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Managing Up to protect your turf…

Dear Office-Politics,

It has just been announced that my department is going to be restructured. Currently there are two teams of two people each, and a manager.

I head up one team and another woman heads up the other team. My colleague (I’ll call her Lisa) has engineered to have her team report directly to the Director. Which means my boss will be solely responsible for managing me.

Previously my boss (Barbara) spent 80% of her time managing Lisa. Barbara is a micomanager and can be difficult to work for (more on that later).

I have only had an assistant for about 9 months. She is great and really gung ho and fired up to take on more work. Until a year or so ago my manager worked part time, only two days a week, most of which, as I mentioned, was spent with the other team.

With the new restructure I feel like I am going to be effectively demoted. My boss will be running my section of the department because that’s all she has left. This has happened before when Lisa was on holidays and the boss didn’t have enough to do. It was a nightmare. We ended up tripping all over each other. I suddenly found her doing a lot of my work, and I even caught her doing some of my assistants work. She is great at the big ideas but not good at implementing them so when she was ‘getting her hands dirty’ I was having to mop up around her. She also needs to change her mind on things all the time, and move the deck chairs around a lot, so I end up running around moving things backwards and forwards. Some of it is irrational and emotive. I suspect most of it is to show us who is in charge. I work in marketing and a lot of artwork which is very subjective…so there isn’t necessarily a right or wrong answer.

I am very concerned as to how things are going to work once my boss is back on working with me full time. I feel the department isn’t big enough for the 3 of us.. and I don’t know how to hold onto my little bit of the turf without being squeezed from both ends. Anyway – any advice is really appreciated.

Thanks

Fearing for my turf

OFFICE-POLITICS REPLY BY JENNIFER GLUECK BEZOZA
jennifer glueck bezoza

Dear Fearing for my turf,

Thank you for your thorough explanation of the situation. I empathize with your concerns in coping with your boss, Barbara, now that your peer Lisa will report to the Director and Barbara will likely turn more attention to “micromanaging” your team.

Before I share some thoughts on how you might approach the situation, I thought it might help to further examine Barbara’s place in this restructuring. While you think you will be demoted, my sense of the situation is that Barbara, not you, will be demoted.

From your description of Barbara- always looking to get her hands dirty in her teams’ projects- she sounds so insecure about her contribution that she cannot help but jump in on any decision or work at hand, even if it means taking away her direct reports’ sense of ownership.

So how can you survive this new situation? You will need to hone an important leadership skill: Managing up. Here are some tips for how you can successfully “manage up” in this situation.

1.) Be in tune with your boss’s needs and pressures in the larger organizational context; anticipate what she needs from you to be successful.
2.) Clearly articulate to your boss what you and your team needs to be successful
3.) Leverage your boss’s strengths and talents in carrying out your objectives and appreciate and acknowledge the value he/she adds for the team.
4.) Keep the organization’s best interests and goals in mind in carrying out your work
5.) Continue to build relationships at all levels in the organization; your network will only benefit your reputation and ability to get things done.
6.) If your attempts to manage the situation do not improve the situation, seek trusted guidance and support from HR, another advocate or the Director to whom Barbara reports; think and frame the situation in terms of organizational interests, such as productivity and morale, as opposed to your personal agenda or interests.

You state that your boss Barbara is great on the “big ideas, but not good at implementing them.” Your challenge will be to find ways to keep Barbara occupied with conceptual and strategic projects that will support your department and keep her out of your teams’ way in the execution phase.

The good news is you will definitely learn a lot in the process, no matter what the outcome. I wish you the best.

Thank you for writing to Office Politics.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Glueck Bezoza, MA


Jennifer Glueck Bezoza has an MA in organizational psychology from Columbia University and a BA in psychology and humanities from Stanford University. She currently works in Organizational Development for the largest not-for-profit home health organization in the country where she focuses on succession planning, leadership development and coaching. Previously, she worked for GE Commercial Finance and HR consultant, Towers Perrin.

  1. One Answer to “Managing Up to protect your turf…”

  2. Please thank Jennifer to the response she has given to my query. It is really appreciated.

    Jennifer’s assessment of Barbara seems to be quite accurate. The advice she gives does seem to be really good and I think. There is not just one suggestion but quite a number on how I can improve things, which is really good. I think some of what she has suggested is going to be a challenge (or learning opportunity) but I am up for it and am really going to try my best to put into practice and make it work out.

    I realize that I haven’t spent much time analysing political situations — in the past I have just gotten on with my work… so this is a real turning point for me. I realise that I need to build some networks and do some of these other things.

    By Letter-writer on Mar 6, 2007

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