Bully at Work Moody Boss Karma Office Gossip No Picnic Back stabber Plug your Ears Moody Boss

Part II: Soups (supervisors) are giving me indigestion

Dear Office-Politics,

Issue #1 In our office protocol it is established that the “soups” or supervisors are the go between for us and the techs. However, I get emails from the techs questioning what I am working on.

In addition, I received this email from an individual who will be my boss as of July 2, 2007. “Techy was just trying to ascertain that you would have the systems you need for Sunday. Why not just answer her?”

I don’t get it. Should I answer this email if so, how?

Issue #2 I am also wondering if there is a polite way of keeping soups out of my personal life. They keep walking around asking everyone.

Soups giving me indigestion

franke james

Dear Soups giving me indigestion,

Although you have written for help in dealing with intrusive ‘soups’ and communication, your letter actually raises a ‘red flag’ that indicates your success may be in jeopardy.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase ‘A new broom sweeps clean’. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen this happen in our dealings with clients. It is so true. A new Manager comes in who wants to put his/her stamp on things. Before you know it, employees who were happily working under the old regime are now ‘ordered’ to change their ways. Some adjust – but those who don’t are shifted to new (lesser) duties or turfed out entirely.

The Red Flag
So what is the red flag that your soon-to-be Boss is waving in front of your face? He asks, “Techy was just trying to ascertain that you would have the systems you need for Sunday. Why not just answer her?” Clearly your future Boss is frustrated with the old patterns of communication. He tells you directly, “Why not just answer her?”

Perhaps you would argue, “Well that’s not the way we do things here. We have channels to go through.”

Broken Telephone
Uh huh. Hmmm… Your new Boss is clearly frustrated with the ‘status quo’ and wanting to change the way communications are conducted. Can you think of reasons why he might be frustrated? Have tasks been delayed simply because the ‘techies’ can’t get answers fast enough? Have past jobs been plagued by ‘broken telephone’ problems because the message has had to go through three different levels?

The Grand Experiment
The funny thing is, whether he is right or wrong is beside the point. He thinks he is ‘right’. Therefore I would wager that a grand experiment is about to be played out. As the new broom, the Boss is going to try to sweep out the employees who ‘refuse to talk to one another’ and bring in new more flexible employees who are comfortable talking with all levels of the organization. Remember, Bosses don’t have to be right. They just have to be in a position of power to do what they think is right. And frankly, having worked on many design and technical projects over the years, I would say this new way of communicating is modern, smart and will improve the speed, flow and accuracy of getting projects out the door.

The Bottleneck?
Ask yourself this, “Would your new Boss identify you as a bottleneck?” He is obviously sympathetic to the ‘techie’ side of the organization. I can hear his pain when he asks, “Why not just answer her?” It sounds like there is a turf war going on with the techies complaining about the slowness of having to go through many layers of people in order to get a simple question answered.

Should business be personal?
The other sore point you raise is the issue of questions about your personal life. I’m not in your office so I can’t tell how probing the ‘soups’ are being. But if it’s casual chitchat in order to find common areas of interest, then I’d say it’s fair game. I recommend that you read Ronna Lichtenberg’s It’s Not Business, It’s Personal. It lays out the nine relationship principles that can power your career.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics. Let me know if this helps.


Franke James, MFA
Editor & Founder, Office-Politics.com


Franke James, MFA is the Editor & Founder of Office-Politics.com. She is also the Inventor of The Office-Politics® Game a dilemma-based social game that teaches you how to play, and laugh, at office politics. It’s used by HR departments, and corporate trainers worldwide. The Office-Politics Dilemmas have been inspired by the hundreds of letters submitted to Office-Politics.com.

What's your advice?

(You can also tweet it to @dearOP)