You were hired to do a specific job or oversee a certain department of your organization. And let’s presume you were selected because you had the knowledge and skills that would enable you to be successful. Your boss has outlined your responsibilities and the goals he envisions for the work. All is good … until …
Until you get into the position and begin executing as you see fit. In doing this you discover any or all of these situations:
- The bosses perception of the way things are is not the reality of what you find once into and on the job … MIXED MESSAGES
- The people you oversee have a very different view of the work that they have been doing as well as the goals of what they are expected to accomplish from that which you were told when you were placed into the job … MIXED MESSAGES
- What the boss has described as being reality is not what you encounter when out among them and thus, you quickly begin to view the situation(s) as being quite different requiring different approaches and/or solutions … MIXED MESSAGES
- You are being given different perspectives of what is necessary and important by two different people, both of whom expect you to heed their input … MIXED MESSAGES
There are undoubtedly more such situations in which you can find yourself and what they all potentially share is their being unpleasant, frustrating and confusing. The question becomes what does one do about it? Regardless of your wanting to be successful in the eyes of the ‘higher-ups’ within the organization you are confronted by a difference of opinion and clearly caught in the middle … that is … if you allow yourself to be there. And not only is the potential impact on you. It’s also on those your reports who simply want clear, strong and decisive leadership so that they can do their respective jobs with confidence in knowing they are doing them right and making a positive contribution to the company.
Here are some things you can do that have the potential of taking you out of this undesirable position by allowing you to move forward aligned with other people’s expectations of you and your project, department or group:
- Speak up in a straightforward manner when you receive conflicting input from two bosses. You’re not going to be able to please everybody as it may stand initially and thus, bringing the parties together to discuss the differing directions take you out of the middle.
- Address the difference by pointing to it when it is only between your thinking and that of the boss’s. Wanting to hear and understand the boss’s approach can also give you the opportunity to present and defend your own. Most often the resulting discussion brings about a move-forward resolution.
- Maintaining a solutions-oriented approach keeps your mind open to hearing and considering something else. Of course you don’t want to just say no to anyone or anything. Therefore, doing this can result in the kind of reputation that translates as beneficial for you.
- View this as a test … only a test. Some bosses create the confusion as a means of witnessing just how you handle it. What they are watching to see is how you handle existing conflict. Handling it professionally results in positive notice and potential future benefits.
To the extent that you have ever or do find yourself in a leadership position wherein you are given mixed message as to what and how you are expected to carry out your responsibilities, it can be very uncomfortable and frustrating. Regardless of what the scenario it is important that you confront the situation. Your intent is to get clarity enabling you and your group to do the job right the first time. In most cases, the mixed messaging is unintentional and yet it happens fairly often in organizations. Dealing with it earns the respect of your team and the boss. Now that’s a win!