Conscious or unconscious bias, that’s the real question. And every day I get to chat with all sorts of people who live in very difficult situations. So I want to challenge all of you as to whether you think this is conscious or unconscious and of course, the names and situations have been changed to protect the individuals. 

Sally works for a large Government organization in the middle management role where she has 7 direct reports and an immediate boss. The role was created about 3 years ago and it separated senior managers from these 7 direct reports. So ultimately there are still 7 senior managers feeding work through this particular pipeline to the 7 now indirect reports. 

Now the situation is made a little bit more awkward by the fact that Sally’s former boss Pete is now her subordinate. Pete boss has a great relationship with Sally’s boss Dave and Dave is a key culprit of giving work directly to Pete. 

Sally is frustrated trying to manage a team with no idea what work they are getting or the deadlines involved. So, Sally went to Dave and outlined her concerns, explaining that she felt it compromised her ability to deliver. Further to that, she highlighted the situation that Pete was struggling to accept. She ended by requesting that he personally support her by giving his work for Pete to her or at the very least briefing them together. 

Her boss responded saying he really valued his relationship with Pete, that it saved him time to go direct and will be really disappointed if she couldn’t try and make it all work for the best of all of them.

Is it really? Is this situation normal? What do you think of this situation? And what do you think Sally should do about it?