how should managers communicate decisions they don’t agree with?

A reader writes:

I’m a unit head at a government agency that is having some serious financial and managerial turmoil. The powers that be are contemplating a decision that could have a very negative impact on my area, and our manager called all his units to discuss the issue. He explained the case he would make, but also said repeatedly, “I’ll do my best, but you know that the boss will end up doing whatever the boss wants, and there’s nothing I can really do to stop it.” Which is historically true, but was also incredibly demoralizing to hear.

This got me thinking about what to tell my unit about this situation, or similar ones in the future. There’s got to be a better way to say that you’ll fight for them, right? And if you lose the fight, how do you communicate that to your team without making them bitter about upper administration?

I answer this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

{ 71 comments… read them below }

  1. Jedi Squirrel*

    I have worked for the Stepford Wife Manager who just cheerfully recites the rehearsed party line. It is disheartening, to say the least.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      I have worked for some managers who just recite the party line, and others who make a point to recognize that the decision(s) don’t always make sense, add busy-work, or otherwise leave a negative impression. Vastly prefer the latter.

      Managers who just recite the party line don’t leave room for people to ask questions about whether this is the right thing to do, which leave us feeling powerless and unheard. I view those managers as mouthpieces and I don’t trust them very much because they don’t give the impression that they have thought very much about the decision and its effects on the team.

      Managers who acknowledge that the decision is resulting in a burden on the team that doesn’t appear to add value in exchange for that burden demonstrate an awareness that we appreciate and respect. My favorite manager could convey his disagreement with the direction he was getting and having to enforce without demoralizing us or making himself seem disgruntled. It’s a fine balance to walk.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        All of this! I love that manager of yours.

        It is a fine balance to walk, and one of the things that make being a manager a challenge. It’s not just about telling people what to do.

    2. Mary*

      We went through a restructure last year where it felt like our managers’ main concern was impressing senior management with how many “sacrifices” they could make and how much money they could save, rather than acknowledging our concerns or even suggesting at any point that our department had any value to the wider organisation, and it was demoralising to say the least.

      1. Bob*

        Hah. Though this may feel scandalous to say, I feel like my current manager has too much of the opposite problem. Instead of accepting long ago that our team was too big and had too many inefficient employees producing low quality work, and actually managing them out, they just continued with the status quo and tried to justify our existence/gloss over our poor performance.

        Eventually their friend in senior management left, there is someone in charge actually looking at costs, and the fat is about to be trimmed big time. I already had 1 foot out the door, but it does frustrate me that my manager is not objective about the performance of team. They take it really personally when things are challenged which….is not a good look in my opinion.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      The opposite is equally demoralizing – the boss who grumbles about decision to their team and complains about their superiors comes across as someone ineffective/with no pull and just another disgruntled coworker. Working for someone who’s powerless and isn’t looking on how to make the best of a bad situation for you isn’t any better.

      1. Overeducated*

        In my current position as a non-managerial SME, I have gained quite the appreciation for the tightrope first line and mid-level managers have to walk in situations like these. It helps me to remember that it’s not personal, divided loyalties and responsibilities are structurally built into their positions.

  2. Jem*

    This is an interesting topic for me because my Big Boss over the whole department is seen as someone who is very intense, makes quick decisions, and abruptly pivots.

    I once spent several days working on edits to a set of policies at the direction of my supervisor, only to be told that I was to abandon the project and never speak of it again. If she hadn’t spent some time explaining that certain things were out of her control, that our Big Boss was hard to work for, that she could only bring up certain projects at certain times, I might have felt very resentful and irritated at the wasted effort. I was still irritated, but not at her.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah – the choice here is really “do the people I manage blame me, or do they blame the higher-ups who actually made the decision?” Not “how do I get the people I manage not to blame anyone and to be happy with the decision.”

