My blog

Your manager can be wrong. So what's then?

During numerous conversations and round tables with the employees and teams, one question appears again and again: what to do if your manager is wrong / poorly evaluated / not interested in your development? And this question is still one of the most complicated for me to answer. So what can or should HR do if we see such cases?

In modern psychology which is dominating in leadership science (and I like this term ‘leadership science’ now, everything in the external world is considered relating to the ‘object’ - the person who is affected by the external environment. The way how this ‘object’ feels about the situation or how the ‘object’ sees the situation, is considered as the most important angle to address any issue. If you feel that something is not good for you, then you are right, it is not good: but the question then is if you know what is good and how to reach it? And the external coach, who wants to help you to experience this case, should only help to manage your own experience, not judging or blaming others.

It is a very mature approach which I like in management as well. If you have a problem with your manager, then admit it as well as your own point of view on it which may be different from what your manager thinks. And as soon as admitted - own and handle it the best way possible for you, accepting the consequences. If you see that something is not acceptable for you or is against your long term plan, then admit and manage it. If you perceive the relationship with some person as an issue, then investigate it using your ‘night vision’ skills and build a plan to handle it. And wise HR or coach should never prove that you are right or wrong, but to help you to understand what you can do to improve the situation.

It sounds very simple when this is not about us, right? Theoretically anyone can objectively judge what is happening and give advice to others; in practice we all are blocked by our own emotions and fears. What if he hates me after my feedback? What if they fire me? Probably it is me being wrong and s/he had better intentions? All these questions will remain in our heads and consume our positive energy, our future, our mental health….

But the only and one best advice is - handle it! Use your analytical skills to collect better feedback from the other angles, focus on healthy ‘reality testing’ to ensure that others see the situation the same way, and use communication skills to address what you do not like and how you would like to see it. There is a balance of risks vs. opportunities in everything we do - if you made a wrong judgement, you may lose relations or be fired … But what if you were right, and the person never thought that something went wrong? What if your spouse tells you his/her thanks for the feedback as s/he never thought of the issue?

The simple algorithm may be the following:

  1. Write down the issue focusing on yourself and your own emotions and feelings. Use the phrases “I feel” or “I understand it as” or “This made me think of”. Do not judge other people's behaviour by saying “he tries to manipulate me” or “he is afraid that I want his job”.
  2. Think of the ways to address it: by yourself during the feedback session, or through your manager/friend/HR accepting the risks that they may approach it in a different way.
  3. Collect the evidence to support your feedback. Try not to hit someone personally but to get the facts and examples to use.
  4. Use all your best communication skills to explain - manage how and what and when you say it. Not the best timing to criticise your boss in front of others, right? Lunch together, or scheduled feedback session, or even short walk with your manager may help to touch the topic.
  5. And do not be afraid - being strong is also about being able to protect your own self and address what you may not like and you may not agree. Even if your point of view is not accepted, finally you will be proud of yourself that you did everything you could to help.

Well, I know cases when after criticising their line manager, some people lost their power or even jobs. But I know many cases, when other people who addressed the issues properly, told me: thank you, this conversation helped me a lot. So I hope it will help you too!