Is ever appropriate to go above your supervisor's rank to get ahead or network?

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Is ever appropriate to go above your supervisor's rank to get ahead or network?

Postby Nate W. » Mon Jan 15, 2018 9:48 pm

Dear Forum,

I could use your help on an issue.

My gut answer to this question is that it depends. However, I know some managers who say this is entirely inappropriate even if the supervisor is doing something wrong. Another way to ask this question is whether your obligation is to the company or your direct supervisor. How else do you get ahead if you are too respective of the boss? Where do you draw the line, especially if you are a consultant. Here is the situation:

I have worked for a group of five wealthy enterenpeurs at a VC and private equity firm for about two years. My direct supervisor is a financier with miminial scientific expertise. We are of the same age and he has a significant background in private equity and finance. This work relationship evolved out of a friendship that I had with him before I started working with him as a consultant. It feels more like a partnership consultant; but he does pay me directly from the firm, so, I call him my supervisor. I have no formal contract with him and bill him for my consulting services. I vet the science behind all the investments the group makes and seek out experts. Plus, my expertise was extremely important in starting up two companies and he has promised me more work next year. I have gone with him on negotiations in setting up these companies. Of note, I have an excellent relatioship with him and enjoy the work. However, I haven't met the other partners in the group and have asked him to introduce me to the senior partners.

My supervisor only has a small share in the firm and I don't think the other partners are aware of what I do for the firm. They might believe that my supervisor does the scientific vetting and arranging collaborations with academic labs. I do this for him and he reports to the partners and the company boards. Yes, I know the science better and have significant contacts in academia but he knows the financing of start-up technology companies quite well; so, it makes a good team. I could help the firm more if I could speak as an employee of the firm (and/or had a contract) especially when arranging collaborations with some prominent academic labs and asking academic PIs to be board members.

So, I asked my supervisor if he would introduce me to his partnership especially the one who has the largest stake in the firm. However, he has never answered the question. My accountant friend is worried that he might be taking advantage of me. His thought was that I should just introduce myself to the senior partner myself and make him aware of what I do for the firm. This might break the ice about my future and a contract.

On the other hand, my father with significant experience in management for a major airline, says that I should always respect my supervior's position in the company and that introducing yourself to the senior partner would only anger your current supervisor (regardless of the situation and how well it is handled). I must admit I have terrible discernment about these matters and don't how I will get a more permeant (or stable) position (or for that matter get ahead) if I don't ask the right people who have the authority. I also would like to inquire about a position within one company. Of note, many scientitic board members on one company value my contributions and judgment.

Should I introduce myself to the senior partner w/o asking my current supervisor? Is my accountant friend right or my father (dated advice?)?

If you were my supervisor in this situation, would you be upset if I merely introduced myself to the senior partner? If so, why?

Should I give the relationship(s) more time?

What is appropriate in this siutation? Would it differ if I was a full time non-exempt employee versus a consultant?

How can I get out from his shadow and work as his equal where I do the science and patent work and he does the finance if he is taking credit for science experise to his partners (if that is the case)? I don't care about the credit but more about a future opportunity and pay.
Sometimes he gives me specific tasks to do but most of time I am left on my own to development my ideas on how to strength the company or evaluate prospective companies.

Remember, I have no contract and have had a huge say in landing this start-up and arranging some key collaborations.

Thanks for your advice.

PS: I have been in opposite situation where I was too passive in promoting myself and/or establishing relationships and this cost me opportunities because I was too respectful to the boss. What is the right balance and what obligations do you owe the boss to get ahead?
Nate W.
Posts: 496
Joined: Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:48 pm

Re: Is ever appropriate to go above your supervisor's rank to get ahead or network?

Postby D.X. » Wed Jan 17, 2018 7:14 am

Hi Nate,

Distilling all through what you wrote - first and foremost the relationshp with the Person you call your "Supervisor" is nothing beyond a Service Provider (that's you) and Client (that's your so called "Supervisor) Relationship.

As such, as you are the Service Provider and your Supervisor is really your Client, Professional Courtesy would be that you do not go above your Client's head in this regard.

Just to clarify you are not an employee of the firm, and your Client is not your Supervisor with respect to directing your objectives, development plan and associated admistrative responsiblities.

That said, should you wish to engage other stake-holders in the Company in the interest of your own Business Development and/or employement - you would Need to secure the endorsement of your Client to engage other stake-holders with your objectives. But personally, I recommend you take a step back and engage your Client first with your request to become an Employee or acheive additional Business via your Client's Network (i.e. the other parnter Folks). So I do suggest you have that discussion directly . If you're not getting any where then your Client is not interested in taking your further and i'm not sure you'll find opportunites calling others within you Client's firm - he or she will be informed anyways.

In a Service Provider/Client relationship, the reality is that nobody really cares how the Client within the Company gets the Job done - for example doing it themselves or out-sourcing. And the Client has no Obligation to raise awareness of the Service Provider internally. Normally if the relationship is good and you're on cross-stakeholder Projects then that awareness becomes organic if you will. Altough in General if the relationship is good between Service Provider and Client I see no reason for the Client not to Support seeking of new Business or even employeement for those relationships where there is trust and appreciation for the Service Providers Talent and hard work. So it's up to you also to determine how good the relationship is - no outsider can help there.

Finally, irrespective of the Clients percent stake in the Company or hiarachy - I recommend that you don't let that be a serrogate for thier influence and relationship strength in the Company, no matter how big or how small - I don't advise using that as a rational to minimize any importance or political influences the may have.

So Overall - go through your Client.

And if you were inside the Company, well I would say go through your Boss and always Keep them informed and get their endorsement - I stop there as this goes out of scope of your specific Situation.

So don't make your relationship something it's not. It's a Service Provider/Client relationship - treat it as such irrespective of any claimed friendship Status If you really want to honor your friendship, then even more do not go behind thier backs..ever...and did i really have to say that? probably not, that's common sense.

Best and from the Client side,

Posts: 1216
Joined: Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:29 pm

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