      1. Ace in the Hole*

        I agree. Working someplace that makes bad decisions is inherently demoralizing. But if I’m working in such a place, I’d much rather know my manager is empathetic, reasonable and willing to stick up for me.

    1. Lora*

      During layoff # 456984-9865724-76 in a loooooong series of layoffs, none of which ever achieved the supposed efficiencies they were supposed to achieve: one of the managers was very frank and said, “We are cutting 30% of the site. I hope that we are cutting the RIGHT 30%, I hope we have made choices that are good for Blue Pill Factory. We’ve tried to go about this intelligently. But what keeps me up at night is that maybe we didn’t. We’re doing the best we can.”

      As it so happened, they did not make the right choices, he ended up being fired for making the wrong choices, and they went on a hiring spree a couple of years later to try to replace the people they’d cut. But, I did respect that he considered the possibility that he might be wrong. I always really respect the heck out of managers who are transparent about how they were challenged with (situation) by senior management, they offered up options A, B and C, and the decision that came from senior management was D, and hey, I don’t know if this will turn out to be the right decision in the end, but this is how we are going to work with it and do our best – we’re going to look forward and get through all this and do our best work and that’s all we can do.

    2. Green Goose*

      One of my former department heads was a great example of how to handle news that he did not agree with, or that he could not share fully with the team. I’ll call him John. John was a very transparent person, not just during difficult times and he made it clear with words and actions that he trusted and had the backs of his team.

      We went some really good and bad times on that team, we were really close and then the higher ups decided to disband the team. He handled it really well, and told us as much as he could but also said there were more changes coming and he’d let us know as soon as he could. And since we had a strong level of trust and respect, I felt like I was an informed as I could be.

      I’ve tried to use this when I also have to give bad news to my current employee, just be transparent about not agreeing but focusing on what CAN be done.

    3. Long drives*


      Director: the powers that be want us to move to a smaller set of offices so Sandy’s folks can take our offices.
      Us: But that would be disastrous for our clients who need room, and Sandy’s people aren’t client facing.
      Director: I can tell that to the big boss, but you know he really likes Sandy.
      Us: Let’s brainstorm other options, or ways we can work with Sandy. What if WE talked to Sandy?
      Director: shrug. I guess we could try, but you know this is pretty much a done deal.

      End result: smaller offices, Sandy wins, no collaboration. Oh, and Director keeps his office.

    4. SusanIvanova*

      Silicon Valley software company merged with LA company. Much bad management ensued, which was blatantly obvious. People were leaving in droves, but it looked like our project was safe.

      Then one day our manager came in and said “I was told not to tell you that they want to break up this team and turn you all into maintenance engineers(*). Anyone who needs help with their resume, come talk to me.”

      (*)Maintenance engineers do a very important job but it’s a *wildly* different mindset to development. Forcing a job swap between them would result in very unhappy devs, regardless of which direction it went.

  3. Gazebo Slayer*

    I don’t think it’s really possible – it necessarily even desirable – to convey something that will have a major negative impact on your team without making them bitter about upper administration, unless it’s something upper administration has no power over either (like “our biggest client canceled their contract with us”).

    People are going to feel how they’re going to feel, and trying to convey bad news as good news (“you’re all laid off, which is great because now you have all this free time”) is just going to come across as either deluded or as an insult to their intelligence.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        It’s not about making bad news sound like good news. It’s about providing the information without crapping all over upper management. Those making the decisions may be levels above you, but as a manager you are part of that management team, and you need to respect the decisions made whether you agree with them or not. And commiserating with your subordinates over how unfair and crappy the decision may be is highly inappropriate.

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          The managers I’ve had I’ve respected the most have let us know when they thought certain decisions, made by upper management, that affected us negatively were bad ones; they respected us too much to try to sugarcoat them. That said, they usually made it clear when these decisions were unlikely to be reversed anytime soon, and that while they would pass on our constructive feedback it would be best for us to try to get used to the new way of doing things. They realized that if they pretended the decisions were good ones, we wouldn’t believe them, and we appreciated that.

