Conflicting Orders—Ask Your Boss

September 4, 2017

Conflicting Orders—Ask Your Boss

Your CEO (Danvers) gave a rousing speech about breaking down silos. In the last post, you and your buddy Ethan from another section decided to go ahead with a cross-silo project. Your boss (Sean) did not react well.

Given this, should you have asked him first even though you think he would have said no? Let’s see what happens.

If your boss is kind of a shit

Sean: What did I tell you after the staff meeting?
You: You said to keep working—
Sean: Exactly—just work on the projects I assign you.
You: But what about the CEO—
Sean: (makes a disgusted noise) These mucky-mucks don’t know what they’re talking about. The trick is to keep your head down until they go haring off after another great idea.
You: But if she really wants to change things—
Sean: I’ll tell you if you need to change anything.
You: Ah, okay.

So you’ve asked and as you’ve feared, Sean has vetoed the idea without even giving you a chance to explain. You’re discouraged and Sean is probably pissed off that you questioned his original order.

If your boss is kind of a good guy

Sean: What did I tell you after the staff meeting?
You: You said to just keep working—
Sean: Right, I only just have enough people to do the work. And it’s even tighter what with the layoffs.
You: But isn’t working across silos a way to help relieve the shortage?
Sean: Sure, if the help comes to us. But what if I have to give someone up to another project? Then I’m really short-handed.
You: But the CEO—
Sean: (sighs) I know. I agree with her but I’ve got to make this work on the ground.
You: So, it’s a no?
Sean: (sighs again) Tell me your idea.
You: (you tell him)
Sean: Okay, you’re right, it’s a neat idea. But I still need to get the work done.
You: I get that. But maybe I could work on it in my down-time.
Sean: No, I don’t want you overloaded. I tell you what—I’ll shift a project to Terry—but just for two weeks. At the end of the two weeks, you have to show some real progress or we drop it, right?
You: Okay!

If you have a boss who is trying to follow the CEO’s lead while still delivering on his unit’s work, you may get a chance.

However, you don’t know which way Sean is going to react before you go in, and one of the possible outcomes will really blot your copy book. Maybe it’s better not to go ahead with the project in any way. The next post will discuss this.

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