Too much workplace drama. Work it out or jump ship?
April 26, 2010 7:04 PM   Subscribe

Three managers constantly create a triangle of drama and I'm in the middle. Fight it or move on?

Ever since they moved me to a tag team pair of managers, the drama is a non-stop triangle of stress.

Ex manager, whom I like, is going on temp leave this week .I don't want to stress her out but she also offered an ear if new arrangement gets bad.

Immediate manager--ton-o-drama every day to the point of I hate dealing with her.

Higher manager tells me to call her if immediate manager is getting on me, being weird, whatever. As in if manager is being weird, call her so she can witness it. Like I can reasonably go "Hold on for a sec" dial the phone asking her to come over, and tell this manager "ok continue the weirdness." I mean, it's not feasible.

Everything was great, fine, loved my job with ex manager. Sure there was occasional drama but I got over it in a day or two. I begged them never put me under current manager. Well there goes that request.

Today was the tipping point. Manager is trying to help raise my profile but I just don't trust her. A lot of meetings excludes our higher manager when it comes to things I want to make sure we're on the same page. A lot of excluding me when she does talk to higher manager. I never know what is being said nor do I want to be alone in a room with this manager. In short, I want all three of us in rooms talking about issues, etc. because I just don't trust any of it.

"Drama manager" is very pushy with "what do you have, can I see it" when things don't involve her. Sometimes I'm told confidential stuff or given secret projects that only higher manager and ex manager work on with me. But in a status meeting or she overhears, the drama manager pressures me to show/tell her everything. I can't say no .She's my manager. But the other two managers told me not to tell/show her. I've even told this manager "go ask them" and she won't. She pressures me.

The final straw was manager telling me something drama-filled and plotting with the caveat of "if I find out you told anyone, I won't be your friend anymore."

We're not friends. We're manager/employee with cordial chit chat. If anything, I felt more of an alliance with ex manager. This manager dislikes ex manager and wants me to discuss everything that she tells me and she wants to take it to the VP to get the ex manager in trouble. Of course, I'll be involved because it will be positioned as "well Stormtrooper said..." then ex manager will hate me.

I can't take the drama. I saw a position open that I'm qualified for at a similar company. But honestly, I'm afraid. I'm the primary earner in our house. They pay really well, I have a pretty good gig telecommuting 2 days a week, etc. It wasn't a "god I hate this job, duties, people package" situation until lately it's an overwhelming STOP THE DRAMA AND LEAVE ME ALONE situation. I'm always in the middle of these three. Too much is being discussed behind their backs or mine. It's all high school girl drama that I can't take it anymore.

My life beyond work is so stressful. I feel like I'm going to bust and really, which situation do I try to change when all of them have very high impact, especially if things go wrong. Dysfunctional/abusive/abused parent dying where I"m put in charge of EVERYTHING. Husband so like a little kid that I'm worn out by the fact that I have no adult partner. I have to manage a 40 year old who acts like he's 13. A 1.5 year old child. Now this work b.s. It's not like I can tell any of them to piss off or run away. Each and every one of those items gives off constant stress. So what needs to give? Obviously child isn't at fault but still, first child can be stressful.

Anyway, back to topic...

I don't know what I should do. If I tell ex manager--she'll be bold and pissed enough to call manager out. Meaning my ass is toast.

If I tell our mutual higher manager, I feel that the usual long process of reprimanding will bite me in the ass. I don't want to burn bridges or work with someone pissed at me. I know it will come back eventually to bite me.

I begged higher manager to get her away from me and for me to report directly to her. Can't do. The decision was originally made by a VP.

Do I get HR involved with higher manager? Do I tell them that I was in a round about way threatened and feel like I'm being harassed, pressured, stressed that all I want is a silent reorg again where higher manager is my boss?

Or no matter what I do, I'm screwed. At least apply to similar job, try to negotiate similar benefits, and move on?
posted by stormpooper to Work & Money (12 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Ever since they moved me to a tag team pair of managers

I read no further. Didn't need to.

Your current position is untenable. There's only one organizational form that works worse than the "dotted line" manager, and that's two solid-line managers. If your org is clueless enough to impose this structure on its peons, it is not somewhere anybody with a shred of dignity ought to be working. Bail.
posted by flabdablet at 7:08 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

It sounds like you're being used as a tennis ball as the upper manager and two lower-ranking managers have it out with each other. Not a situation that is easy to be in for any length of time. My first inclination would be to speak to the highest ranking of these three managers, and explain how untenable the situation is. This is a fight for your bosses to have, not you. Let them sort it out on their own. In the meantime, look elsewhere.