          1. Rob aka Mediancat*

            Note that I work in a place where management is basically trustworthy; if they make bad decisions, it’s not an indication of a dysfunctional culture, it’s just a bad decision.

          2. A*

            Same, and this has always been important to me. Otherwise it can come across like immediate management isn’t advocating for the team, when it more often than not has other factors coming into play.

          3. allathian*

            Agreed. This has been my experience as well. Although to be fair, in my case most decisions haven’t been bad as such, merely unwelcome to at least a substantial minority of employees. One example is the strategic switch from offices for between 1 and 6 people to activity-based hotdesking (reasonable in the long run, since up to 60 percent of our desks are empty because of PTO, traveling on business, meetings, etcy. This will require a major overhaul of our fairly recently remodeled offices and has been put on hold for the foreseeable future for financial reasons. Other offices in our nationwide agency have made the switch already and most employees are quite happy with them, but being officially permitted to dislike the decision without seeming disloyal has made it more palatable for a lot of people. Of course, some people who really can’t handle it had switched to more or less full-time WFH even before the coronavirus pandemic, and just knowing the option is there if needed is also great.

    1. Snow globe*

      I don’t think the advice was to try to spin it in a positive way-by all means the manager should be upfront about the difficulty the decision will cause – but to try to explain the reasons behind the decision. Usually unpopular decisions happen because the decision-makers have different priorities than the lower level people doing the work. If, as a manager, you can’t enthusiastically support the decision, you can at least explain why the decision was made.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        Sometimes the reasons behind the decision are inexplicable and incomprehensible. You can tell people what leadership *said*, but your team can smell BS too, and if they think you swallowed it they won’t trust you.

        The best way out is “The people in upper management decided to do A and B, they said it’s because X, Y and Z. I know it’s not ideal for us, but that is their decision.” This tells who and what they said, but doesn’t pretend to like it.

        1. Overeducated*

          I agree. One of the things I have learned from good managers is that some decisions simply are management’s prerogative and you’re going to move forward with our without support from below. Instead of wasting time acting like power dynamics are not what they are, or trying to justify and rationalize the decision to get everyone on board, I’ve felt like the situation was clear enough when I heard “this was upper management’s decision. Let’s talk about how we are going to handle it in this department.”

    2. Mary*

      I’ve had “we going to make lots of you redundant but don’t worry that will leave the organisation in a much better shape for he future” and like—thanks? I don’t care? It’s was incredibly tone-deaf. Even those of us who kept our jobs were furious at the idea that our colleagues who’d lost their jobs should have felt comforted by knowing the organisation would be better off without hem.

      1. Probably Taking This Too Seriously*

        I wonder if we worked for the same Fortune 500 company…. did you have to watch a PowerPoint with a cartoon about the roller coaster that is the Change Curve?

    3. Jopestus*

      It is easy to convey a message. Just use the military language. “I got a direct order to tell you this and to support it.” Tells everything they need to know.

  4. Serin*

    My first boss was a perfectly amazing person, but one of his only flaws was the way he delivered management decisions he disagreed with: a wooden-faced recitation of the decision, followed by a very bad job at answering our questions or responding to our criticisms. I always suspected it was something he learned in the military. It had that kind of fatalism to it.

    I mean, it wouldn’t have been any better if he’d said, “This comes down from Kenneth, and y’all know he’s a moron,” but I think we all would have understood him if he’d said something like, “I’m still working with Kenneth on how this is going to work with our other priorities, such as X and Y.”

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, it’s important to let your staff know how the decision will affect them and what you are doing to advocate for them in the face of the decision, not just parrot the party line. And if upper management actually is in fact “volatile, mystifying, or inept” as Alison put it – diplomatically point out problems with the decision that you will be working to solve, per Serin’s script, and imply without stating it that problematic decisions are a regular occurrence, like “I know we get a lot of frequently changing directives, so please let me know if you have questions about how to implement them.”

