common work dilemmas. Read the full article here.
In another situation, a new boss is managing an experienced team. He’s approaching the work in his own way, ignoring the explicit directions given previously by the top boss. As a result the team’s productivity is way down. One team members tries to talk to the boss but the boss wants none of it. What should the employee do? Go over her immediate boss’s head and tell the big boss what’s going on?
A third scenario: On a team of three people, one member repeatedly drops the ball. She comes in late and leaves early. The little work she does is slipshod. Is it time for her teammates to report the slacker to their boss?
These dilemmas are common at work. For advice on how to handle them, I interviewed seven career and executive coaches, in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. My questions: When should you go over someone’s head at work? If you do, what’s the best way to handle the situation?
The coaches differ on the first question. Eileen Wolkstein, a longtime coach and straight shooter, says that you should almost never break ranks and go over someone’s head. “People have to find a way around these problems because if you go over someone’s head, it almost always comes back to bite you,” she says. In the HR scenario she says it could work to involve the staffer’s boss, but treading carefully is essential. Suggest to the boss that the three of you sit down and talk through what you need. “I suggest taking the high road,” she says. In a situation where your colleague isn’t performing, Wolkstein says the boss doesn’t want to know about it if the work is getting done.
New York coach Anita Attridge agrees with Wolkstein. Unless the uber-boss sees a problem, he doesn’t want to hear about yours. And often the uber-boss will tell your boss you complained and your boss will retaliate in some subtle, or not so subtle, way. “The way to commit suicide at work is to go to your boss’s manager,” she says. “It’s an unwritten law.” Attridge had just that experience early in her career when she worked at a large corporation. Even though three people had resigned over her boss’s bad behavior, when she complained to her boss’s boss, he said, “He’s getting results. It must be the employees’ problem.”
But the other five coaches say they think that going over someone’s head can work if done carefully. Ellis Chase, a coach retained by Columbia Business School and author of In Search of the Fun-Forever Job: Career Strategies That Work, says you first have to evaluate the corporate culture in your office. Coach Mary Anne Walsh agrees. She has a client who’s a senior vice president in a company she describes as a “flat organization,” an early-stage high tech growth company where people sit in an open space the size of a city block. “There’s no sense of a corner office,” she says. “Dialoguing is a matter of course.” In a place where people pay little attention to hierarchy, it can be easy to jump ranks and discuss problems with superiors or colleagues.
Read the full article.