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I'm the General Manager of a medical device company based in Spain, which has a "complicated" product. That means it has a lot to deal with in terms of local laws and market culture.

I'm in charge of the LATAM project in our company, with the intent to adapt said product to each country in Latin America, i.e., launch our European product to the LATAM market, connecting with every sector in the company regarding local laws and market culture, mostly being engineering and marketing.

Being the project manager, I need to interact with each Director for all Latin American countries we'll be working with (Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Dominican Republic). The objective with such interaction is to collect enough data (about laws and market culture) to develop a strategy for our Product Launch Program.

My problem is: the Director of our Chile's operation does not want to interact with me in any way about this. I traveled to all countries but Chile, collected data, had meetings with lawyers, regulatory consultants, marketing people, potential customers, etc..

The reason being he never had time to attend our traveling schedule. Even though I tried scheduling 5 flights with a 5 work days schedule.

Then I tried to do it through online meetings, but he told me "I do not want this product in my market. F*** off" (literally those words).

He is a former doctor and disapproves this specific product because it's not aligned with his protocols and scientific knowledge. So he does not want doctors from Chile using it.

My objective is to report this to the CEO in Spain, which also happens to be the brother of Chile's director.

How may I approach him about this situation?

I have a major concern of doing this the incorrect way because since they're brothers, I do not want any trouble to my side. I love the company and I fulfill an important role besides this project, which I do not want to lose.

I assume (with strong background on such assumption), that the CEO does not want to kick his brother out of the company. So he'll stay at the company.

Do you have any advice?


Important facts:

  1. I do have a recording of such meeting where Chile's director said that.
  2. Not having Chile in this project means at least a 18% decrease in total sales in Latin American countries.
  3. Investors are considering Chile as part of the business.
  4. The company currently operates in all LATAM countries mentioned with other products.
  5. Above the CEO, there are no one but investors.
  6. I do have a close relationship with our investors, so talking to them first could be an option as well, skipping the CEO.

EDIT: I just had a meeting with the CEO about this problem, whose was very supportive, then he immediately put his brother on the phone call and told him to accept a reasonable schedule for my work. He was very harsh on the phone with his brother saying "the business should be above personal beliefs" (maybe too harsh?). The Chilean Director had a few words here and there towards his brother, not me (which is good), and then asked me to send 2 options of schedule.

Now, whether this is going to be hard for me or not only time will tell.

Thank you everyone here for the answers, which helped me a lot to build a solid, professional argument towards this problem.

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6 Answers 6

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Not having Chile in this project means at least a 18% decrease in total sales in Latin American countries.

You should definitely inform the CEO about the impact of not having Chile in the plan. He will ultimately make the decision. It will be his decision that will be scrutinized by the investors. He can't throw you under the bus when the investors ask him why the company does not include Chile in the business plan.

All you need to do is to clearly tell the CEO that the director of the Chile's operation does not want you to include Chile in the business plan. Then, you should ask the CEO for his final decision: either YES or NO to go ahead. Everything should be absolutely clear, precise, and professional.

I am sure you are smart enough to have a record of this meeting with the CEO in case the investors are not happy with CEO's decision not to include Chile in the plan.


I do have a close relationship with our investors, so talking to them first could be an option as well, skipping the CEO.

Skipping the CEO is risky. Don't go around and over the boss (CEO). He may take it the wrong way, and may mistakenly think that you are trying to create frictions between him and the investors and to use the investors to pressure him to do business your way.

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    "inform the CEO about the impact of not having Chile in the plan" -> business facts & numbers. Or numbers & business facts. Either one. This and only this. Nothing personal. CEO deals with numbers and facts and decide. Keep track of everything.
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 7:30
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    To add to what @OldPadawan said, the OP's communication to the CEO should be strictly business and nothing personal. What goes on between the CEO and his brother can be personal all they want, but that shouldn't/can't be part of what the OP's says or does. And if the CEO or the Chilean Director tries to pull them into the personal stuff (which seems likely from the Director side), the OP should stay out of it as much as possible and should be documented and reported to whatever (internal) authority (HR?) is necessary to CYA. Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 18:25
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    Regarding recording the meeting with the CEO, keep in mind that in several places you're required by law to inform another person before recording them. Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 19:35
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    Thank you for your answer! I did schedule a meeting with him based on your and other's advices. I will edit the OP as soon I get a result out of it.
    – RA828
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 19:59
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    @Job_September_2020 Just added! The meeting was today in the morning. Thank you a lot.
    – RA828
    Commented Feb 6, 2023 at 18:26
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  1. Schedule a 1:1 face to face meeting with your CEO (or whoever your direct managers) for a status update.
  2. Explain that you are on track with all countries except Chile (if that's the case)
  3. Chile has strongly refused to accept the product in their market because of XYZ
  4. So far you have tried A, B & C but have made no progress at all and at this point, there is nothing left you can do by yourself.
  5. Ask how you should proceed.

Keep it short, fact based, and professional.

which also happens to be the brother of Chile's director.

Not your problem. Ignore it and don't bring it up. Many companies have specific rules that prohibit family members to have direct reporting relationship. You may want to look this up, but don't use it unless there is a very unusual reason to do so.

I do not want this product in my market, F*** off" (literally those words).

Do not bring this up unless specifically asked about behavior or objections.

skipping the CEO

Don't do that. It's the CEO's problem to fix.

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Damn, you are in a tricky situation.

Now, from what you've written, The director that opposes this is doing so from a purely principled position. He's a Doctor, who has concerns.

The world is full of stories of 'Big Pharma' making questionable decisions about certain products.

Putting aside their familial relationship for a moment - What you have is the company wants one thing and someone senior wanting another.

