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Watch Out For ‘Unwritten’ Management Etiquette

by on
in Your Office Coach

Question: “I have worked with another manager for a long time. Until recently, we got along just fine, but now ‘Sharon’ seems upset and angry with me. A few weeks ago, an employee complained to me about a member of Sharon’s staff.  I had a friendly chat with Sharon’s staff member to pass along the feedback. Initially, he was defensive, but then he corrected the problem. Now, Sharon is giving me grief about my conversation with him. I was simply trying to be helpful and ‘keep things small.’  What should I have done differently?” — Dumbfounded

Marie's Answer:  Despite being well-intentioned, you breached “management etiquette.”  All working relationships have unwritten rules that everyone expects us to follow, even though no one specifically describes them.

* When you received the complaint about Sharon’s employee, you should have discussed it with Sharon. The two of you could then have decided how best to handle it and who should talk to the employee about the problem. 

* As the manager, Sharon needs this information because she is responsible for overseeing this guy’s performance.  When she makes assignments or does performance reviews, she should have a complete picture of his work effectiveness.

* Since this wasn’t exactly a capital offense, Sharon does seem to be overreacting.  But if you want to repair the relationship, just eat a little crow and apologize.  For example, say:  “I realize that I should have talked with you instead of going directly to Bob.  I’ll remember that in the future.” 

In thinking about this, reverse the circumstances and try to view the situation objectively.  You’d probably want to know if someone had complained about one of your own staffers.

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