Monday, June 22, 2009

Yes, it's ok to disagree with your manager.

Got this from a reader:

“My manager is becoming very difficult to handle. Off late, he has even started using abusive language at work. It’s having a negative effect on the entire team. To an extent where he isn’t even ready to listen to us; he only wants to hear a YES from us. My work requires me to come up with new/fresh ideas regularly and his attitude is making it difficult for me to work productively. There are times when I want to disagree with his plans, but he just isn’t willing to even consider my plan. It doesn’t look like a work related issue, since the team is performing well and the overall business is fine. It looks more like a personal issue. I feel we shouldn’t be bearing the brunt for his personal issues. If I need to do a good job, then I need to disagree on a few things. What can I do to improve the current situation? Can I approach his reporting manager?”

Ok, if what you have told me is the fact and nothing but the fact, then your manager is acting like a jerk. He is doing the mistake of carrying his personal issues to work. Agreed, most of them do that, but as a manager he is in the spotlight and far too many people are dependent on his actions. So, yes, he needs to be told about it and real fast. Just make sure that your discussions are professional. By making it a blame game will only trigger his frustrations to higher levels. Check for a good time to meet him to discuss in person. Don’t try and write an email. It’s counter-productive.

Start your conversation with being honest, open and candid about the recent events. Maybe, a couple of situations will help him understand why you feel that way. There’s a catch though, he might end up not accepting your explanation and might flatly refuse to acknowledge your discussion. Really. So be ready for denial too.

Can you approach his reporting manager? I would suggest you don’t. At least not until you have spoken in-person with your manager. The last thing he would want is a confrontation with his boss based on your (or the team's) report to the management. Quite sure he wouldn’t take it well. With that approach, you’ll make life at work a lot tougher.

What can you do to improve your current situation? Again, sit down with your manager and have a candid discussion. Tell him your work is getting affected and you want to find a way to make things better. Go with solutions. Most often that’s the part that is missing. The discussions usually veer towards who’s at fault. It’s bound to fail. Instead, make a note of his plan and you could tell him something along these lines, “I’ll give it a good shot. However, here’s another way I feel that we could get better results. . I would like to try out both solutions. You could then decide on the best one.” Be ready to listen, to answer questions or even to take feedback. Chances are he might say yes or downright reject your plans. After all, he is still your manager.

He is getting abusive! I wouldn’t take it lying down. Really. You do not need to take abuse at work. That’s a no-no. Here’s some advice on dealing with abusive managers:
confront or walk-out?

You’ll definitely feel having these discussions with a manager isn’t easy. Especially if he’s the type you’ve explained. So it would do you good to show tact and use discretion in your discussions with him. But do have those discussions; avoiding him should not be an option.

The bottom line is that you need to decide if you really want to work for this manager or not. Is it worth working with him? Are there any chances of shifting to a different project under another manager? If not, then you might do well to start looking for a new job with hope of finding a better manager.

Until you decide, it’s back to work. Good luck!