Communicating with the boss is tricky. If all you ever do is say good things you may enter the world of being called a “suck up” and your colleagues will hate you. Even the boss doesn’t like a brown-noser. If you are critical, especially in front of others, you may end up “spending more time with your family”.
The suggestion box went the way of the pager and fax machine. All employee surveys are generally too broad to provide feedback at the individual level. An email is easily tracked. So how do you get that feedback to the boss? The Chair is sometimes the answer for communications.
It is important to distinguish between capital C Communications and communication about the things that the boss should know but no one has the gumption to voice.
Capital C Communications include “the strategy would be better if we expanded in to Latin America.” Or, “the customers are complaining about the lag time in service.” No need to bury that type of information. Say it out loud and often. You might help the company in big ways and even get a promotion.
The messages to the boss that are best served by leaving it on the chair at night are things the boss should know but no one will ever say. Sample messages include:
- Screaming at the sales team every day is not showing your best self. It won’t get better results and the team doesn’t like it.
- Please don’t take a newspaper with you to the bathroom. You can do better.
- If you say “at the end of the day” one more time I think my hair will catch on fire.
- Showing favorites is never a good way to get the team to work harder.
- The team is wondering why your door is closed all the time. Rumor is you’re looking for another job?
- Communicating via Twitter or email is not as effective as getting us all in the conference room for an update every once in a while.
Messages like these are tough to deliver to someone who controls your future. But these are things a boss should know, albeit through a note on a chair. If the message is helpful and positive the boss might actually welcome the feedback, although maybe not at first.
(Be sure there are no video recording devices that can catch you around the boss’s chair as the messenger.)
Most people in any kind of a supervisory role are quick to say, “I want feedback”. No they don’t. Well, they do if the feedback is positive. Negative feedback is criticism. Especially if it’s about personal behavior, and it’s not what they want to hear.
Using the boss’s chair at night is only a metaphor for somehow ensuring that important messages are delivered for the good of the organization and the boss. Human nature is such that sometimes-helpful feedback needs to be anonymous.
What’s on your chair?
It happens. It happens more than it should. The boss made a mistake and all hell is breaking loose. Maybe the mistake was based on a decision made too hastily. Maybe it was made on insufficient data. Maybe it was made on an impulse in the heat of a moment. No matter the logic behind it. The mistake was made and the ramifications are rippling through the organization in a bad way. But the boss is intransigent and will neither own up to the mistake or make any change. Now what?
When the boss is wrong the best case scenario is when he or she recognizes the error of the decision and corrects it. An apology might be the right thing to do but for some leaders, that is not a part of the vocabulary. Just the act of making a correction could be enough to broadcast, “I made a mistake, let’s move on”, and the organization will move on. But sometimes none of that happens and the mistake lives with you every day.
The list of wrongs that can hurt the organization is long. Could be a star performer that was terminated for no good reason. Could be sticking with a product that everyone knows is a dog. Could be promoting a jerk. Could be imposing a policy that everyone hates. Could be implementing a strategy that everyone knows is doomed to failure. Could be singling out a group for poor performance when it was due to external circumstances. Could be something the boss did that everyone knows is antithetical to what the organization stands for. Could be just stupidity or lack of awareness.
The story of the “Emperor with No Clothes” is not the same situation. At least the Emperor was oblivious to how he looked and seemed to be willing to change once the truth was told. The worst-case scenario that can occur is when the wrong minded boss knows that a mistake has been made, everyone in the organization knows it’s a mistake but no corrections are made.
The organization may not have any options but individuals do have alternatives to consider. Here are just a few:
- REVOLT! Best not to revolt by yourself. If the mistake is killing the organization, even slowly, it’s best to gather smart people to explain the situation to the boss in the hopes the wrong decision will be righted. No guarantees that things will change but there is strength in numbers.
- Present alternatives. Sometimes mistakes can be corrected most quickly if there are clear alternatives. If presented in a clear way as a better path forward, any good leader will take the alternate idea forward.
- Demonstrate. Your personal displeasure can be shown in a myriad of ways. The downside to any overt signs of telling the boss that a bad decision was made, of course, is getting fired. Sometimes that outcome could be worth it and you will be on the record as showing your lack of support.
- Resign. Best to have something else lined up before executing on this strategy. Don’t assume that anything will change as a result of your action.
- Live with it. The only solace in hanging around is a belief in the karma that all bad people will eventually suffer. Research does exist that proves this to be true but how patient can you be?
Too bad those leaders still exist that make mistakes and are unwilling to admit mistakes or correct them. In my experience, employees who are doing the real work almost always know when a decision is the right one. If leaders would listen, mistakes wouldn’t be made as often as seems to be the case in the world today. A little listening and course correction is sometimes all that it takes.
Happy Birthday to you, dear iPhone. It’s only been ten years and we don’t remember a time when you didn’t exist. Nearly a billion people own you but it’s more like you own us. You created industries, you eliminated entire industries, you changed us in ways that have researchers scrambling. Unintended consequences of your presence are everywhere. For better or worse, and with an eye toward those changes not usually mentioned, here are a few of those changes wrought by the iPhone after only ten years.
- Children have learned independence. Because parents are always on the iPhone children have learned independence in new and creative ways. Note the youngster being pushed through an intersection in a stroller while the adult is looking at the iPhone. The child needs to make decisions about traffic and when it is safe.
- The importance and appreciation of electricity has never been greater. Before the advent of the iPhone we never paid attention to the location of electrical outlets. Now we covet and fight over outlets, especially at airports.
- Time management is now part of our DNA. We are now both efficient and effective because of the iPhone. We can order a latte before we even arrive at the coffee place. We can find our car in a big parking lot. We can talk to the phone and ask for the correct spelling of paralyzed.
- Places that used to be really noisy are now quiet. We all seek solace and peace and quiet and the iPhone has been instrumental in creating those quiet spaces. Instead of talking to each other at restaurants or coffee shops, people are now quietly looking down at their phones.
- Discipline and planning skills are now learned at an early age. Young people learn how much battery life is left and to keep keys next to their phone. Life doesn’t exist without the phone so anything important needs to be next to it.
- New innovations were developed just to enhance the iPhone world. Selfie-sticks are the best example of the new adjacent world that has been created. And we all know the positive impact that selfie-sticks have had on our lives.
- The job of babysitting is now much easier. Instead of battling over who is winning at Chutes and Ladders, now it’s easier to just let the youngster play alone on the smart phone. Television is not even required.
- Creativity is now enhanced through the miracle of auto correct. Not only do we get to learn new words, we wonder how the phone came up with the translation. Everyone’s favorite is the conversion from hungry to horny.
- Multi-tasking can hit new levels of complexity through the iPhone. In the old days we could be on a conference call and check email at the same time. Now we can do all of that and watch a movie at the same time on the same device.
- Research is showing that time on the smart phone can interrupt sleep patterns and that we tend to sleep less when we spend a lot of time looking at the little screen. Think of how effective we can be if we only get four hours of sleep each night.
Thanks iPhone, the world has changed in so many ways since you arrived. I am as guilty as anyone; I can’t live without you. Like the rest of the world, I am addicted to having you in my life. I look forward to more years together. Happy birthday and many happy returns.