Solution Saturday: Overruled by the Boss


Do you have any good articles on having a ‘clarifying conversation’ with your boss? 

I have gone through a rough experience with my Division Director.

He made a people-decision without consulting with me. I was trying to recruit some people. Offers were accepted. He simply chose to pass on them while I was on vacation (I am a Branch Mgr).

I am meeting with him on Tuesday to have a conversation about the process.

I would appreciate any articles or suggestions that you might have.

Thank you,

Overruled by the Boss

qualities like humility are most essential when they are most difficult to practice

Dear Overruled,

It seems like, in the past, the boss simply signed off on new hires. But not this time. Your boss’s action undermines authority you feel you have.

I feel the sting of distrust and embarrassment in your email. He made you look weak and/or incompetent in the eyes of everyone involved.

Congratulations on setting up a meeting to discuss the issue.

#1. Resolve hot emotion before solving problems. Hot emotion may be caused by:

  1. Offense at feeling distrusted.
  2. Embarrassment at being overruled without giving your input. (It’s the boss’s prerogative to overrule other people’s decisions.)
  3. Indignation at losing authority – feeling undermined.
  4. Anger at unexpected deviation from past practices – feeling blindsided.

Our inner control freak gets hot when it loses control. (No offense intended with the use of ‘control freak’.)

#2. Don’t globalize. Hot emotion invites us to throw other logs on the fire – we globalize issues. One negative experience becomes motivation to redefine your entire role in your organization. It’s like an argument with your spouse that ends, “And you’re just like your mother.”

  1. Talk it through with someone, until you feel less emotion. You may need to go around the tree a few times until some of the heat dissipates.
  2. Interpret stress as enthusiasm to find great solutions.
  3. Take a slow walk through a park.
  4. Slow your breathing.
  5. Define what you want, even though you’re currently motivated by what you don’t want.
  6. Seek coaching or mentoring from outsiders.
  7. Don’t seek advice from allies or family. They tend to defend you.

#3. Embrace ‘and’. Hot emotion runs to either/or thinking. We draw self-destructive lines in the sand. Stay wide as long as possible.

#4. Act in ways that serve your best interest. I usually encourage people to act with the best interest of others in mind. In these cases, don’t shoot yourself in the foot.

#5. Use ‘I’ not ‘you’. I feel. I think. I would like.

#6. Don’t tell the boss what he thinks or why he did what he did. Explore.

We assign negative motivations to offenders and use them to justify atypical behaviors on our part. 

#7. View this as leadership development. Sandpaper moments make us better or worse. How might you be made better through this sandpaper moment?

#8. Stay humble and open. Qualities like humility matter most when they are most difficult to practice.

#9. Focus on principles and assumptions, before specifics.

#10. Ask for a follow up, if things don’t go well. “Could we meet next week to keep working on this?” In the time between meetings get clear on what’s important to you.

5 considerations:

  1. What type of relationship do you want with your boss?
  2. What are your nonnegotiables?
  3. How important is this job?
  4. What do you need to do to show respect to the boss?
  5. How might you do things that make you proud of your approach?

What issues should Overruled consider?

What suggestions do you have for overruled?

*I suspend the 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.

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