Donna's blog on coaching, leadership, and life

Archive for September, 2008

Three strikes you’re out…

When is it OK to communicate a concern over someone’s head at work? What if you’ve gone directly to your supervisor or manager to gain his or her support, without success? What if a manager or co-worker’s failure to be supportive is getting in the way of your being able to do your job successfully?

It’s safe to say that jumping over someone’s head—without their knowledge—to communicate a concern in the workplace runs a high risk of breaking down trust. And regardless of how frustrated you might be with another’s behavior, a breakdown in trust is a hard one to recover from.

Here are a few guidelines that may help:
– Always give the other person the benefit of going directly to him or her with your concern first. Be sure to include your recommendation for a solution, including a role that you may personally be willing to take on to improve the situation. (Ideally, you’ll come to some agreement as to how you’ll both move forward.)
– If, as time goes on, results are not generated, approach them again. Remind them of your prior conversation (or agreement) and ask once again for their commitment to collaborate with you or support your request. Reiterate the importance of your working together towards the business goal (i.e., customer service, productivity, efficiency, etc.).
– If, as time goes on, results are still not experienced, approach the individual a third time. Let them know that you feel you’ve made a fair effort to resolve the issue directly with them. Mention both conversations, and let them know that because this issue is getting in the way of your doing your job, or there’s a business/service risk factor, you feel a need to talk with their manager in order to the get support you need. Assure the person you have no intent to communicate your concern to his or her manager behind their back, so if they want to join you as you request and attend the meeting, they’re welcome to do so.

Although this approach will not be an easy or comfortable one, you may take some comfort in knowing that it may be the most trustworthy, direct, and respectful approach.