Conflicting Directions

Dear Jean,

I am in a position where I have direct input from the owner of the company.  Often, after the owner gives me directions, my direct supervisor later tells me something totally opposite from what the owner tells me to do.  What should I do?

Reply:

These two people need to get together with you.  When your supervisor tells you something, just say, “The owner told me to do this, you’re telling me to do this, let’s get together and find out what I am really supposed to do.”  Theoretically, your direct supervisor is the one who tells you what to do, but the owner of the company is the one who signs the checks.  That puts you in a sticky situation.  Once those two get together, talk about it, and come to an agreement.  You will be more comfortable in your job.

When I was young, I worked at a nursing home.  The head nurse made certain requests of me and the owner made different requests.  It didn’t take long to tell where the real power was.  The power player was the head nurse.  She followed up on whatever she asked me to do.  The owner would forget what he asked me to do.  So even though the owner signed the checks, the nurse had the most operational power.  By the way, the owner even did what the head nurse asked him to do.

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