    2. BethDH*

      That “still working” component is a big part of it, I think. Both the party-line response and the fatalist response tell their reports that the manager feels like they’ve done all they’re going to do. A good manager will let you know that they’re going to keep working to mitigate the problem and try to support you through the ramifications.

  5. Cordoba*

    If you’re the boss in this situation , I think it’s a three-step process:
    1) Here’s the decision that the Big Bosses have made. Just the facts, no analysis or judgement yet.
    2) Here’s my assessment of how this decision will impact us. Not whether it’s good or bad, just “we’re probably going to see X, Y, and Z outcomes.”
    3) Here’s what I think our group can do to mitigate that impact.
    (Bonus: Are there any other thoughts or ideas from the team?)

    As the employee, I don’t actually care whether my boss “agrees or disagrees” with a given policy or decision. I care about how it will impact me and the people I work with, and what we can do make that impact as benign as possible.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I like your flowchart.

      As the employee, I don’t actually care whether my boss “agrees or disagrees” with a given policy or decision

      You have a much more objective mind than I do.

      1. snoopythedog*

        I’ve been in situations where upper management was doing some deeply unethical shit relative to norms and professional standards in my field of work. In that case, it was important for my manager to articulate her value judgement (wow, that’s unethical or not in line with typical practice) in order for me to continue to trust my manager.

        Otherwise, love the flow chart.

    2. No Poker Face*

      I actually care quite a bit about whether my boss agrees or disagrees with a bad decision. This tells me a lot about their judgment and experience in the field. From there, I have a better idea of what I can rely on them for, whether I can trust them, and when I should try to work around them.

      1. allathian*

        Not necessarily. I can accept that my boss has more information on why upper management has made a certain decision and she may not always be able to share that information with her team. However, just knowing that she has our backs and will advocate for us with upper management to mitigate some negative consequences of that decision makes her a great boss. Also, to be fair, our leadership is pretty transparent most of the time. Employees may not always agree with decisions but we are often given quite a lot of info about why they’re necessary.

  6. ReadyPlayer3*

    I don’t know if I 100% agree with AAM’s response here. I’ve been on both sides of this, the manager having to balance my team’s needs and find away to explain a decision from the higher ups without given any information and the employee being told how unfortunate this decision is but great for the company in the long run. Sure, you shouldn’t be overly combative or emotional but explaining the actually power dynamics in the situation doesn’t seem to be that bad to me. Maybe I’m just skewed from my previous experiences.

    1. SusanB*

      Yeah, I agree. I mean, it’s a sliding scale of bad decisions. There are some decisions where it’s like “OK, well, I would do things a different way but I suppose I can go along with this if I have to” and some where it’s like “Wow, that is outrageously short sighted and takes us away from the work we need to be doing for the company to survive” and lastly “Wow, that’s a deeply unethical decision . . . ” and I’ve worked at places where managers have had to convey all three things. With the “deeply unethical” point the manager was like “Listen, I don’t agree with this at all. I know you don’t either. Let’s get it all out on the table and talk about it but at the end of the day, this is coming from above” and we all kind of commiserated and then moved forward. I would have lost all respect for him if he hadn’t acknowledged that.

  7. Ali G*

    Man, the “I got fired for taking initiative” letter almost seems tame in a post “Cheap-Ass rolls” world.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Just went back and read that. Oh man, imagine if the two of them ended up working with each other.

      Also, the last comment on that post is pure gold!

  8. LGC*

    So…I’m just curious, what instances would it be appropriate to explicitly push back? It’s something I’ve struggled with.

    1. Ace in the Hole*

      I’m assuming you’re asking about times when it’s appropriate for an employee or lower-level manager to push back on directions/decisions from upper management? If so, I would say there are three cases when it’s okay:

      1. The decision is clearly unethical, unsafe, or illegal: it’s your duty to refuse and to speak out against these things.
      2. They’re demanding something that’s literally impossible: you literally can’t do what they want, so the best you can do is preempt failure by explaining the issue.
      3. Complying would make your job absolutely intolerable: at this point, you’d quit over it anyway so what’s there to lose by pushing back?