(I should note, I do not tolerate fools gladly. Mangers that act this way are, in my book, fools. I treat them accordingly. This is not for everyone. YMMV).
posted by LN at 7:14 PM on April 26, 2010

1. bail
2. (this is friendly warm cuddly advice...) therapy. you need someone to talk to (esp about that paragraph in the middle)
posted by chasles at 7:28 PM on April 26, 2010

I've been the tennis ball at a previous job and it almost cost me all my marbles. You don't need this. Apply for those other jobs.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:44 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Would you rather be miserable all the time, or only half the time and a wee bit poorer?

Or, to put it another way, your money or your life?
posted by Quadlex at 7:47 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Apply for the other job. If it's not a better option for you, you can always turn it down. Sometimes knowing you actually have options releases some of the pressure you're feeling.

As for the things outside of work that are stressing you out, I second the idea of some sort of therapy or counseling. You need an objective, non-stress inducing person to talk to, and s/he might help you find other ways to reduce stress in your life. Best of luck!
posted by katemcd at 8:32 PM on April 26, 2010

A few thoughts.

Your SO should be supporting you through this. Listening, offering advice, and just being there for you. If he's not doing these things, you should ask him to. I get the feeling from what you wrote that you're "the adult" in this family, but he needs to be one, too. This may be an opportunity to change the dynamic between you and your husband. It sounds like it needs to change... if not now, when?

Apply for the other job. Just applying can't hurt, right? You don't necessarily have to accept an offer. But an offer in hand could give you leverage in negotiating a better arrangement at your current job.

As for dealing with the immediate situation at work: talk to ex-manager if you think doing so won't escalate the drama and put you in a worse spot. Otherwise, it sounds like higher manager has her door open to you -- it could be that drama manager has a history of this sort of nonsense and her manager has an eye on her. Regardless, it's a bit off to be given assignments that need to be hidden from your immediate superior. See if you can get the other two to stop giving you these "secret" projects?

One time, when I was in an intolerable work situation (not management-related), I communicated this to my boss by using the phrase "job satisfaction." As in "this is a job satisfaction issue and I need it to change." Granted, the economy was better and my manager appreciated my value to the company. But it worked.

Finally, as others have said, therapy/counseling. At the very least, it will be an outlet, but it's possible that you may discover that you yourself have behaviors or patterns that need to change.
posted by scatter gather at 8:47 PM on April 26, 2010

If you don't really have anything to lose (because you're probably going to find another job elsewhere), you might as well bring it up to the higher-up manager or request a meeting with both managers present (and preferably an HR rep.) to discuss your concerns. Either it creates more (temporary) drama and confirms your decision to look for work elsewhere, or you end up getting some sort of a resolution. And worst-case scenario: if the drama escalates and becomes unbearable, you can probably take a couple of months of stress leave while searching for another position (and you might be able to get employer-paid therapy as a bonus, if that's part of your benefits package).
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:01 PM on April 26, 2010

If this is a job that you want to fight to stay in while also keeping your sanity I would recommend having a meeting with the top boss and the HR person. Tell them you want to do exceptional work but the position you've been placed in is untenable. Keep it positive and conversational. Come with a solution. State you want to report to one boss so that a clear and universally understood chain-of-command is in place. State who you want that boss to be. Then see if they execute and maintain the arrangement consistently over time.

I don't understand why so many businesses force this type of bullshit on their employees. It's their problem – not your problem. If they don't fix it then walk.

Either way, brush up that resume.
posted by quadog at 2:01 AM on April 27, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks. Sent out hopeful emails to 2 people I know who might have contacts there.

Working on resume tonight and sending it in asap. The 2 people may or may not come through and they can always contact people saying 'this person is in the pile. Put them at the top" At least in best case scenerio.

Thank you everyone.

And yes, I have a ton on my plate. Husband is being supportive with this since he realizes I'm the most miserable if I have a crappy job situation. My problem with him is everything else (not saving for a rainy day, not realizing he has to save for retirement with me, housework, etc). Our son is what keeps me going but at the same time makes me hesitant because being the main income provider, I have to make the 100% best possible choices for us. Lots of pressure.

Again, thanks. Time to move on. I cant' take the micromanaging, ping-ponging, backstabbing, secret meetings about the other person, anymore. It's so f'in high school.
posted by stormpooper at 6:37 AM on April 27, 2010

Response by poster: Update: applied, got a "fill out this detailed survey" which means they're interested at least.

It got worse. Talked with higher boss. She said we need to work it out even if it takes a face to face, all people in the same room screamfest.

posted by stormpooper at 1:35 PM on April 29, 2010

This is that part in the horror film where half the audience is going "Leave the house! Just LEAVE!"

Why don't they ever just leave?
posted by flabdablet at 9:06 PM on April 29, 2010

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