The options realistically are that they (not you) need to sit down and discuss it.

Either there are some compromises that will satisfy all parties or the Director leaves on a point of principle.

That realistically is what this choice comes down to.

The way I'd approach the CEO would be to present him with a Steel-man'd position of the his brother's (the Director) objections:

"Hey Boss, I've had a chat with (brother), and he's got these key concerns about using this product in the Chile market. I think they are pretty serious and we need to discuss them with him."

Then you outline the strongest possible case for the Director - that way the CEO doesn't think you are backstabbing his Brother, you aren't being difficult, you just haven't heard of these issues before and need to sort them.

After that, it's up to the CEO to call a meeting with his brother (you may or may not be party to the meeting) and then make a decision.

Either he forces his brother to comply, his brother leaves or some form of compromise is agreed upon.

There's not a whole lot more you can do in this situation. I don't think involving the investors (at least, not at this stage) is wise - but if his brother reneges on the deal or they cannot reach a compromise and neither backs down - then at that point you may have to.

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    Any way to mitigate with resentment from the director for going to the CEO? Even if the CEO strong arms him into cooperating you're just in for a bunch of undermining and sabotage. That's the worst possible outcome.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Feb 2, 2023 at 15:48
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    I think this is a good answer. It's responsible & professional to understand and convey the Chile Director's objections to the CEO. Having raised the issue & fairly represented the Director's concerns, you should then let them sort out (between themselves) whatever kind of resolution or outcome.
    – Thomas W
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 2:23
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    @DKNguyen In a sense, undermining and sabotage is what the director is already doing. I don't think that's a new problem that you'll have to worry about.
    – bta
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 3:30
  • @bta I think sabotaging and undermining by not working with you wholesale is much better and less damaging than doing so while working with you. The former has clearly defined boundaries that can be easily discerned while the latter does not. The enemy within is always worse than the enemy without.
    – DKNguyen
    Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 3:49
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    @DKNguyen Can the director really expect the CEO to not ask why the product hasn't been launched in the 5th largest economy in Latin America? Is he expecting the OP to lie about the reason why? Making something up sounds to me like the worst possible outcome. Commented Feb 3, 2023 at 15:07
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This should be done carefully, but directly.

Things to consider:

  • The Chilean director did first try to evade you, and only when he had no recourse he did tell you to get lost, but your CEO has not told you anything. If the director wanted to solve the issue quickly, the first thing he could done would have been to call his brother to have him order you to skip Chile. The fact that he did not do that(*) makes me think that he has not the kind of influence needed from stopping you.

  • Your CEO has given you a project, and you must following your CEO's instructions. Directly disobeying him to obey some underlying is a no-no. If the Chilean director was to disobey him, that is between the two of them to discuss.

  • The opposition by the Chilean manager is so strong that it seems impossible for you to change his position.

So, I agree with the other answers that your only option is to report to your CEO and have him solve the issue, either by forcing the Chilean director to get on with the plan or by excluding Chile. Whatever he choses, it is his decission to make.

I would try to appoint the reunion specifically about the Chilean issues, so that way he will get to the reunion knowing that there is some trouble brewing there that probably involves his brother.

Be extra professional and go straight to the business problem; unless asked for that level of detail do not mention the Chilean director wasting your time or being rude; just make it clear that he has a very strong opinion on the subject. But be sure to explain the motives he has given you to reject the product. Do not complain about him.

(*) Or maybe he did call the CEO and the CEO told him to adhere to the plan.

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When you are navigating a family business, then you need to respect the unofficial hierarchy of the family over the official hierarchy of the business. Due to the director being the brother of the CEO, any attempt to pull rank on him (do you even have rank on him?!?) would probably backfire.

So this is not a hill you should be willing to die on!

I would leave it to the family to figure out this conflict by telling the CEO-brother exactly what happened:

I am afraid it might be difficult for us to place this product on the Chilean market due to the resistance of our Chilean division. [Chilean Director] said, and I quote verbatim, "I do not want this product in my market, F*** off" (a recording of our meeting is available [here]). Here is a summary of his main concerns: [...] How should we proceed with this situation?

Now the ball is in his court. He can either convince his brother that the product should be sold in Chile, or let his brother convince him to not sell it in Chile. In either case, you are out of the conflict.

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It's not clear from the question how much of an influence the Chile Director has over you in general, whether you need to maintain good relations with him in general, or whether the relationship between the CEO and the Chile Director (the two brothers) is a functional one or not.

In an environment with functional relationships, resolving this would be a simple case of asking for a meeting with both the CEO and the Chile Director.

You would advise the CEO, as part of the request for the meeting, that you've struggled to make arrangements with the Chile Director so far, and that he's indicated to you that he has some medical objections to the product. You therefore seek further directions on how to proceed.

You do not need to speak the Chile Director's mind for him at this stage, or make reference to expletive-laden conversations. Let him articulate himself to the CEO.

It's also best to avoid appearing to adopt a particular position in the conflict yourself - the Chile Director's medical objections may not be completely groundless, and the CEO may be overriding those objections on financial (rather than medical) grounds.

The result of the meeting should be specific directions from the CEO to you and, as the case may be, to the Chile Director.

The result should also be that either the Chile Director's concerns are resolved, or at least that the CEO feels the force of them before overruling them (so that the CEO might well expect further obstruction or difficulties).

The only circumstance where I might be tempted to say anything more to the CEO, is if the Chile Director was extremely meek in the meeting and did not indicate the strength of his objections, and if you think this spells further trouble. In that case, I would send a note to the CEO saying that the Chile Director's manner was very different from his previous interactions with you, and that you might need the CEO's continued close engagement to make progress. Then, see how events develop.

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