Nobody said that leadership was easy. Even the most experienced leaders can face challenges that frustrate, surprise and sometimes even upset them. The way in which a person deals with such issues, is a real test of their leadership qualities.
“For leadership to be successful, employees have to believe in it, and invest in it,” writes Kieran Howells in Executive Grapevine. In other words, an employee has to trust that the leader will direct them the best way. If that trust is lost, there are major implications for the workplace. According to Howells, “As soon as employees start questioning the motives or decisions of the boss, the system breaks down significantly.”
This wavering trust in a leader, or disbelief in their actions, can manifest itself in myriad ways. A fairly common example is an employee bypassing their own manager and connecting with their manager’s boss instead. Having an employee go over your head can feel insulting, embarrassing and frustrating. Rather than venting your anger on the offending employee, or shaming them publicly, it is important to act professionally, with tact and sensitivity.
How To Tackle An Employee Going Over Your Head
Find out why: Was it an intentional move or simply a lack of understanding of the way in which the organisation works? Learning the thought process behind the employee’s decision to contact your boss directly (rather than you), may highlight areas of knowledge or communication that need to be developed. Identifying your team members’ gaps in understanding enables you to put measures in place to fix them.
Gauge their feelings: Do they trust and respect you as their leader? Perhaps they find you difficult to approach or unwilling to listen to their perspective. Communicating openly and effectively with your employee can help to improve your relationship and find better ways of working together. Being aware of their concerns is the first step towards addressing them and preventing a repeat of the situation.
Talk to your boss: Your employee’s action may have set alarm bells ringing in your manager’s head. It’s important to reassure them that you have the situation in hand and that you are working with your employee to rectify any issues. Showing that you are being proactive to improve potential areas of conflict or dissatisfaction should allay concerns about your capabilities.
Test the climate of your team: Discovering that there is a gap in alignment or perception between you and your team can be confronting for a leader, but knowledge is power. Once you know the areas that need to be improved or worked on and the causes of discontent for your team members, you can act on those insights.