What do you do when the top brass wants results that are simply unrealistic?

That’s a challenge that HR managers face more often than they’d like. Lots of bosses just don’t get HR. And all too often, they don’t want to get it. They just want what they want.

You won’t get far by arguing. Even if you’re right, that’s just going to get you tagged as the “can’t do” person.

But if you just suck it up and say, “Yes, boss,” you’re only postponing the inevitable. Nobody’s going to want to hear you say later, “Well, I knew this was a bad idea but I didn’t say anything.”

Here’s a way out of the conundrum, suggested by Nanette Rundle Carroll in “The Communication Problem Solver”: Shift the focus off you and emphasize how these unrealistic demands are affecting the entire organization. That makes you a reporter, not a whiner.

You can do this by:

  • Telling the demanding exec what you are hearing about the situation from your team.
    Express the desire to work with him/her to improve things: “Jack, our team is working hard to reduce benefits costs, but I can see they’re really struggling. Let’s figure out what needs to happen to be sure you get the results you need.”
  • Suggesting a roundtable to share feedback among yourself, the exec and your team.
    When you position yourself as the facilitator, you’re part of the solution, not the problem.
  • Conduct a rigorous business analysis. For example, if you’re trying to reduce turnover and your top managers won’t get on board with your recommendations, show what it’s costing them. . “Jack, I looked at our numbers. In the last six months we lost 40% of our middle managers. Industry average is 10%. Let’s talk about how we can get our numbers in line.”

Key: Never make it you vs. the boss. Always frame the issue as you and the boss working together to solve a tough problem.

photo credit: fotographix.ca

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