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Q: Boss is withholding information ( Answered 3 out of 5 stars,   7 Comments )
Subject: Boss is withholding information
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: orangerose-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 08 Apr 2006 01:57 PDT
Expires: 08 May 2006 01:57 PDT
Question ID: 716735
I have worked only for a few weeks for a new employer, but it is
already apparent that my boss is withholding information from me and
from his boss. My boss'es boss seems to understand this and is feeding
me with information that my boss has not disclosed. My boss is an able
and clever man, and I don't think he views me as a threat to him.
Instead, I suspect there is a power struggle between my boss and my
boss'es boss -- it is quite possible there will be a significant
change in the organization's structure in the near future. I want to
do my job well, and to at least retain my position should there be a
change in the organization, but working without my boss'es
wholehearted support makes this difficult. What should I do?

Request for Question Clarification by sublime1-ga on 08 Apr 2006 02:22 PDT
It sounds like your boss' boss is expecting or hoping for 
reciprocation. He seems to be feeding you information in
the hopes that you will provide him with information that
your boss will not provide to him. If they are in a power
struggle that has the realistic possibility that either
one could end up with the position currently held by your
boss' boss, then you need to pick either the side you're
loyal to or the side you think will win, assuming you're
comfortable playing these types of games. If there's really
no doubt as to the outcome, then it's up to you to decide
whether the inevitable outcome is something you can live
with. If you haven't yet developed a loyalty, take the time
to do so, in accordance with your conscience, but know that
time may be a luxury. If you're not comfortable with choosing
sides and playing the game, simply don't. Be receptive to all
input, but don't give out anything in return - but realize 
that you can't then expect anything in return no matter the

Let me know if this satisfies your interests in asking your


Clarification of Question by orangerose-ga on 08 Apr 2006 05:14 PDT
What you say about my boss' boss makes sense. However, I am still
uncomfortable on what to do with my boss who is not at all helpful. He
could deny everything if I confronted him directly. He tends to cover
his back by supplying me some information, but just too late. I also
suspect that he may try to distract me in helping his boss by giving
me work that might belong someone else. I have developed more loyalty
to my boss's boss but would not like to visibly take side.
Subject: Re: Boss is withholding information
Answered By: leapinglizard-ga on 08 Apr 2006 09:43 PDT
Rated:3 out of 5 stars
Dear orangerose,

It seems from your description that you are faced not with a single
problem but with two problems intertwined. First, you have a manipulative
boss who is hampering your performance and therefore your ability to
satisfy people higher up the chain of command. Second, you are looking
for ways to stay afloat during an organizational change that may be
imminent. My web research has turned up a number of resources that I
hope you will find helpful in this complex situation.

There are many documents available online that deal with the problem
of resolving workplace conflict. However, if you are a bystander in a
workplace conflict rather than a participant in it, your primary goal is
presumably to avoid getting caught in the crossfire rather than taking
an active role in defusing the situation. It is likely, therefore,
that the usual conflict-resolution advice is not directly relevant to you.

Government of Victoria (Australia): Work issues - difficult bosses

About: Human Resources: Personal Courage and Conflict Resolution at Work


Because you are not engaged in an open clash with your boss but you
nonetheless perceive that he is engaged in hostile behavior such as
withholding information, perhaps the best description of your quandary
is that you are the victim of manipulation. Dealing with manipulative
personalities in general, and with manipulative bosses in particular,
is a problem with its own literature.

Amazon: Managing Your Boss, by Sandi Mann

Amazon: Managing Your Boss, by Christina Osborne

Amazon: How to Manage Your Boss: Developing the Perfect Working Relationship

Amazon: Manage Your Boss

Amazon: Managing Your Manager : How To Overcome Your Boss Blues

    Bear in mind that 90 per cent of the time if you take your boss
    on, you will lose. The reason is companies rely on you to work
    as part of a team. The boss has been selected as a leader, so
    if you are not following the leader, it is you who is perceived
    as not being able to work with the team.

    So if you have a personality conflict with the boss or a
    difference of opinion, it?s better to look for another
    boss. Whatever you do, be sure to appear as team-oriented and
    co-operative as possible until you stop working for your boss.

iVillage UK: Work & Career: Toxic boss problems,,156475_156495,00.html

An extremely manipulative and uncaring boss is often described as a
psychopath. If your boss is indeed, as you say, "able and clever" yet
has no compunctions about sabotaging your work, this may be precisely
your case.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Corporate Psychopaths

Fast Company: Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

    Board and Fritzon found that three of 11 personality disorders
    (PDs) were actually commoner in managers than in disturbed
    criminals. The first was histrionic PD, entailing superficial
    charm, insincerity, egocentricity and manipulativeness. There
    was also a higher incidence of narcissism: grandiosity,
    self-focused lack of empathy for others, exploitativeness and
    independence. Finally, there was more compulsive PD in the
    managers, including perfectionism, excessive devotion to work,
    rigidity, stubbornness and dictatorial tendencies.

