I have an unusual profession, one which relies very strongly on a chain of command. I am the "line" professional, who actually does the work of the profession. My work is then reviewed my my direct supervisor, "Celia". If Celia decides that she disagrees with an aspect of my work, it directly affects the person I am working with. I have face to face contact with the public. These people are often people in the hiring process for a job. If I do my work, and deem that the work is satisfactory, but Celia decides that it is not, it can mean the person I am working on is delayed in being hired. I take this responsibility VERY seriously, always have, but especially in these very hard economic times.
I am very senior in my profession. Instead of taking a supervisory position, I chose to continue my work as a "line" professional in an off-site location. I mention the fact that I am very senior partially because my seniority has made it so I have done my job thousands of times, and am pretty good at making the judgments necessary. It is also important because many of my equals and friends with whom I trained a zillion years ago are now in supervisory positions, and I am more often treated as one of their equals than a subordinate.
About 2.5 years ago, I was transferred from my old supervisor, Celia to another supervisor, Jessica. My relationship with both was very cordial and professional, and we worked very well together. Both supervisors treated me with great trust and respect. During the time I worked with Jessica, Celia continued to work for my organization, just for another part. Also during this time, Celia experienced a crushing personal tragedy.
About 6 months ago, Jessica transferred out of my organization and, because Celia was used to working with my unusual off-site setup, I went back to working for her. Almost immediately I noticed that Celia was regularly rejecting my work, at a rate of 8x the rate I had had work rejected by any other supervisor in the past. At first I was wondering if I had gotten lax while working for Jessica, and took some refresher training. To my surprise, my refresher training showed me that rather than becoming more lax, I was considerably more rigid than the norm in my profession. This means that the guidelines Celia was setting were nearly impossible to meet.
This has caused me a great deal of upset, because, since Celia is rejecting my work, the people I work on are getting rejected as a result. The BEST case scenario is that they will have to wait several extra weeks to begin work. To me, this is unconscionable, and I have tried to make my concerns known. The problem I am having is that I really feel like I am having to treat Celia with kid gloves wrapped in cotton wool and bubble wrap. She has not recovered from her personal tragedy, and she really appears to be struggling personally. In addition, her health is extremely vulnerable. In the past 3 months, she has been absent more often than she has been present.
I have tried dealing with these situations on a case by case basis, but I have found that Celia is not very receptive to my concerns, she has been brushing them off with comments like, "We all know you do a great job and work really hard," or "It is just a phase, we all go through it", basically saying that the problem lies in my work, but that I will essentially "grow out of it."
Here lies my etiquette issue. Next week, my two organization chiefs are traveling to visit me. I have already decided that it is past time that I bring my concerns to them, essentially going over Celia's head. I have a list of things I need to discuss with them, so I won't get flustered and get off track, but I am still struggling, because, darn it all, Celia is a good person underneath it all, and I am afraid that A) Mentioning my concerns will start an investigation against her and cause yet another crisis in her already fragile life, and that B) Since such an investigation would start immediately after a visit with ME, that she will know that I am the cause of her grief. I also have some other concerns about her I need to speak to them about, she has done a couple of things that are so bizarre and inappropriate that I'm really questioning her judgment, so it is about more than her rejecting my work. I am trying to figure out how to diplomatically state my concerns without it being a "dumping on Celia" party. How does one go about making a complaint without it becoming personal? (Note: I have documentation of all of the times I feel her decisions have been questionable)
Finally, I mentioned before that many of my peers are in Celia's position, just in other departments. I am close friends with one of them, and very cordial with another. One of them actually told me some worrisome things about Celia, that her personal issues are bleeding into her work life, and that she has already had some responsibility taken away because of that. This lady has invited me to talk with her off the record if I ever had issues. I haven't taken her up on that, but I am tempted, because, since I'm off-site, I really have no idea what is actually going on in the office, and for all I know, Celia is already under investigation, and that is why she is being so rigid. Would you approach a colleague/friend and test the temperature of the office, or am I putting my colleague/friend in too awkward of a position?
I really feel so conflicted. No matter what I do/don't do, people are suffering. I feel as though I am doing a disservice to my profession and organization by continuing to turn a blind eye to the situation. I have decided I must speak out, but I am lost as to how to do it. Wording suggestions and tricks to properly prepare for this meeting with my bosses would be much appreciated.
I am physically incapable of being brief. Sorry. Thanks for your patience.