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Wounding the king

Dear Office-Politics,

I am 23 years-old working as a customer care executive in a nine member team comprising of one junior manager (recently appointed), three team leaders, and five representatives.

The manager that has been appointed is a sheer politician. Myself and one of my colleagues were the best performers. Both of us were promoted as TL’s by the CEO. At the same time a new junior manager was appointed who was my TL before. Now the junior manager and myself were not on good terms purely because I did not approve of him being biased in favor of reps who are not performing. The junior manager himself was promoted purely because of being the most experienced. The fact is that he is the weakest as far as process knowledge and that is the reason he does not like me and my colleague. I was removed from the TL ship within a week after my junior manager complained to my boss that there are three reps who do not want to work with me as TL. The fact is that the remaining reps are bad performers and are on the junior manager’s side.

So to cut the story short, we are two against seven. The two best performers against seven average to poor performers. But because of us being in minority and not agreeing to the remaining seven’s B.S. we face lots of problems. We do not like to work with others. Every month we have shift changes as we work for a call center, but my junior manager makes sure myself and my best friends are on different shifts.

I do not know if the junior manager will survive for long or not. My CEP is very moody and not aware as to the kind of work the junior manger does. We personally went and complained against the junior manager but nothing happened.

I do not know how to survive in this company. This is my dream job and I simply love the work I do, but I do not like to work with anyone other than my friend.

Should I quit or wait for long before the CEO realizes that the junior manager is a non-performer?

Ex-Team Leader


dr. rick brandon
dr. marty seldman

Dear Ex-Team Leader,

Deciding whether to quit usually involves factors like the availability of other jobs, geographic viability, need for security, etc. in addition to your question about the likelihood for change in your current circumstances.

We can only address this last issue and along the way give you some pointers about organizational savvy that may help you here or if you move on.

Wounding the king
In our Survival of the Savvy book we describe someone in your situation as having “wounded the king.” The old adage is “if you go after the king, kill him or don’t go after him.” If you wound the king he is alive and knows who did it. In the work place wounding the king means criticizing or threatening the exposure of someone who has more power than you and will use that power to punish or marginalize critics.

Unfortunately this is extremely common in business and government. Public examples we all see are the demotions and firings of “whistle blowers” but the private examples like yours are much more common.

In your case you wounded the king before he got into a position of power over you. You were unlucky that the junior manager that was appointed is someone who is well aware of your opinion about him. He has already demoted you and is isolating and marginalizing you. His ultimate goal may be to make you so unhappy that you leave. The other unfortunate circumstance that allows this is that the CEO is either too busy to notice or has a “blind spot” about your manager.

What are your options?

Option One is to go to the CEO and make your case. You’ve done that and it hasn’t worked yet. It still may if some incident or mistake by the manager happens to get the CEO’s attention.

Option Two is to document the comments and behavior of your manager. There are several reasons to do this. One, you may eventually get enough factual information to make a more compelling case to the CEO. Two, the kind of person you are describing is usually very skillful at blaming others when things go wrong. This can include misrepresenting conversations and decisions. If you make notes when things happen, you may be better able to defend yourself. Three, the manger may eventually try to remove you and documented notes will come in handy.

Option Three is to call off the “war” between you and the manager. This would include behaving in a positive manner to him, treating him like your boss and stopping the bad-mouthing of him. If you plan to stay this is a viable option that may make the job more enjoyable. You can do this while hoping and waiting for him to mess up or for his lack of performance to become more obvious to his bosses.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.


Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success

cover of Survival of the SavvyRick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. 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.

Publication note: This letter was originally published in 2005. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics and integrating them with our blog format.

  1. One Answer to “Wounding the king”

  2. Feedback from Ex-Team Leader

    Thanks for ur response. I love the way you said “if you go after the king, kill him or don’t go after him”

    Well, well, well I did go after the Junior Manager with my close friend (who happens to be the best worker along with me). We presented all the facts to our CEO about Jr Manager’s lack of product knowledge.

    What happened…well, I am happy to say that Jr Manager has now been Demoted to a Team Lead position and my other best friend who was in a different dept is now over me coz of his Merits and I am enjoying every bit of it.

    It may be in my star sign..I’.m born on August 19, 1982 and happen to be a LEO by star sign and they say we are not the ones to be easily bullied!

    I am glad that i called it a war and stood against the wrong people and bad workers.

    At the same time one thing that kept the respect in the eyes of my boss for me is that I never led the Jr Manager’s taunts and torture to hamper my performance. In fact I worked harder and started being noticed by my Sr Manager and CEO for my better work against others.

    Now things have gone my way, I am glad that I never accepted defeat against injustice. There is a saying, “If your back is bent, only then someone is able to climb on it. So Stand Straight”

    THANK you so much

    By Letter-writer Ex-Team Leader on Sep 19, 2007

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