What to Do When an Employee Circumvents the Chain of Command
May 4, 2022 | Mark Altman
Managing up, down, and across
Your direct report or colleague consistently circumvents the chain of command by going to your boss with questions and concerns instead of you.
The Root Cause:
Your report or colleague may:
- Feel frustrated at a lack of progress on something they want accomplished.
- Have an unmet expectation – something they wanted you to do that you didn’t – even though they may not have articulated that expectation to you.
- Not feel you are empowered to do anything about their problem.
You have the option to:
- Internalize the situation (and make it mean something about you, your report/colleague, your leadership skills, etc.), or
- Address it.
If you choose to address it, you will need to have two conversations: one managing up and one managing across or down.
Managing Up Conversation
Have a conversation with your supervisor about the report/colleague’s behavior.
You: Hey Susan, Jane is going to you to solve X problem instead of me. Have you noticed that?
Allow your supervisor to respond. They may justify the behavior or make an excuse and regardless of their response, ask: “Will you support me in not enabling that behavior as it will impact my credibility otherwise?”
Managing Down/Across Conversation
Have a non-confrontational conversation with Jane. Use a curious, empathetic, nonjudgmental tone.
You: Hey Jane, I noticed you went to my boss for X problem. I’m wondering why you didn’t just come to me directly?
Jane may either become defensive or make an excuse and either way, empathize and validate her perspective, and then inquire further as needed: “I’m wondering why you made that choice?”
- You have choices: you can ignore the problem and hope it doesn’t repeat, internalize your frustration, or have a courageous conversation.
- If you choose to be assertive, you must have two conversations: one to ensure that your boss isn’t enabling the behavior and one to understand why the person is making that choice.
Content derived from MindsetGo Training Programs: Managing Yourself; Courageous Conversations; Assertiveness
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