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A colleague of mine asks to be cc'd on my communications to our boss. However, he does not cc me on his communications to our boss.

We are on the same level in the org chart. He has seniority and was originally my manager.

Our boss has asked me to maintain and build a deeper relationship with this colleague (and thus include him in my communications). But I am concerned he will use the informational advantage to my detriment.

Added fact: our boss will sometimes forward my emails to my colleague anyway.

  • Does your boss forward his communications to you? Did your boss also ask your colleague to participate in this building of a deeper relationship? – David Espina Dec 20 '11 at 17:21
  • Thanks David. My boss occasionally sends me his communications. My boss does ask my colleague to build a better relationship. But given our age difference (30 years) and his tenure at the company, communication is not easy for him. – Mark Phillips Dec 20 '11 at 18:01
  • You've all three given me a lot to think about. Thank you! Tiago the pessimistic sounds close to the situation though Bob alone is trying to convince Sam of my failings. Sam supports me but feels loyalty to Bob. Angeline, support from the boss is crucial (I have it -but it gets tainted by Sam). Need to strengthen it. David, amen! Wish I could pick all three as final answer. – Mark Phillips Dec 21 '11 at 6:05
  • I liked Tiago's breadth of perspective. David's advice is the most tactical and implementable. – Mark Phillips Dec 22 '11 at 13:43
  • Good luck!! Crappy situation you're in. – David Espina Dec 22 '11 at 14:55
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I can think of three scenarios according to your comments. All of them might be far away from reality, but there's always a slightly chance that some of them may become real.

  • Realistic: Your boss (I'll call him 'Sam') wants your former manager ('Bob') to help you out, coaching whenever is possible, due to his experience. Sam asked you to cc Bob on your mails to improve the information flown and to discuss about your performance. And, as Bob is acting as your coach (and not the other way round), there's no reason for having you cc'ed on his mails to Sam.

  • Optimistic: (a long shot, but anyways...): isn't there any possibility of having Sam retiring and passing things on to Bob? Maybe Sam decided that Bob was the best person to succeed him, and Sam knows how important is to have Bob and you getting along well to uphold the company.

  • Pessimistic: Sam or Bob believes you may need a coaching / closer monitoring, even without having you asking for such. Maybe there are higher plans for you and someone is not quite sure you're 'the one'.

Conclusion: In any case, you're being requested to do something without knowing why, and that's the first step to think of a thousand of possibilities.

If I was in your shoes, I'd go for your boss, tell him I'd be glad to help in anything he'd like me to do, but would feel more comfortable doing so if I understood better the reason behind this request.

Be objective, there's nothing better than a clear communication, as you taught us in several posts across PMSE.

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This is how I would tackle this situation:

  • Talk to your colleague: set up a honest discussion with him, ask him how he feels about communications right now and how they could be improved. Tell him how you see things as well. I would also ask him why he wants to be copied on all emails (does this help him do his job better?) and whether this is the best way for you two to communicate, or if there are other things you two could do (such as having a regular meeting or catch up, or limiting the cc:ed emails to particular topics that concern both of you). Engage him to find a common solution to this problem that will work for all of you (you, him and your boss).

  • Build trust: perhaps your colleague wants to see all the messages because he feels threatened or isolated if he doesn't know what's going on. If there is an underlying trust issue, it needs to be addressed. And from your own side as well: you mention your concern about him using the information at your detriment: what can he actually do that would have a negative impact on you?

  • Get support from your boss: your boss asked you both to communicate better, but it's his problem too. If you have evidence that your colleague is not following the agreed rules (whether that cc:ing you on emails or anything else you may have agreed to), and is not responding to your requests to do so, take it up with your boss and ask him/her to step in. It's particularly important if this is impacting your ability to deliver and perform (and that impacts your boss too).

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This is a political minefield, which you know, and it appears you are the only walking through it.

I think I'd do the opposite of what Angeline advised and run deep and silent, meaning I'd likely keep up appearances to the degree possible but find ways to 1) cover myself to ensure my colleague cannot undermine my position or authority and 2) find ways to marginalize him.

To bring it up, you'd come across as a bit paranoid. Why would he do anything to your detriment simply because you CC'd him? Yet, we all know how games are played.

This guy is your equal in rank but is coming across like he is your superior. I think your best play is to placate him, sort of keep your friends close and your enemies closer type mentality.

I'm not the best political player so feel free to ignore me....

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