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How to counsel ‘misguided’ CEO

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in Your Office Coach

Question:  “I am a store manager in a fast-growing retail company. A few months ago, a new CEO was brought in to run our business. Since his arrival, the company seems to be headed in the wrong direction.  However, the CEO apparently believes that everything is fine and no mistakes are being made.  

“When I contacted our former president to discuss my concerns, he suggested that I request a meeting with the CEO. But a colleague who works closely with the CEO said that I’d better have a new job lined up if I plan to complain to him.

“I don’t want to leave this company, because I have been here for 17 years and have a great relationship with my boss. He gives me the freedom to run my store as I see fit. I considered sending the CEO an anonymous letter, but decided that wouldn’t do any good.  Do you have any other ideas?”  — Worried Manager

Answer:  Without more information, I can’t offer specific suggestions, but I can tell you that actively opposing new management often leads to career suicide. So if your concerns involve decisions made by the CEO, you’re on shaky political ground.  

If you are witnessing unethical behavior, then your personal values should guide your response. But if this is simply a change in business strategy, try to keep your mind open to new approaches. Remember that “different” is not necessarily “wrong”.    

In these circumstances, your former president is not the best source of guidance. It’s easy for him to suggest speaking up, because he’s no longer there. You, however, have a future to consider.

A better source of counsel might be your supportive boss. Being closer to the higher-ups, he may have a clearer view of the political terrain. If he shares your concerns, perhaps the two of you can devise a feedback strategy that won’t look like resistance to change.

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