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Contradictions from Management: Which Way Is Up?

Updated: Aug 31, 2020

DEAR MOMENTS OF FOCUS: We have two vice presidents who always contradict each other: if one says the workday starts at 9 a.m., the other will send a memo saying the start time is 8:30. How do I deal with this as an employee?



DEAR WHICH WAY IS UP: It can be extremely difficult as an employee to report to two managers or executives. Having two people who make it obvious that they are not in agreement, or just don’t get along, can be a bit of a nightmare. The best thing for you to do is err on the side of caution always. Make sure that you are very clear on all of the instructions that are given and the surrounding repercussions of any action that you carry out. If one executive says that work starts at 8:30 a.m. because they would like for you to be there when they arrive, and the other says that you should arrive at 9:00 a.m. because they expect for you to be there when they leave, be prepared to arrive at 8:30 a.m. However, if there is an issue with you arriving a half an hour earlier due to your company’s overtime policy, you will have to confront this question head on. In these situations, you may find yourself saying things like, “Ms. William, I am more than happy to come in at 8:30 a.m., but Mr. Jackson has asked that I come in at 9:00 a.m., due to the time my day ends. How should I handle this?” and vice versa. Always make sure that you are in a position to be able to put the onus, or responsibility, back with the executives. Any dispute should be between the two of them and should not include you. They will instruct you on what you should do next. In this type of situation, you have to see yourself as a worker who is simply reporting and carrying out duties. The best thing to do is to be very clear on all instructions given and respectful to both parties. If this becomes too much of an issue for you to handle personally, set a meeting with your Human Resources manager.


Always make sure that you are in a position to be able to put the onus, or responsibility, back with the executives. Any dispute should be between the two of them and should not include you.


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