My team is caught in the middle of a power struggle

globe and mailNine to Five: Special to The Globe and Mail. Published Sunday, November 11th, 2012

THE QUESTION

I work for the sales division of a large international manufacturing company. The sales group is divided into large regions: Europe and the Americas, where I work. Each regional group has a manager, both of whom report to the president of the entire sales division.

In the past few months, the president has been encouraging group e-mails to the entire sales division, with the idea the we all need to know what is happening in the overall market. The European team has bought into this fully, but the Americas manager has expressly prohibited the people in my group from sending messages to the sales group as a whole.

It is clear there is some sort of power struggle going on between my manager and the president (as well as the European manager, for that matter) and I’m worried that this is going to blow back on me and the rest of the Americas team. The president has now instructed us repeatedly to copy the entire sales team on our messages and I think we’re getting to the point where he will ask outright why we are not doing what he has asked. How can I best manage this situation without selling out my boss?

THE ANSWER

Colleen Clarke, Corporate trainer and career specialist, Toronto says…

The president issues mandates to your manager, your manager decides how they are to be carried out. My guess is that the president will admonish your manager for not group e-mailing, not the sales staff or you personally.

But, to be on the safe side, go to your manager, tell him you are concerned the president is going to ask you outright why the Americas team doesn’t participate in group e-mails. Ask him to explain why your team isn’t complying as it is important for you to understand the situation. Ask him how you are to handle a query should the president approach you. Follow up this conversation with an e-mail reiterating the conversation. You need documentation.

Chances are your boss will brush your concerns under the carpet and assure you that everything is under control. I realize you are concerned about your job and the reputation your team would be facing for not adhering to the president’s order. But if anyone’s job is in jeopardy, it would be your manager’s.

There is a hierarchy in organizations that dictates rank and authority. It is highly unlikely the president will bypass your manager and go straight to your team. If he does ask any of you personally about why you haven’t been following orders, tell the president that he should speak to your manager. Period.