. You might even consider that taking it on and behind the scenes asking for a mentor or coach in this technical area (preferably outside of the company so that you don't get into trouble for sharing the information with someone) could earn huge points and pour deposits into your emotional and political bank account with this boss, earning the right for future "withdrawals" (favors).
We hope this is enough food for thought given the brevity of your explanation.
Good luck and keep us posted!
Rick Brandon, Ph.D. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D., Co-authors
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