Workplace Drama & Undermining

I am a 50+ year old female in a high level management position in my company.  I supervise a few men in middle level management with very inflated egos who are in their early 40s.

In a particular department there are three male managers, two of whom have a history of trying to undermine my authority. Manager #1 and #2 do not like Manager #3 who is new and has a nicer demeanor. Manager #1 supervises Manager #3 and their relationship is very strained. #1 and #2 are now bullying #3 to the point where he is considering leaving for another company. #3 came to me and told me what happened. #1 and #2 had an issue with #3 and used me as the scapegoat by saying that I was very upset with #3 when that was not the case at all. They were upset with him! I plan to confront #1 and #2 about their recent behavior, but I need to be cautious not to let them know that #3 came to me. However, I cannot allow this conduct to continue.

I am usually a very strong, confident woman, but #1 and #2 have been known to run to board of trustee members that are personal friends (good ol’ boy club) and complain about me, and some of these things have actually come up in my evaluation with no evidence to support them, making it very apparent that the information was coming from the management team to the board of trustees.

I cannot continue to move a company forward in this type of untenable work environment where I need to worry about the good ol’ boy network trying to undermine my authority. I have considered leaving for another position because I feel defeated, but I am very successful at what I do, have worked for years to break the glass ceiling, and feel that #1 and #2 need to be held accountable for their actions, but I don’t want to throw #3 to the wolves by letting #1 and #2 know where my information came from. It would be far easier to do nothing, but I cannot in good conscience allow this to continue.

My plan was to meet with #1 and tell him that based on my observations of his inability to work collaboratively with #3 that I am going to take over supervision of #3 myself. I can present all the facts in the world as to why this needs to happen, yet #1 will invariably turn it around on me, make me feel as though I am the one at fault, and then will run to his network and complain about me.

What do I do? It is a vicious cycle where I feel trapped because until the network is dissolved, things will not improve. This is a great example of how hard it is to be the female boss in a man’s world.