The Guardian: Is your boss a psychopath?,,1462339,00.html

Beyond the specific problem of the boss, it seems you are dealing
with the more general anxiety caused by the prospect of corporate
restructuring. This is a common cause of workplace stress.

Dr. Mort Orman: 18 Ways To Survive Your Company's Reorganization,
Takeover, Downsizing, or Other Major Change

Scott Berkun: How to survive a bad manager

About: Small Business: Make Stress Work For You

USA Today: Get a grip on job stress

I have found it an interesting challenge to answer this question, and
I wish you all the best with your job. If you have any concerns about
the completeness or accuracy of my research, please advise me through
a Clarification Request and give me a chance to fully meet your needs
before you rate this answer.



Search strategy:

workplace conflict

manipulative boss

survive workplace change

Request for Answer Clarification by orangerose-ga on 09 Apr 2006 07:46 PDT
To Leapinglizard: Thank you for the links. I don't think my boss is a
psychopath, but at least the link on the Government of Victoria
appeared reasonably useful. There are also some potentially useful
books. Thanks to my boss, I haven't time to read everything but have
to choose. Any suggestions on which of the managing boss books would
be best for me?

To Myoarin: Both my boss and his boss interviewed me. In the interview
situation, my boss seemed to be at least as much on my side than his

Clarification of Answer by leapinglizard-ga on 11 Apr 2006 07:03 PDT
Sorry for the delay. I'm off to the bookstore right now to do some
field research. Will get back to you in the afternoon.


Clarification of Answer by leapinglizard-ga on 11 Apr 2006 14:06 PDT

I went to the largest bookstore in town to look for the books I
listed above, and I'm afraid I found none of them on the shelves. I
therefore have no more information about them than one can find on
the Amazon pages. However, my perusal of the management section turned
up some attractive volumes that I think you will find helpful in your
situation. Each of these books is a fairly quick read, so I was able to
cover a significant portion of them at the store. None of them should
take you longer than a weekend to read in its entirety.

First, I was very much impressed by Glenn Shepard's "How to Be the
Employee Your Company Can't Live Without". Instead of writing in the
breathless hype-speak or abstract mumbo-jumbo that characterizes most
popular management manuals, Shepard uses a very plain, direct style
to impart some hard truths about turning oneself into a valuable and
valued employee who can survive turbulent times in the workplace. He
even gives a brief historical overview of corporate employment patterns
to explain how employee traits such as reliability and loyalty have
become more important today, contrary to popular perception, in an age
when transition and restructuring have become routine. There is a whole
chapter about finding out what your boss wants from you, which I think
you will find especially interesting.

Anazon: How to Be the Employee Your Company Can't Live Without

Among the books devoted entirely to dealing with difficult bosses, I
thought the most useful was "Winning with the Boss from Hell" by Shaun
Belding. As Belding explains in an opening chapter, a "boss from hell"
is not necessarily a raving maniac. He classifies hellish bosses into
Passive, Agressive, and Manipulative types. I think the last type fits
your description best. Belding writes:

    The manipulative boss is the classic wolf in sheep's clothing --
    an aggressive personality shrouded in a passive shell. He is
    nonconfrontational but tremendously controlling. He rarely takes
    actions that are not calculated and self-serving. [...]
    * You are often unsure what their real agenda is
    * They often go behind your back
    * They are overly suspicious

Amazon: Winning with the Boss from Hell

Belding goes on to detail, in a very plainspoken manner, his strategy
for surviving and thriving under a difficult boss. I thought there was
a great deal of practical advice and very little nonsense in this book.

Finally, if you are interested in a more philosophical treatment of
the boss problem, you might want to consider Stanley Bing's "Throwing
the Elephant: Zen and the Art of Managing Up". There is less pragmatic
advice and more humor in this work than in the two other books I have
mentioned. Bing explains in a somewhat poetic and roundabout manner why
your boss is like an elephant and how you can avoid getting crushed by
his great mass. The most important thing about your work is the work
itself, he insists, and not the politics surrounding the work. You may
or may not take comfort in these teachings.

Amazon: Throwing the Elephant


orangerose-ga rated this answer:3 out of 5 stars
To Leapinglizard: While taking full advantage of your answer requires
more self help than I had planned, I appreciate your effort and the
links you provided.
To other members of the community: Thank you very much for your
insightful comments. When evaluated as a whole, the feedback I got was
definitely worth the cost.

