Have you ever had a boss who welcomed employees – employees who report to you – that come to him or her when they have issues? Even though those employees should be bringing those issues directly to you?
I have had bosses like that, and few things are more frustrating. Not only are you often blindsided because you didn’t even know about some issues, but when you then hear about these issues from your boss, it carries the implication that you are completely out of the loop.
But as leaders, we have to take responsibility for situations like this and then take the initiative to remedy them. Let me offer a few ideas about how to deal with this.
First step is to arrange a meeting with your boss. When you sit down with him or her, don’t jump right into the going-around-you issue. Instead, start with some complimentary observations. Offer two, three, maybe four compliments about the way your boss is leading and how the organization is running as a result.
Then, without any trace of resentment or irritation, slide into discussing the issue by saying “…but I would like to talk with you about the way you are dealing with my employees when they come to you.”
Make it clear that you believe that you should really be the first one to hear about issues from your team. For example: “What I would love to get to is the point that when they come in, it’s OK for you to listen, but I would like you to point them back to me.
Make sure your boss knows you want to have the first chance at addressing their concerns. Also, that if you may not address the concerns sufficiently and if the employee does go to your boss, that you would be included in a three-way meeting.
Be sure to ask your boss if he or she has any concerns with the way you are leading, and listen closely and openly to your boss’ response. If there are concerns, speak to them in a positive way, without getting defensive.
What you want out of that meeting is for your boss to agree that from now on, he or she will refer an employee back to you, and give you the first opportunity to deal with the issue before the boss gets involved.
This approach really will increase your boss’ respect for you and your leadership. It will help your relationship both with your boss and your team, and you will see its value as you strive to take your team to new heights.