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Should I Take Sides in a Boss-on-Boss Turf War?

Dear Stanley,

I've recently become aware of a turf war going on between my current manager and another manager. The two really don't like each other. I really believe the other manager wants to muscle my boss out of the picture, and I want to align myself with the right person. Do I go for loyalty and defend my boss? Should I try to get in good with the other guy? Or should I just keep my head down and wait to see how it plays out?

Signed,

Mini-Machiavelli

Dear Mini,

It's a delicate situation. If you're stupidly loyal to the point of idiocy, you could end up on the short end of the stick. If you're not loyal enough, you will be unmasked for the callow, shallow, manipulative, scheming corporate stooge that you seem to be just a little bit. Keeping your head down entirely could put it in the perfect position for it to be severed from your body one of these days. Some combination of the three seems to be in order. I would suggest this:
In this construct, you demonstrate good, solid loyalty to your boss. This is the right thing to do and will be appreciated, even by his foe. You will feel good about yourself, because you should, and not show yourself to be a lousy loser who would sell out his mother for a pot of lentils. This is a personality trait that will serve you well over time, better even that being a backstabbing weasel.

Secondly, you are also spending some time being polite and cordial to the other guy. It shouldn't be ostentatious, but now and then you can simply be a human being to the other manager, so that the thought may cross his/her mind, "When I win, I may save Larry. He's not a total bozo, and at the same time he's not a disloyal jerk to the idiot I'm going to crush." Again, this is very delicate. You want to demonstrate the potential to serve if necessary, without actually doing anything that could hurt your current boss.

Finally, it's never a bad idea to stay out of the line of fire when bullets are flying. That's just smart. Smart people do well, even in business.

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