Naive team player in the middle of a well oiled office political machine

Sifaka's picture
Rank: Senior Monkey | banana points 84

Context: Acting as a senior associate at Big 4 accounting firm on BBB client engagement (et al, MS, JPM) on fund of funds structured private equity partnership/ multi-tiered corporate tax returns. Each fund assigned has an associate, senior associate, manager which all gets funneled to and signed off by managing directors.
==================
I sent an email to all my associates for our funds to prepare workpapers which i'd later review. Almost all my associates turnaround the workpaper within 48 hours. However there was one associate that did not, and when i verbally followed up, there was some pushback from associate, saying that there was no need to since there hadnt been any activity for the fund. I explained to this associate that although there is no activity that its best to prepare the workpaper with the information we have to show the client that the work has been performed. The associate remained convicted on their decision to not prepare it.

The manager of the fund who is more than chummy collegues (moderate flirting and occasional hugs) with the associate, wanted a status update. I told the manager about the unprepared workpaper, and what the associate said and their view, as well as what i knew needed to be done as per the MD. The manager then says they'll confirm with another manager instead of the MD because in his words "its just easier to ask [another manager]"

Operating in the hierarchal structure I said okay, and requested that an email be sent to me to confirm. The manager snapped, "Ill send it to the group". I said okay, thinking at least that way we'll all be on the same page.

About 72 hours later, the manager of the fund, asked for a status, on the fund without any mention of the discussion we'd had prior. I asked him about the talk he had with another manager to find out if the workpaper was needed. In a response akin to blowing me off, he goes "yea i spoke to him". And like pulling teeth for him to elaborate, I asked, "what did the other manager say?" He reluctantly admits that the workpapers was needed (without even sending it an email as discussed). I proceeded saying "okay, i'll just let [the associate know]". He curtly replied, "I already told her" then walked off.

48 hours later, the manager ping'ed me for an update on this same fund, that still had not had the workpaper prepared by the associate. At this point I was geared up to provide the update cc'ing the MD's just for a paper trail, but wanted to give the associate a chance to prepare before I sent it out, so ping'ed her that i'd be providing an update shortly. It wasnt prepared, so i worded the email to say the workpapers were on the way.

Since then, the manager of the fund has preemptively thrown me under the bus on two known occasions. I was stuck, and wanted to be a team player for the associate by giving a heads up, as well as a team player to the manger, by not going over the managers head and mentioning it right away to the MD. I was naively quiet in attempts to be a team player, and now, my professional reputation at the firm is in jeopardy.

What would have been the best way to handle this?

Comments (15)

Sep 8, 2014

Feel free to PM me

Sep 8, 2014

.

Sep 8, 2014

Grow some balls. Obviously the subs feel that they can walk all over you, change that. Granted how much power does a senior associate have over an associate I'm not familiar so I don't know. Would it be like a 3rd year analyst to a first year?

Sep 8, 2014

Yea, i'd say its something like that. 2year associate to a 1st year senior associate - just joined the engagement. And by balls you mean, just take it right up with MD? 1st year seniors dont carry that much weight, not only that but theres a closeness with the manager and associate that im wedged between. And the existing manager appears to have a developed report with the MD and has been there with this engagement a year longer, so his opinion seems to carry more weight.

Sep 8, 2014

Well these lower lever people don't respect you. You can't do anything about the higher levels really but maybe show leadership skills and earn respect, you probably look weak in their eyes not being able to get a lower level girl to do what you said is an easy task and also give you some lip back

Learn More

7,548 questions across 469 investment banks. The WSO Investment Banking Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to start your career on Wall Street. Technical, Behavioral and Networking Courses + 2 Bonus Modules. Learn more.

Sep 8, 2014

A banker once told me he'd much rather manage money than ppl. Sounds like the best move wouldve been to give the MD a heads up at the onset to nip it in bud vs giving this girl a chance to perform....

Sep 8, 2014

Shitty situation.

I would've followed up with an email to the associate to confirm when I could expect it to be finished. If I had gotten push back, I'd review the workpapers I had and then ping the manager with a status update and bring up whether he still wanted the workpaper prepared despite the lack in activity in order to show the client that the work had been performed. Be tactful in how you write it because you definitely don't want to throw anyone under the bus, ever. At that point it's the manager's call, once you had the response go and connect with the associate about when you could expect it to be done. If you handled it like that I don't think it's a question of being a team player, you raised the opinion of the associate with the manager, he weighed in. Problem solved.

Sep 8, 2014

Thats what happened, but when the workpapers werent prepared i emailed the manager the requested update, cc'ing the MD, which I took several attempts to avoid. After that email i was target numero uno.

Sep 8, 2014

If after all of that I still didn't get the workpaper I would've CC'd the manager into my next follow-up email to the associate stating when you were going to send out the workpaper and you need her's within that time frame. Or something to that effect. If she still didn't, I'd send in what I had to the manager without her workpaper.

Sep 8, 2014

Sounds like the manager of the fund and your associate performed their own version of the well oiled machine.

Sep 8, 2014
Flake:

Sounds like the manager of the fund and your associate performed their own version of the well oiled machine.

indeed.

Sep 8, 2014

Eh, theres an attempt at least. And it wouldnt be the first. Theres this married 3rd or 4th year senior that gets as close as professionally possible to this associate in the office before car pooling it late nites to long island lol. Poor girl, the once friendly star bucks run with him, is now appearing more obligatory. She used to smile at dinners, but now she only looks down.

Sep 10, 2014

As soon as a subordinate pushes back too much, go back to communicating via email and then forward to superiors and discuss with them.