  9. Mill Miker*

    Hypothetically, what’s the approach when the manager themselves doesn’t have any of the information into what the other factors being considered are? And how do you demonstrate that you are advocating for your employees when that advocacy is having no effect?

    Again, purely hypothetical, as I’ve only ever been on the employee side of this, but I’ve definitely found myself feeling like my manager was, for example, not communicating an “X is not physically possible, here’s proof, please stop selling it” to their bosses as strongly as I was communicating to them. X keeps getting sold, only explanation I get is “They have their reasons”. I’d like to imagine that in situations like that my boss’s bosses were the ones being unreasonable, but that’s not what it looks or feels like, and I can’t imagine what my boss could have said, short of throwing their own bosses under the bus, that would have changed that perception.

    1. PX*

      I tend to find that a boss who is clear that 1) they dont know any more, but will inform you once they do helps (that way you dont feel like they are hiding things?). In the current situation, I’ve also heard managers explicitly say that they may know things in advance that they cant communicate (yet), so please appreciate that – and I do.

      Re: advocacy, same thing really. I’ve generally just had managers say they hear and appreciate my concerns, they have escalated it as far as they can, but unfortunately as they are not the ultimate decision maker, the decision they have gotten is the one that stands. If possible sometimes they may say, lets delay X as much as possible in case they change their mind, or continue doing Y for as long as you can, but ultimately thats about it.

  10. snoopythedog*

    I’ve had a manager like this who was also fed up and so she just stopped taking our concerns up to her managers because she felt nothing would ever get done. It was so demoralizing to realize the only person who can fight for you…just won’t even try, even when they agree with your points.
    I get that it is frustrating to continually bring things up and not be heard, but take a moment of reflection as a manager and realize you are robbing your direct reports of the same opportunity when you refuse to bring their (widely held and valid) concerns forward.

    In my situation, we banded together and went directly to the upper management at one point. The whole system was dysfunctional and the upper management we talked to agreed our points were valid…but yet again, the managers above them weren’t listening so they weren’t going to prioritize bringing it up. Thank goodness I left.

    As an employee and a manager, I value honesty. I value the manager who says “that’s not how I would have handled it, but I also don’t have all of the information and insights that leadership does, so let’s make the best of it” (or let’s prioritize our needs to be communicated up). I don’t need or want to be a stepford manager, but there is a level of professionalism required in a *healthy* work environment that allows a manager to acknowledge issues that may not be discussed with employees that influence decisions. When you are open about what you can be honest about, it goes a long way to easing the moments where you can’t disclose all the details about something to your direct reports.

  11. CM*

    I find that as a manager, this is easy in a functional environment, and gets more difficult the more dysfunction there is.

    If I trust that the people above me are making good decisions, then I can say, “This is the decision, here are the factors that went into it, here’s how it will impact us,” or even “I wasn’t privy to all the factors that went into it but even though our group prioritizes A, B, and C, we have to remember that the organization as a whole needs to consider factors like X, Y, and Z.”

    If I don’t trust them, and hate what’s happening to my group, but at this point there’s nothing I can do, then what I want to say in the interest of transparency is “This will impact us negatively and I argued against it, but this was the ultimate decision,” but it can be hard to do that without sounding bitter or like I’m blaming the higher-ups. It is a very difficult balance to strike and individual people will perceive it very differently — for every OP who says, “ugh, why are you telling me this, it’s so negative” there will be another team member who hears the exact same message and says, “thanks so much for telling me this, it’s great to understand the context and know you’re sticking up for us.”