Subject: Re: Boss is withholding information
From: otpidus-ga on 08 Apr 2006 04:47 PDT
In my opinion, the question you are faced with is to decide which
horse to back at this point in time. Considering the fact that you
have recently joined, I presume you would not have developed strong
loyalties or affiliations yet. Hence, try and judge the environmental
factors around the job profiles of your boss and his boss. Try and
analyze the prospects that each has, of defeating the other. And is
you succeed in getting an answer to this, then throw in your lot with
the winner. Life is about practicalities, so never get caught backing
the wrong horse, despite your layalties. If you judge the situation to
be very volatile, then I suggest you get another job.
Subject: Re: Boss is withholding information
From: myoarin-ga on 08 Apr 2006 10:21 PDT
You might look back at your interviews before being hired:  which of
them was perhaps more instrumental in the decision. Is it possible
that your boss's boss made the decision?  Could it be, that he wants
you to be competition for your boss?

If so (speculation), this could have two reasons:  

If your background is appropriate, he might be wanting to squeeze out your boss,
who is giving signals that he is apprehensive and not as helpful as he should be.

Your boss's boss could alternatively be setting you up as competition
to your boss to confuse the latter's being a clear favorite for his
own position.
In this situation, your boss would also try to hamper your work.

In either case, your boss may not be consciously aware of his actions,
may be doing so without a clear intention of hampering you.  Human
nature and self-preservation can blind.

I cannot make any suggestions, but perhaps this gives a possible
insight into the situation.
Subject: Re: Boss is withholding information
From: roxrox-ga on 09 Apr 2006 15:58 PDT
Could you possibly be jumping to conclusions, readig things that are
not htere? I kow how much I hated training people. Just hated it.
Could be that your boss is not discolsing information to you is
because he jsut doesn't want to take the full amount of required time
it would take to walk you through "it". You view it as non-disclosure
could be a completely different explination. Often times when I had to
train new staff member I wuld not tell them things simply becasue then
I would have to tell them the things that went along with it, and I
had my own job to do on top of training so I would just put things on
the back burner until I had the time. You are seeing it as
non-disclsure because you are "perceiving" a power struggle. Could be
that your bosses boss, who is not responsible for your training, is
much feerer to throw out information to you becasue he is not
responsible for your total training. I would often help new employees
not in my area, with a little bit of insider knowledge, just to make
people feel welcome.

You could completley be misreading the entire situation. Have you ever
trained anybody? Don't be so hard on your boss, training is a B*tch.
Don't forget he has his own job to do as well as hold your hand. Plus
you don't mention anything about the organization, is it large small?
Your boss may just be over worked and the Bosses Boss is just being
nice to you helping you out now and then without having the whole
burden of your training on him. Generally are you a pretty big
believer in conspiracy? Are you yourself a game player of people? Not
to ask that negatively, just asking you to step outside yourself and
evaluate if you are reading things into the situation that are not

Perhaps give at least 3 concrete examples of your theory of what is
going on in your workplace between you, your boss and your bosses
boss.  We over here on Google answers might end up agreeing with you
or totally seeing the situation 100% different than you do.
Subject: Re: Boss is withholding information
From: frde-ga on 11 Apr 2006 05:47 PDT
While I was writing this an inconsiderate GA answerer locked it
- Life is like that.

I stored it because I reckoned it was relevant :

Would it be that :
  Your boss's boss is female
  Your boss is male (we know that)
  You are female 
    (sounds likely 'an able and clever man' - you emphasize his gender)

Subject: Re: Boss is withholding information
From: orangerose-ga on 11 Apr 2006 10:52 PDT
To frde: You are right. What is your theory on what is going on?
Subject: Re: Boss is withholding information
From: myoarin-ga on 11 Apr 2006 17:16 PDT
Very astute, Frde!

It could be that your boss's boss just wants to help make sure that a
fellow female gets a good start, maybe anticipating that your boss  -
for whatever reason -  might not be giving you all the help he should.
Subject: Re: Boss is withholding information
From: frde-ga on 12 Apr 2006 00:58 PDT
Regardless of what 'politically correct' people try to make us
believe, males and females generally behave differently.

A highly confontational female is unusual, and not very pleasant to
deal with, a fairly aggressive male is not that unusual - most males
are not that good at assessing people, and are therefore distrustful.

Admittedly these are gross generalizations, but my hunch is that this
is what is happening in your case.

Your direct boss probably feels insecure, he correctly feels that he
is being ring fenced by females who instinctively understand each

As a result he is resorting to childish tricks.

Probably his boss knows exactly what is going on, and is waiting for
him to settle down and learn to trust you, at which point (unless he
is a seriously nasty piece of work) rather than undermining you, he
will get protective.

His boss's problem is that if she obviously interferes, then he'll get
paranoid, so she /has/ to let things take their course.

One good point is that you regard him as 'an able and clever man'.

If he has not been working for his direct boss for long, then it is
possible that he is suffering from resentment, but in that case you
would probably have described signs of him trying to undermine her
rather than you.

If you get a chance to cover his back or unexpectedly help him out,
then don't think twice about it - as soon as he perceives you as an
asset rather than a threat, his behaviour should take an abrupt turn
for the better.

I sincerely hope that my hunch is correct
- Best of Luck

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