- Blog post
Dealing with the employee who goes over your head
Ever have one of your direct reports go around you to your boss? It’s not a comfortable feeling. It risks making you look bad to your manager, and it shows a lack of understanding between you and the employee.
So what do you do? Call the employee in and read him the riot act?
Communicating, in a way
Stop a minute and consider what the employee is really doing. He knows chances are near 100% you’ll learn what he did. So, in an odd way, he’s trying to communicate with you.
You need to find out two things:
- What the employee is trying to communicate, and
- What both of you can do to help ensure it doesn’t happen again.
Before you call the person in, talk to your boss. Work out an agreement that she’ll refer any employee back to you who goes to her in the future without having approached you first. Then meet with the employee and:
- Acknowledge what happened. Make clear you know what he did.
- Find out why. Does the employee think you’re remote or unapproachable? Does he worry you’ll pooh-pooh his ideas?
- Set strategy. Ask how the two of you should handle the problem so it doesn’t recur. Put the onus on him to figure out how to change. But also determine what you need to do.
- State expectations. Let the employee know what you’ll expect in the future and what will happen if he goes over your head again.