  12. Super Anon*

    I think that your boss toeing the party line means less if you feel heard in other areas. If you trust that behind closed doors that your boss is advocating for your and your team within the constraints being presented, then it doesn’t matter if they then come back and say this is the decision that was made let’s get to work. What doesn’t work is if you don’t feel heard and you get told a decision has been made and it feels like no one cares how much more challenging it may make your life.

  13. andy*

    If you try to defend obviously damaging decision without acknowledging damage, people might just conclude that you are either stupid or out of touch or did not listened to what they were telling you.

    I had managers that tried to avoid demoralization by not telling what is going on. Over time I learned not to trust

  14. Free Meerkats*

    This is a government agency. Things really are different in government from what I see here all the time. And I think Alison’s answer was private business centric.

    I’ve worked in government since I got out of high school while Nixon was in office. We all know when the political heads are being political and know the ones who either don’t know or don’t care about what the agency is supposed to be doing or what our purpose is. Any front line or group manager who doesn’t recognize and acknowledge that will lose all trust their employees have in them.

    I’m now sort of management – lead position in a group where the manager retired and won’t be replaced – so all the technical responsibility with little of the personnel management headaches. My employees trust that I’ll call out BS when BS is being thrust upon us. And that I’ll advocate for us to the best of my abilities. But I’m not going to sugar coat the decisions or parrot the current political whack job running the department.

    1. Not All*

      I had the same reaction. I work for an agency that this administration would dearly like to completely get rid of. Since we all KNOW that every policy directive out of DC has the actual intent of making us less effective, any manager who tries to pretend otherwise is assumed to be either A) an idiot B) a political toady with no interest beyond personal advancement or C) someone who also wants the agency to be ineffective.

      The ones who simply state “This is the directive we have received and while I know we all have concerns about the impacts, I will work with you to figure out how we will continue to do the best job possible” get the most respect.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Non-government, but a former manager used this approach and it was truly the best option she had. The owner often made a bad decision on a whim that upended projects at the last minute and caused tons of rework and chaos. I knew my manager fought for us, but could never win. I deeply respected how she never bad-mouthed the big boss/owner, but she also didn’t pretend it was somehow good for us. “This is the decision, here’s how we’ll get it done.” That was good management in an impossible situation IMO.

    2. Drago Cucina*

      Agreed. There are decisions that should be honestly discussed, and sometimes derided, with staff. The library I was the director of had a major budget cut to fund the pet project of local officials. The staff needed to know what the possible ramifications were and how I was pushing back. They were in fear for their jobs. The governing board never addressed their concerns. The staff now see that level of management as uncaring.

    3. AnotherAnon*

      I work in municipal government in a very large city, and have also worked for federal and state agencies across the U.S. Agree with you completely. Some places are better than others, but generally government is political, top down, and the well connected get what they want.

  15. TimeTravlR*

    Clearly, I work for same person in the gov’t. Can’t ever stand up to anyone. Just rolls over. At least freakin’ try!!!!

  16. anon for this*

    I really struggled with this when I was told that I was not supposed to let my direct report work from home when he was sick for two weeks (his job is very easy to do from home, he felt very capable of working, he had not yet accrued any sick time, we use several online communication tools already and were in communication constantly, and it was late February/early March so he did not want to risk getting anyone else sick if he had COVID-19, which he very well might have). I let him do it for several days and then was told that we didn’t have a work from home policy and it wasn’t permitted and it became a huge, stressful thing. I didn’t say that I thought upper management was being ridiculous or anything (they were), but I couldn’t really present myself as approving of them. (Of course a week after this happened we were all working from home, though that week I was told that working from home was absolutely never ok!)

    1. anon for this*

      I also told my direct report that I didn’t believe in the drug testing our company requires and that I didn’t think it was ok to have to wait three months to use sick time, so it’s possible I’m just a bad manager.

      1. Bob*

        As someone who has a boss who…is very vocal in their opinions about their boss – I would say be careful. For me, seeing that my boss doesnt respect their boss or their decisions comes across as super unprofessional and I definitely think less of them for it (especially because some of them are valid decisions for the overall good of the department).

