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I'm officially a manager. But my boss, a director, is a control freak and micromanager. He thinks his role is to tell people very exactly what to do and largely ignores arguments once he's decided.

I'm repeatedly caught in a situation when somebody blames me for what my boss asked me to do and I advised against.

How to say: "My boss told me to do that" without coming across as childish or unprofessional ("It wasn't me!")? These are decisions that are hard to defend and even though I'm trying to think about the rationale it's hard for me to understand them or to find the advantages.

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    Why do you think it sounds childish? I could see it either way. Could you provide more context? Jan 25, 2022 at 20:37
  • @JoeStrazzere, and if it wasn't a decision but something I did because my boss asked me to?
    – user2789
    Jan 25, 2022 at 21:09
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    "These are decisions that are hard to defend" - listen to your own voice. Time to find another job. Jan 25, 2022 at 21:14
  • 3
    @MichaelHarvey rule #1 of this stack exchange: no matter what your question is, the answer is always "find another job" 🙄
    – foerno
    Jan 29, 2022 at 15:04
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    @Steve - how about 'I was only obeying orders'? Jan 30, 2022 at 14:36

5 Answers 5

24

I would recommend something along the lines of the following:

I did exactly as I was instructed. Please direct your concerns to {Person}.

I wouldn't indicate that you advocated against something or that you advised a different direction. Keep it plain and simple. There is nothing wrong with making sure that the appropriate person is answering for the decisions made. There is nothing childish about it. You are choosing not to speak for another person.

13

Make sure to ask your boss for the reason, and reproduce the reason when asked. This way you can basically still say "My boss told me to do so", without having to agree our disagree with it.

"XY decided to use a MySQL database since he felt that mauve brings the most RAM." If someone challenges the statement, you can politely ask them to bring that up with your boss since it won't be your decision to make.

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    If you can pull that off without laughing...
    – gnasher729
    Jan 25, 2022 at 23:04
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    @gnasher729 If you practice dry humor, you can get away with INCREDIBLE snark and not get caught laughing. Jan 25, 2022 at 23:38
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There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with a decision. There is nothing wrong with trying to convince your boss to go another way. But businesses are not Democracies. Once the decision maker has made a decision, it's your job to execute that decision to the best of your ability. This principle is often called "disagree and commit".

It is entirely professional to say:

"Jeff and I discussed that. My recommendation was that we partner with an industry leader such as Oracle. Jeff decided we should build it ourselves because he felt that having this capability internally would be a sales driver. I committed to executing on that decision to the best of my ability."

You are a manager. It may help for you to build a culture that understands that input is welcome, but once a decision is made, everyone must execute that decision.

It is perfectly fine for the crew to disagree on where the ship should be going, but if they disagree on where the ship is going, the ship will just go in circles.

Leaders exist to make decisions and you can't sabotage a project because you disagree with the decision. You also can't execute some strategy other than the one everyone else is executing. You need to build this culture into the people you manage.

Make sure that you also internalize this. If your boss makes a decision you disagree with, you must commit to executing it to the best of your ability until and unless the decision changes. You can work to get the decision changed, but you must not sabotage a project just because you disagree with it. Be careful not to de-motivate the people working on it as that's a form of sabotage.

If you're constantly doing things you think are stupid and are being made to commit to strategies that you cannot make work, then it's probably time to look for another job. Even if you do that very well, it's no fun and you'll just pile up failures.

0

First, make sure that when there is something like this that comes up, the issue is with a specific implementation that was outside of your control, not just a directive to "do something". If that is the case, then usually the best response is something along the lines of:

"The decision was made by do xyz. If there are questions or concerns, the best person to bring them up to would by director's name."

If pressed further for more information, then you respond that since you were not the one to make the actual decision, you cannot provide any detail about how the decision was made, since it would be irresponsible to defend or criticize the decision, since you were not a part of the decision making process.

This might come off as passing the buck, but in reality, it is irresponsible to try to provide reasoning for a decision that was made by someone else. If this happens repeatedly, you can always ask your director if there is a reasoning that you could share.

If this is seen as passive aggressive by your director, then in all honesty, there's nothing you can do, since this would really be the most responsible response to make. Ultimately, though, your response has to be 100% that you support that a decision has been made, and that you are implementing that decision to the best of your ability.

Of course, if there is a legal or ethical reason why the decision is wrong, then that would be a different issue. Your question did not indicate that this was the case, though, so this path would probably be your best bet.

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The decision has been made by those above my paygrade, and I have been informed that I will have no input on it. Please address your concerns to upper management.

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    To me, this feels too much passive-aggressive, and kind off falls in the "My boss told me to do that" category, with added sarcasm
    – Aserre
    Jan 26, 2022 at 14:42
  • @Aserre is that better? Jan 26, 2022 at 18:41

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