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Workplace Telephone

20 Oct 2021 11:00 AM | Anonymous

Dear Sophia,

I have a friend who was told by her boss (the director) that certain organizational changes are coming down the pipeline - mostly a restructure of reporting lines. Next she had a candid conversation with another colleague who shared that the director had told her that a restructure of reporting lines was coming but the details of who reports to whom was different. Then she spoke with another colleague candidly who had yet a third version from the director. There are no cross-team meetings, and no general staff meetings to somehow bring these 'discrepancies' up in 'public'. What should she do?! 


Asking for a Friend

Dear Asking for a Friend,

Ah, a classic game of telephone: office edition! I have been there, too. I was once told that I would be appointed to take over for my boss in the interim after she resigned, while at the same time her boss was telling everyone that she was going to take over that job. In the end I was appointed, but had barely started when my new boss took over the interim role after all, despite having less context than me to do the job. It seems this was her plan all along. Two years later, we still haven’t hired someone permanent for that role, and leadership did not explain their reasoning to me. I will probably never know what went on behind the scenes and that’s what’s important to remember in a situation like this.

At this stage, it’s impossible for your friend to know what the final plan is in her office, and the truth is, leadership at this organization may also not know what the plan is. In my mind, there are at least three possibilities for the different versions of the story your friend is hearing:

  1. The director is deliberately telling different stories as some kind of strategy to confuse employees. This seems unlikely.

  2. The director honestly doesn't know yet what changes are going to be made so they’re throwing out ideas which are being interpreted as more of a certainty. Each employee is inserting their own interpretation and distorting the story further. 

  3. Communication is poor in the leadership team or between the director and their reports, so each staff member has a different idea of the restructuring plan. This is the most likely scenario. 

With the full understanding that one may not receive clear answers, it never hurts to try to open the lines of communication. Office restructuring is nerve-wracking for everyone, so employees have a right to be concerned, and, hopefully, provide feedback on any major plans before they’re finalized. Your friend can state openly to her supervisor that she’s heard a few different things around the office and would appreciate being included in upcoming planning for restructuring. It could be that this conversation sparks better communication from the director or within the leadership team, if they realize how differently staff members are interpreting the plan. I am a strong advocate for open communication, so I hope this may help! 

In the end, your friend may just need to wait to see how things shake out, and hope that next time the director will have a clearer plan before sharing it with the team. 

Confidentially Yours,


P.S. Now that I’ve shared my thoughts, I’m curious what the amazing community of educators reading this post has to say. Chime in, folks! What thoughts do you have for Asking for a Friend? Share your thoughts on the Global Leadership League’s LinkedIn page. Have a question for Sophia yourself, ask here!

Please note: This response is provided for informational purposes only. The information contained herein is not legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for the legal advice or legal opinions of a licensed professional. Contact a personal attorney or licensed professional to obtain appropriate legal advice or professional counseling with respect to any particular issue or problem.


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