Question: My boss recently hired a guy who seems determined to cut me out of the loop. "Mike" is a project manager whose job requires him to interact with members of my staff. He often gives them new instructions without telling me, which creates a great deal of confusion.
When problems arise, Mike immediately escalates them to our boss instead of coming to me. I asked my manager to support me by refusing to get involved, but he says he's only helping Mike learn the ropes. I'm beginning to feel shut out, and my staff is getting frustrated. How should I handle this?
Answer: Though his actions may look like sabotage, Mike could simply be an impatient newcomer who wants to make things happen quickly. To give him the benefit of the doubt, talk with him directly and explain your concerns. This approach has the added advantage of modeling the very behavior you would like him to exhibit.
For example: "Mike, several of my staff members have indicated that you and I are giving them contradictory directions. To avoid further confusion, I would like to see how we might coordinate our activities more effectively. If you can tell me in advance what you need from my group, I believe we can avoid this problem in the future."
If Mike continues to bypass you, it's time to go back your boss. Instead of asking him to "support you," which sounds like taking sides, explain how conflicting communications are adversely affecting your team, then ask him to help you and Mike find a workable solution. The key is to remain focused on business issues, not your own hurt feelings.
Marie G. McIntyre is a workplace coach and author of "Secrets to Winning at Office Politics." Get free coaching tips at www.yourofficecoach.com.