Friday, February 10, 2012

Life Skill: Manage Up vs. Challenge the Authority

I recently read this article on Forbes.com about the 3 most important interview questions an employer should ask. The comments on the article were fascinating especially because the first poster (bethharte) turned the whole situation upside down by pointing out the flip side: each potential employee should be asking the same 3 questions.
"Will you allow me to do my job? (Trust in letting someone do their job once hired)
Will you love that I love doing my job? (Respect that there is more to a job than a paycheck)
Can I tolerate working for you? (Corporate culture affects both parties)"

Later in the comments another reader mentioned that we have "enthusiastic workers under poor management." This got me thinking...

Conventional rules of power and authority have changed. More is required of leaders now. Even the Daily Show teaches us to watch the authority closely for any incongruencies or mis-use of power. Good managers/leaders understand that quality, stewardship, authenticity, civility, transparency and honesty are the expectations now. Poor managers still subscribe to the mantra that "it's not personal, it's just business." The Occupy Movement and poor voter turnout in society certainly support the assessment that the public in general believe there are many poor managers/leaders out there. In the workforce poor leadership certainly doesn't help employee engagement and productivity.

But there are things an employee can do. What alluded me for the longest time was how to "manage up." Being a lowly employee makes it very dangerous to point out management's flaws. Doing so can cost an employee their job. Insubordination and challenging authority do not prove to be the best solutions.

The key to managing up without falling into insubordination means modelling these same expectations in our dealings with, and relationships with management. This means setting and negotiating boundaries with management, communicating needs in an open and honest way and training people to treat you the way you want to be treated. The trick is learning how to communicate this in a way that is non threatening and respectful.

I agree with bethharte and many other posters - every relationship is a two way street that both parties should and can negotiate fairly. It is unfortunate that potential employees (being the underdogs in the interview relationship) haven't in the past done more research into the company's BRAVE culture to assess a good fit. But power and authority are changing, employees are starting to do this with sites like GlassCeiling or simply by using the Like button on facebook.

When an employee asks these questions, they start the professional relationship off on the right path. They have given the employer clues to how they want to be treated.

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