Communication question for managers & execs

I hear what you’re saying, because sometimes you just want to know if it’s just you, or if everyone has issues with this person. There are more subtle ways to do it, though, by expressing in practical terms the effect they’ve had on your work, etc. This would be the only way you’re truly justified in expressing the concern professional, if there is cost to you. Then look for clues like reactions, body language, explanations that imply there is an issue in that department or with that person. Then let it go; you’ve said your piece.

To your co-workers at the same level, there are professional ways to broach the topic too. “I am having some trouble with clear communication with <this person>. Have you had any issues, and do you have advice for me?” Then they may commiserate with you.

For the manager (or senior person) who sucks and talking about it with another manager, I’ve found the following verbiage to be helpful:

“Can you help me understand how to work with Person X? I have trouble getting them/their team to a)meet a deadline I need b)provide required information c)attend my meetings d)other viable reason you might need help” This gives you a reason to ask and gives the other person to give you some guidance on how to get things done within the constraints of the bad manager, gives a good manager insight that yet another person is having an issue with the bad manager and magically doesn’t get you labeled as a complainer.

You’ve nailed it… I do this to some extent but I also do miss a lot of the clues. Sometimes those reactions are so tiny, like a hesitation, micro-expression, etc.

That example came up in my currently extremely dysfunctional and toxic environment (that I outlined in another thread here somewhere). I’ve been job hunting since July. The example came up because I admitted to my dotted line manager that I’m very unhappy working on the solid line team. She point blank asked me if I was that unhappy, why was I still there. I told her I was working on other solutions and had interviewed for an internal transfer to another team that didn’t work out. Point blank again, she asked me if I was looking externally. At that point, things were laid out on the table between us.

I think in dysfunctional workplaces, communication gets skewed. In a normal workplace it would work like you describe. But at this place, the dysfunction is an elephant in the room that they’ve been ignoring for decades. I’m not sure if subtle, discrete communication works at that point. I could be wrong, though.

Missed the edit window, but wanted to add that I always do start out communicating gently like Marelt described.

I wonder if you are missing that you are missing a lot of information. In another thread, you mentioned that you worry you complain too much, but that you are always careful to offer solutions to the problems you see. I work with people like that, and they often drive me crazy: the solutions they offer are unworkable because they don’t take into account information they don’t even know about. it’s fine that they don’t see the big picture–the big picture isn’t their job–but it’s annoying that they apparently think I’m an idiot who never once considered [stupid obvious solution] and it puts me in a position of either having to explain in a way that won’t make them defensive or feel stupid, or just having to blow them off and having them stew. Half the time when I do explain, I suspect they think I’m just being difficult.

You keep talking about how this one department has been totally dysfunctional for decades. There have to be a LOT of things going on for such a thing to persist. They may be good reasons–it manages to accomplish something valuable that you aren’t in a position to appreciate–or it may be entirely political/personal. Either way, it’s not just that no one wants to admit it’s dysfunctional or no one noticed. So I’d quit worrying about the why, and I’d certainly quit making suggestions to fix it.

When a communication between two people makes no sense to you, consider that maybe there are issues that you are unaware of that are shaping the conversation.

I guess this is industry specific. If I don’t talk about other managers when necessary, I can’t my message across to the correct manager to make the other manager manage what he should manage.

I would never want to work in a place where I can’t walk up to any manager and say, “hey Dan,” or his boss and say “hey, Joe,” or his boss and say “hey, Jeff.” We’re not lords and serfs. No one belongs to anyone. We’re working towards the same damned goals.

The hardest part of my job in China was trying to get the local national employees to stop revering the hierarchy, and it depresses the hell out of me to think that we still have this issue in parts of the west.

If you get nervous around your manager, or his manager, your company culture is crap.

Sorry, but you don’t make it clear if you are a manager or not in this sentence.

As a manager (and management consultant), I feel like 90% of my job is just facilitating these conversations.

Generally speaking, you should know what you are doing more than your manager knows what you do. There are plenty of areas where I am very “hands on” and could do the work myself. But there are also plenty of times where I’m leading a project involving something I have no experience with. So I would look to the SMEs on my team to provide guidance. My jobs really more to provide goals and directions and ensure they have what they need.

Here’s a thread from 2011 where I make comments similar to Icarus’ about a different set of problems. How to explain goals vs strategy vs tactics - In My Humble Opinion - Straight Dope Message Board

There may be a clue in there somewhere the OP can use.

Ref this snip

This, a thousand times this. Especially in an ineffective bumbling company. Real managerial skill might be able to see past current reality to see actual growth and change in our OP.

From what we think we know of the bozos at her company she could show up as a different color or gender tomorrow and they might not notice. They sure can’t recognize good work from bad.

This is a very useful thread for me as I was recently made a product owner.
They promoted* me because I’m good at making decisions and also realizing possible dangers of a particular course of action.

So far though, 90% of the work has been like the OP; talking about what kind of graph we need and how to report this and that to so and so. I’m trying to fight the urge to repeatedly say “That’ll do” and show I’m fully engaged.

  • The OP describes PO as a managerial position, but in theory at least, it isn’t. It’s an Agile role which doesn’t necessarily align with seniority or job title. In practice though, yeah a lot of companies treat PO, scrum Master etc as manager roles.

Both. Managers have managers, too.

It also requires a bit of telling management that you are interested in a management role and finding people who can position you for those jobs.

I wasn’t sure if the OP meant the Agile role or “product owner” as someone who led development of a product (i.e. Google Docs or Microsoft Word).

Agile and project/program management roles aren’t necessarily “management”. Although sometimes they are. Like my last job, my title was Senior Project Manager. My role was managing the delivery of programs and projects. As we were a “matrix” organization, projects consisted of individuals from various departments (PMO/Delivery, Sales, Creative, UX, Engineering, etc) each with their own management structure. I reported to the Director of Delivery (sometimes taking on his role). I also had “management” responsibility of some of the more junior PMs in our PMO. It can get pretty complicated.

Have you talked to your direct supervisor about getting on a management track? Does your company offer a training/mentoring program? Do you sign up for informational webinars that are not directly related to your work but can offer you a “bigger picture?” When it’s time for review, are you able to demonstrate growth and continued learning?

Rather than guessing, a sit down with your boss may be the first step if you want to advance.

Ok, so when you say “I guess this is industry specific. If I don’t talk about other managers when necessary, I can’t my message across to the correct manager to make the other manager manage what he should manage”

Do you mean you talk about other managers with your subordinates? Or you gossip about managers with other managers? Or do you talk about subordinates with other subordinates?

Or maybe I’m misunderstanding what you are saying.