Leaving a job … changing companies … can and does occur for numerous reasons some of which are in the employee’s control and other’s in the control of the organization. However, there is one situation that I encounter in coaching that creates a real dilemma for the employee and it has no perfect, obvious resolution. Coincidentally, it’s among the biggest frustrations voiced by individuals in organizations.
Simply put, it is about the employee who finds themselves, in effect, thrown under the bus through the lack of support they receive from their boss for the decisions they’ve made on behalf of their company … decisions that they were responsible for making in carrying out their job. This occurs when someone i.e. a customer, doesn’t like or agree with the decision they were given who then goes directly to the boss. The boss, in turn, gives them the answer they want to hear … an answer or position that is at odds with the one initially given by the employee.
Oops. Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon occurrence and creates a dilemma for the employee. If you’ve ever been in this situation you are faced with several questions:
- What happened? You gave the answer that follows company policy or the decision that you had reached when discussing the situation with the boss and yet, when your customer confronted the boss, she/he caved and gave them what they wanted.
- Why? Because you had been told to convey the company position by the boss, you did so. And then, perhaps driven by their desire to be heroic and keep the customer satisfied, the boss undermined you.
- Why #2. Perhaps a key circumstance had been altered and had not yet been communicated to you leading to your now incorrect answer
- What is the result? Your credibility with the customer is greatly diminished and going forward, you are recognized by that customer as the first step and not the final one for there is always the boss.
What can you do about it? You like your job. If offers you excellent potential for your learning and future advancement and yet these experiences cast a negative pall over most everything good. Here are some options.
- Quit the company.
Whereas that’s straightforward and simple, the impact of that can be anything but and thus this isn’t the best first course of action.
- Talk to the boss.
- Convey the outcome of their becoming involved and what it has done and threatens to do to your credibility with your customer going forward.
- Suggest a process for the ‘next time’ that will allow the boss to respond to the customer knowing and understanding your reasoning for the response you provided initially because they conferred with you first.
- Engage your boss in designing a better approach for future instances that will avoid a repeat of the situation. Possibilities include:
- Suggesting that you and the boss have a joint conversation with the customer to explain the decision that will support your initial message and convey unity to them.
- Suggesting that the boss first confers with you prior to giving a response so that he/she is in a position of understanding your decision and being in a position to defend and support it or to allow you to convey a change of mind to the customer.
- Learning what you didn’t realize that will enable you to provide responses more in-line with the company’s approach that just may have changed.
What the best path for you to take will depend on several considerations:
- What are the values that you hold as an individual and to what extent they have been infringed upon in a negative way? Is this tolerable to you or not?
- How significant is the situation that has occurred to you and your relationship with your customer?
- What is the impact on your personal or departmental reputation and the potential cost of that?
- What is the frequency of this happening? Whether a rarity or often will guide you as to the importance of taking action and the extent of what you decide to do.
- What is the degree of risk you associate with confronting the situation and your willingness to accept and take it?
- Where would you look for find employment in the event that you confront the problem and the outcome is not a good one … your plan B on the shelf?
No person would choose to be in such an untenable situation and yet it happens. The ideal situation is having a boss who is open to you voicing your concerns as such and will work with you to bring about changes that will hopefully eliminate this occurrence or at least minimize it. However, there are bosses who appear to be insensitive to impact of what they do in this regard. Maybe you know one. ‘Under the bus’ becomes a parking lot for their employees. Staying there is eventually claustrophobic. Taking action may well have risks however one way or another the air will be purer and fresher.
With appreciation to BW, NG and MC