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How do you handle a situation where you have provided useful information/ideas to your immediate boss, because you know/feel that information would be of interest to their boss, and you come to learn that it has just disappeared into a black hole?

  • 9
    My company has a bi-annual "Meet Your Manager's Manager" policy to prevent exactly this kind of problem. I hadn't seen it before this organisation, but I think it's a great idea. – John N Apr 11 '12 at 13:37
  • @JohnN That is in fact an excellent idea - my last job did it, and when this company starts growing I'm going to do my best to have it happen here too. – voretaq7 Apr 11 '12 at 23:20
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Always make your important information exchanges over email. This provides a document you and those involved with the issue something to refer to and makes sure that there is no black hole. If the exchange happens in person I send a confirmation email summarizing the important details of what was discussed.

I CC all people directly involved/impacted unless there is a specific reason not to. My intent is never to break the chain of command but to ensure that the information gets disseminated properly with out requiring my manager to do additional work.

Any time the matter is sensitive, and is not proper to share on my own, I will include an action item in the email to let me know how to go forward, asking if who I should share the information with, and/or request confirmation that this is how they understand it, as the best fits the scenario. If nothing is returned I will followup, sometimes including my plans(that generally include relevant dissemination) to go forward unless I hear otherwise. The goal is not to cut out your direct supervisor but to help the business in the best way possible.

  • It's worth noting that you should do the email even if it is a in-person discussion. Ex. "I just wanted to clarify from our meeting that your manager X should know about Y because Z." – Dan Dec 11 '17 at 20:40
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This all very much depends on what the culture is like at your organization. If you have the more informal work culture where it is acceptable for you to step into the office of your bosses boss and just talk about what is on your mind then this is what I would suggest.

If you have a more rigid command structure or if your bosses boss is not easily approachable however this behavior may not be acceptable or viewed as subverting your bosses authority.

Either way you are telling your immediate boss what you feel is important information and you assume that this information didn't flow up the command chain. When the two of them have status meetings together you have no way of knowing exactly what they are talking about. The possibility exists that this information was shared.

  • If the information was shared it might have been noted and accounted for future plans.

  • It might have been ignored and deemed irrelevant by your bosses boss based on information that you and/or your immediate boss is not privy to.

  • Your immediate boss may not have shared it because he/she deemed it irrelevant based on information that you may not privy to.

The bottom line is that you should start with a conversation, one with your immediate boss and let him/her know your concerns. Do not be accusatory, simply inquisitive. Avoid confrontational words like You do/don't or Your and instead use informative words like I feel or My perspective.

5

Much here is described a bit vague, so I do not know if my ideas fit your situation.

Do you have a regular meeting (in private)? Ask him why he did not pass the information. Maybe he has a plausible rationale for its filtering.

Have you a canteen? Few details could be discussed at the table when "accidentally" sits next to the next boss.

Do you fear a disaster in a particular project? Distribute the information in writing, for example e-mail. No one can accuse unto thee later, you said nothing. (But in that case, you lost anyway)

Perhaps you could you be more specific on your situation.

  • I tried to make my question as generic as possible, but as you say, it makes things a bit too vague. I'll try and work on something more precise... – Benjol Apr 11 '12 at 12:26
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    +1 for putting all information and correspondence in writing. People who don't keep a detailed written record of agreements, committments, warnings, and notifications are more likely to get "back-stabbed" – maple_shaft Apr 11 '12 at 12:31
3

Bruce Webster coined the phrase "thermocline of truth" to describe situations like this. Eliminating the "information sink" requires political and managerial help from above the point where truth stops flowing uphill.

1

It may not have dissipated.

There are several possibilities / outcomes to your input:

  1. it was ignored / not acted on by the manager you spoken to, there can be many reasons
  2. it was ignored / not acted on by the manager`s manager, also slew of reasons
  3. it will resurface in a bit under someone else`s name as author

In any case, what was your motivation for the suggestion, should have this meeting change your position in the company?

0

Part of a manager's job is to filter everything he or she gets from below before sending it up the line. There are political reasons why things might not be sent up, there are sometimes legal reasons why it is not a good idea to send something on, etc. He may even be protecting you depending on he content that you wanted sent up and the higher ups known prejudices.

Or it may not have been clear to him that you thought it needed to go higher.

And sometimes, managers are simply inundated with stuff and miss things.

And sometimes he passed it up higher but the higher manager didn't notice or chose to ignore. Or he might have rephrased it for the higher manager and the message got garbled.

So the best thing is to ask you boss why he chose not to pass it up. Not in an accusatory way but in the sense of "I need to know what I should do in the future" way. That way you can work out what information is appropriate to send and how he wants to be informed (and how to escalate if you think the problem is urgent) and what might make the message more politically acceptable so that it can be sent on (sometimes it is not what you said but how you specifically worded it).

Usually if I have something I want to go higher, I let my boss know that directly and we discuss. My boss will then usually copy me on the email he passes up the line especially if he needs to rewrite it for any reason. Then I may followup casually (on the phone or IM or in person if you are co-located with your boss as opposed to an EMail) in a day or to by asking what thought of the information. This gives him a jog to remind him to do it it if he hasn't without being accusatory.

Sometimes if I think it needs to go up the line, I get the immediate boss involved in drafting the message to make sure it will be something that is going to be politically useful. So I will send a draft to the boss labeled as a draft and ask for his input in making it better before we forward up the line. This not only increases the probability it will be passed on, it increases the probability that you will get the reaction you wanted from it as your boss is often more aware of how his boss wants to see things.

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