From the Ask Tom mailbag:
I’ve been in charge of a project for nearly a year. I go away on vacation and come back to rumors about me all over the place and it appears my boss gave my project away to someone else.
I confronted him about it and he still says I am in charge so I boldly take charge. I think things are going ok again, until I find out both my boss and the “substitute” project manager are undermining my authority behind my back.
Politics uncovered. This is a script from Dunder Mifflin, but it’s not funny when it’s your job being worked around. You are either already out and your boss doesn’t have the guts to tell you or the “substitute” project manager has an alternate agenda, probably hidden.
Either way, your response is still the same. As you enter this conversation with your boss remember this:
The person who can best describe reality without laying blame will emerge the leader.
While this scenario seems to be all about you and a competitive threat from a colleague, the reason to get it resolved with clarity is bigger than you. Here is the way I would approach your boss.
“I thought we had come to some resolution about the ABC Project, but there still seems to be confusion on the part of my team that I am unable to clear up. This is important to both me and the company, because, as long as there is confusion, my team can’t be as productive as we need them to be. As the Project Manager of the ABC Project, I have made task assignments to achieve the goals we agreed to. Since my return from vacation, my team has received conflicting task assignments from other people. These conflicting task assignments are causing confusion, rumors, gossip and behaviors that have nothing to do with reaching our goals.
“I can get my team re-focused on the goals of the project, but not when they are getting mixed signals. I would like to get this situation resolved so I can get my team back to work. In what way can we make sure that, as a management team, we are sending clear signals?”
Then listen. Listen carefully.