        There are other things that also make them not great in this area, but beware of coming across as trying to be overly friendly with your reports or creating an Us vs. Them dynamic. Long term, I dont think its a good idea.

        1. anon for this*

          Yeah, it’s something I’ve been thinking a lot about…it’s hard when things go so against my personal values, but I also know that sometimes in the workplace you have to put your personal values aside.

          1. anon for this*

            However my former boss would never say anything contradicting the corporate party line (same workplace, was in the same position that I am now) and it made me feel like I could not talk to her or trust her so I don’t know.

  17. ReadyPlayer3*

    The other thing is sometimes it’s important to vocalize concerns with staff if you want to try and improve working conditions. I know it’s a sitcom, but it’s like in Superstore. Clearly, Amy is being a bad manager by some standards by helping her staff advocate for sick leave, a better wage, etc but she’s also a good manager for the exact same reason.

  18. A Penny for Your Idea!*

    NGL, I had one specific political leader in mind when I read the final paragraph and thought about how challenging it must be to be one of his staffers that has to deliver bad news:

    One caveat to all this: There are cases where it’s so widely understood that a higher-up is out of her gourd or that a policy has no redeeming value that you’ll lose credibility if you don’t acknowledge that. Even then, though, the way you talk about it matters: Calm and matter-of-fact, yes. Openly disgusted, no.

  19. Government Manager*

    I think being in a government agency changes this advice a bit (as a few people pointed out above). Sometimes there are decisions that might be bad for your agency or program because the current political powers have different pirorities. Sometimes politicians make public guarentees that genuinely compromise delivering the best policy for everyone. This applies to internal processes too (e.g. changing the format for advice to a different template, insisting different people sign off on work).

    In that environment, I’ve found that if you have a generally solid and trustworthy relationship with your team, sometimes the formula to deliver news is “we now need to do X, I raised known issues Y and Z but ultimatley the politicians decided on X. I know this is going to cause ABC problems, but I’ve got a plan/we will develop a plan to minimise disruption”

    Basically if you ever hit up against a seemingly poor process/decision, a legitimate answer (to a degree) is “politicians said so” – then the conversation usually turns to if it is a bad enough decision to be worth going into bat for. Changing a process that means 5% more admin for only 10 people probably isn’t worth it, but risking wastage of public money absolutley is.

  20. Alternative Person*

    Having worked with a managers who have ‘drunk the kool-aid’, I have a lot more respect and patience for managers who are willing to express issues in a fair, transparent way.

    Recently, one of the line managers took the time to go through some concerns I had and explained a few things about contracts and the management structure that I hadn’t previously known about and some of the politics that go with it and I really appreciated that he didn’t just brush me off.

    Contrasting that with times where managers have obfuscated situations, pretended not to know about things, repeated the company line, or all but thrown people under buses when the staff knew the truth or at the least knew something was up and well, I know what I prefer.

  21. Workfromhome*

    From my experience in my pretty dysfunctional last job the one thing that’s absolute is that people will see through BS. Its one thing to try to explain the thinking behind something that will impact your team negatively or to spin it as there are other factors we don’t have the information about that lead to the decision.
    But when its obvious to everyone its a bunch of BS so that the CEO can boost the value of his stock options or that the VP wants to have his moron of a nephew run R and D you have to call out BS. Not only do you lose credibility but people actually become less effective when not only are they having to do something detrimental to them but being asked to act like they buy the crap they are being fed.

    All that said if you don’t agree then at the very least lay out what you did to argue against the change, advocate for your team etc. in detail. Otherwise when people hear “Well I tried but its out of my hands” they tend not to believe it

  22. Jeffrey Deutsch*

    I suspect many managers espouse the Captain Miller* Philosophy: Griping goes up the ladder, not down.

    [*] From Saving Private Ryan.

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