Liaison role can create an opportunity

Dear Joan:
I am currently working in a staff position. My boss is a great guy who treats me very well but does some things that could hurt me in the future. He does not get along with the boss of a division we support.

I came from that division. My career goals are to return to that division after getting some experience in my current job. I was well thought of in the operating division, and I expect my next move to be a promotion to an operating position in that division.

I am worried that animosity between the division head and my current boss will rub off on me. The division head will associate me with my boss and not want me back.

Rather than viewing this as a negative situation, I see it as an opportunity. Promotions are not so much a reward for past results as they are pre-payment for future business solutions. Employees who have both line and staff experience are better equipped to solve business problems because they tend to have a broader perspective. The work you are doing in this staff department is great experience that will make you an attractive candidate for moving back to your former department.

Whether or not you are invited back into your former department depends more on your individual performance than it does on the feud between your boss and your ex-boss, Unless of course, you get caught in the crossfire. So, your strategy must be to:

a) Concentrate on getting excellent results
b) Don’t take sides, and if you really want to help yourself, the divisions and the company,
c) When you can, act as the liaison between the departments.

Because you support your former department, you are likely in contact with them on a regular basis, which gives your work high visibility. No matter how well liked you are, it won't be a substitute for great performance.

It is critical that you do everything you can to be an advisor to your boss in a constructive way. Never say anything negative about your former department. Instead, be careful to communicate clearly and often about the projects that involve your former department. Because your manager doesn't get along with the department head of that division, you can be sure he isn't getting enough information about what is going on, so you can bridge that gap.

Do the same thing with your former manager. Don't assume that he is hearing complete information from your boss. Take extra steps to over-communicate about the status of your projects. When you write update memos, be sure to send a copy to each of them. In a case like this your manager from the operating department will tend to come to you with a request for service instead of going to his peer. Be careful! Make sure your boss knows what you are working on and why. It's important that your boss is aware of your assignments so your priorities are clear and you don't become caught in a tug-of-war.

In addition, take the time to focus some attention on your co-workers in your current staff department. These people will be serving your needs someday when you move back into the operating department so you would be wise to develop solid relationships with them now. Tending these relationships now will pay off political dividends down the road. If they feel that you are ignoring them and putting all your energy into getting back into your former department, they may resent it...and they may have long memories.

Although it's not advisable to become the mediator in this situation, your considerate and careful communication between the two managers will not go unnoticed. They will appreciate your extra effort to keep them informed so they can get their jobs done in spite of their differences. And when promotion time comes, both of them will agree on one thing: you've earned it.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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