Advice column: there are rivalries between managers here, and I'm feeling caught in the middle

Dear Ash

I have not long been in my new job but have begun to pick up underlying tensions between colleagues and partners within my department. Although I try to stay clear of such office politics where possible, I feel I am being caught up in it and it is beginning to drag me down.

For example, I was recently asked to work on a specific project which was to take priority over all other matters; however, I then got told off by another senior manager in the team for not getting a different piece of work to him by his deadline. When I tried to explain that I was asked to give priority to the other task he just said that I needed to decide who I was working for! There does not seem to be any real ethos of teamwork and the partners seem to be causing factions within the team.

Ash replies:

Unfortunately you seem to be caught in a tug of war between various egos. It is not your fault, despite you being made to feel it is. Responsibility lies clearly with management, who have failed to ensure that the team work together and not in effect against each other. It appears there is a real competitive edge between senior management, and they have failed to realise the impact on more junior team members.

The department seems to have its primary focus on getting the work churned out, with little or no attention being paid to individuals’ needs. This may ensure its success in the short term, but will inevitably have a negative impact in the longer term as people will choose to move on when they do not feel valued or indeed any sense of loyalty.

I suggest that you initially set in place regular weekly or fortnightly catch-up meetings with your line manager and use this forum to seek confirmation of which matters are to be given priority in the coming weeks. This way you can at least be assured that you are following guidance which your manager is filtering down.

A degree of flexibility will of course be expected from you from time to time in order for you to attend to urgent work; however, where you are asked to make something priority, perhaps just run it past your line manager first to ensure it meets with his/her expectation too. This way you can at least have some support if questions are raised later.

Trying to get the balance right between the expectations of varying personalities is something of a skill and is certainly not easy, but learning to walk this tightrope is required from time to time. You just have to ensure that you do not allow it to affect you personally. 

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor:, or mail to Suite 6b, 1 Carmichael Place, Edinburgh EH6 5PH. Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Education, Training & Qualifications team. For one-to-one advice contact Katie Wood, head of admissions on 0131 476 8162 or by email:

Share this article
Add To Favorites