Dealing with Upper Management Decisions as a Middle Manager

Dealing with Upper Management Decisions as a Middle Manager

How do you deal with the results of upper management decisions as a middle manager?

Dealing with the decisions of other people and their affects is something we have to deal with on a daily basis. Most times it is the decisions of our direct reports that we have to deal with. But what do you do when a decision made by upper management causes problems?

How do you tell the boss they are wrong?

When upper management makes decisions that negatively impact the organization it can really put middle managers, who are forced to deal with the outcome, in a tight spot. It’s not like you can tell the boss that they were wrong. If you can then be thankful you work in an organization that respects the benefits of honesty.

By the way never tell the boss they are wrong. Even if they are be a little tactful about it. Ask them questions that will help them to think more fully about their decision. Try to help them see better alternatives. But never come right out and just say “no, I think your wrong”. This accomplishes nothing but create distrust and a lack of respect.

For a lot of managers, especially those who work in large organizations, it is a real political hot potato deciding how to communicate the effects of bad choices.

In order to move up in your career as a manager you are expected to make politically correct decisions. That includes being a team player and getting with the program. But what if falling in line is bad for the organization?

Letting go of the need to be in control

I am the type of person who likes to feel in control of my own destiny. I don’t like it when I have to deal with what I perceive of as poor decisions. When other people put me in a situation that will compromise my success I get very stressed. Beating around the bush and saying the politically expedient thing are not my strong points. Being straight forward and telling the truth despite who it might upset is my default position.

Unfortunately, being straightforward and unapologetic in my honesty are not always traits that are appreciated in some organizations. Often managers are expected to be more tactful in how they handle disagreement. I get it, I just don’t always like it.

I need to learn to let go of the need to be in control when it will be detrimental to my career. That is so hard for me. If I feel I am right, and trying to do the right thing for the organization, why should I change my tact? At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how I feel about it. If I want to succeed in my organization then I need to change my tact and that might require me to let go of being in control. I may have to cede my own desires and beliefs in the rightness of my position.

This doesn’t mean that I am compromising my values. It means that I understand what battles are worth fighting and which ones I need to walk away from. It is foolish to take on a fight you can’t win and that will damage your career unless it is something so fundamental that giving in would cause you to do something immoral or illegal. If it does not then get over it and move on. There will be other battles worth fighting and winning.

Be a team player but help others to see the shortcomings

Understand that you need to be a team player. Even if you don’t fully agree with a decision you have to support it. Don’t ever negatively of a decision made by upper management¬† when talking with your subordinates. You can respectfully voice concerns while still supporting the larger initiative. Always let your people know that as a team you need to do your best to make the initiative successful. Support your people when it doesn’t go right, but never throw a negative light on those who made the decision.

Help those who made the decision understand the problems that are the outgrowth of the decision. Always be respectful and present facts. Avoid emotional pleas. Never allow it to be personal. Keep the focus on what you can prove. Be willing to reconsider your position if new facts come to light and always be willing to work with upper management to come up with solutions to fix the problems and help the overall initiative be successful.

You don’t have to like it but you may have to accept it

You aren’t going to agree with every decision made by upper management. Remember that not every decision you make is a winner. Your direct reports might have some insight into decisions you made that they disagreed with. But just because you don’t agree with a decision doesn’t mean that you don’t have to support it. If you are part of any organization sooner or later you are going to have to support things that you think are incorrect. Pick your battles wisely and make sure you are only fighting the ones that are really worth fighting. If you do this you will find yourself feeling less stressed and more able to let go. For more on the subject of letting go of things you can’t control see my post Gain Control By Letting Go.

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