It Flows Up-Hill (Explanations are nice, but not always practical)
There is an old saying that implies that all the good “stuff” goes up hill and all the bad “stuff” flows down. That old saying was first spoken by an employee. A manager knows that it is not the case at all.
A good manager will make sure good stuff gets spread up and down, and all around. Good things are hard to come by in the business world. A good manager will make sure bad stuff only goes up when it has to and only goes down when it can’t be avoided.
If you have a manager who gives you the credit when things go well, but takes the heat when things go poorly, be truly grateful. If you have a manager who lets upper management heat get to you, then he is most likely in the wrong profession. Give him no reason to do this and then look for work somewhere else, or as mentioned before try to out last him. He won’t be around long.
The uphill flow of things is nowhere more evident than in the area of communications. An engaged manager will ask many questions and will offer many explanations to why he may be asking you to do something. But there is the potential of this engagement becoming a requirement the employee makes of his manager.
A boss who says, “I’d like you to do this and here’s why” is to be respected. But sometimes a manager is unable to discuss the how’s and why’s behind his requests.
A boss who asks a lot of questions may, at first, appear to lack knowledge. He probably does, but in reality, asking the right questions of their employees helps him study the problem and decide the best course of action. Sometimes a manager is not merely required to convince his manager that a certain solution will work, he must convince them that the other possible solutions won’t. That means lots of questions need to be asked. Don’t fall into the question trap.
While a manager that freely offers up explanations for why he is asking something of you it may not always be possible to tell you why, for you to ask, can put the manager in a difficult position. So don’t ask. Just assume he is limited in what he can talk about. For sure, do not demand an explanation of him in front of a customer or in a group setting of any kind.
If your manager tries to explain the why’s of a request so much it makes you want to throw up try to be thankful he is not one to just tell you to do something “because he said so”. Trust me the alternative is preferred.
Here’s the trap employees can fall into. They expect an explanation because either a manager has always offered one before or the manager has never offered one before and, now frustrated, the employee begins demanding an explanation. Now here’s where I explain the title to this chapter. Information flows uphill, by necessity. Information does not always flow down hill, again, by necessity.
To be frank, sometimes you would not want to know why a boss is asking for certain information, or why he has made the decision to keep you in the dark. Here’s a quick real life example and then on to your bullet’s.
A management company had an account at a large business in the Midwest. The company was losing the account due to mismanagement of staff, poor customer service, and they were making too much money. A new manager was brought in to try to salvage the customer relationship and renew the account. Because of the lack of trust between the management company and the client, the client demanded that they be able to attend regularly scheduled staff meetings.
During one of these staff meetings, with the client in the room, one of the employees asked why the new manager had not yet hired them additional people to help with the work load. The manager delicately let them know that he was working toward that end but there are just some things he could not discuss right now. Frustrated, the employee, barked back to the manager, “Why not? Why can’t you talk about it!?”
There were at least two reasons why the manager could not openly talk about the staffing issues he was working on. The first reason was the client sitting in the room at the time. The second reason?
The manager discovered that not only was he overstaffed (they really did not need the extra help) he also was agonizing over the decision he had to make – whether to let 3 of his overqualified, overpaid, and underworked staff go. It would have been inappropriate for him to discuss this in front of the client, or in front of the rest of the office even, especially since the employee who demanded an answer was one of the employees at risk for losing his job.
Here are your bullets to help you stay out of the question trap:
• Never demand an answer in a public place – in the privacy of your manager’s office simply and politely ask him why?
• If you do not get an answer to your question – assume your manager can not talk openly about it with you at that time.
• Because of this, information generally flows up hill, and may not flow back down again or without delay.