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THE QUESTION

We are struggling with a key performance index (KPI) and my boss has invited a technical rep to sit in on these weekly meetings. He's supposed to contribute advice but doesn't. This rep's sole purpose is to report back to my boss on the problems he sees. None of the participants is aware of this individual's covert role. If my reports find out this is going on, I will be seen as a dead-ineffective site manager. How do I handle this situation?

THE FIRST ANSWER Kyle Couch President, Spectrum Organizational Development, Toronto

Communication and trust – the number of organizational challenges that come down to these two factors is staggering. This is obviously the case in your situation – there is a breakdown in communication between you and your boss, as well as a complete lack of trust. In short, this is a bad situation.

Given your struggles on this KPI, your boss should be the one offering advice. The fact that a covert operative was sent in instead shows your boss's lack of wisdom on the KPI, as well.

Your first step, should you prefer to stay, would be to seek counsel from your boss, not challenge him. Admitting your awareness of the challenges could go a long way. By working together you will likely be able to determine whether the problem stems from a gap in knowledge, skill, personnel or otherwise. If your boss is unwilling to take the time, you will know his end game right away. If he is willing to work with you, develop a series of strategies to shore up immediate concerns as well as long-term plans to ensure you, and your team, can ultimately succeed on the KPI.

If you feel this breach of trust is likely to continue well into the future and you choose to leave the organization, or seek reassignment, be sure to have a conversation with your new boss to determine their stance on development versus deception.

THE SECOND ANSWER Bruce Sandy Principal, Pathfinder Coaching & Consulting, Vancouver

Ask your boss directly what his intent is of having the technical representative report to him. If he is doing it because he does not believe that you and your team are able to manage the KPI, then he needs to be honest with you about this. If your boss says he does trust and support you, then ask him to appoint the technical representative as a recognized trainer and problem solver for you and your team, and to have that person report to you as opposed to being the "snitch" to him.

If your boss insists on the tech representative reporting to him, then recommend that the technical rep be identified as the training and troubleshooting lead on this project alone. Request that this should be only until you and your team are up to speed on the KPI and that the rep has to brief you and ask for your input prior to reporting to your boss.

Ask your boss how he would feel if his boss put him in a similar situation. Explain the impact of this on you and your team. If your boss does not trust and support you and is not willing to compromise on issues such as this, then you need to update your résumé and start looking for another position in or outside of your current company.

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