Have you ever noticed that the people who succeed in business are always those who step outside the box and take risks? While that may involve coming up with a bold, new idea or finding a way to guarantee a sale, occasionally it may involve going over your boss’s head.
Many people assume that their boss should have the final say on all professional matters, whether that means deciding which ideas the company will run with or dictating how the business should be run. However, employers are regular people, too, who sometimes make mistakes. Sometimes, taking a risk and going against your boss’s advice will pay off.
That said, you will also risk annoying the one person in the company whose opinion matters most - and that may cost you your job. This is what stops many people from following their intuition and trusting their own business ideas. But it is also the very thing that also stops people from getting promoted, receiving awards of recognition, and being offered the opportunity to start their own businesses.
By following the tips below, you will limit the chance of things turning sour and you will likely gain your boss’s attention - for the right reasons.
1. Consider your office hierarchy
In an ideal world, your boss is someone who you respect and look up to, who acts like the perfect ally and mentor for your professional development. However, sometimes your boss is a bumbling fool and you may wonder how they got their job in the first place.
If your boss is about to make a mistake or is ignoring a blatantly brilliant idea, ask yourself if there is an alternative person higher in the company structure you can turn to. Can you ask another manager for advice, or approach your boss’s boss?
However, remember that the time of upper management is precious, and they will likely not want to concern themselves with petty manners of office politics - especially if you simply look like you are having a dummy spit. Do not waste their valuable time and make sure you have a valid complaint; otherwise it will reflect badly on you. Have a clear list of reasons as to how your boss’s behaviour is affecting the company’s quality of products or services, productivity and/or finances, and present a solution to the problem. Try to make sure it is a pattern of behaviour, rather than a one-off event.
Remember that your boss will almost certainly find out that you have complained about them, so try to make sure that you will be protected from retaliation. It also helps to approach someone who has a reputation of taking complaints seriously and acting on them.
2. Stop mistakes in their tracks
If it is obvious to you that your boss is about to make or has already made a mistake, do what you can to salvage the situation immediately. Act first, and explain your actions afterwards.
Regardless of how wrong your boss may be, remember that they are still your superior and you, therefore, must approach the situation with tact and respect.
3. Ask yourself if the problem can be resolved by approaching your boss directly
Rather than immediately heading to another staff member when you have a problem with your boss or their methods, consider how you can approach them directly instead. Although it is terrifying to contemplate complaining about your boss directly to their face, they are likely to handle it better than if you went over their head.
4. Don’t lose faith in your ideas
What happens if you come up with a brilliant idea, that you know will completely improve the way your employer’s business runs, but your boss turns it down? Should you bury the idea and lick your wounds, or should you go over their head and approach someone higher up the ranks?
Initially, you should try pitching your idea to your boss once again. Present your case clearly and efficiently, and again try to demonstrate why your boss simply cannot afford to reject your idea. If they turn it down yet again, make sure you understand exactly why. If you are still convinced that you have come up with a winning idea, take it to a higher power.
5. Choose the right environment to approach upper management
If your direct boss isn’t on board with an idea, consider how you could approach the next level up in a casual manner. The next time you are in a social setting, such as a conference lunch or after-work drinks, casually bring up your idea to the next person in charge and see how they respond. This is a much less aggressive way of going around your boss compared to barging straight into the CEO’s office.
6. Understand the difference between going against your boss and simply hating your job
Unless your job is a professional chocolate taste tester, it is likely that there will be certain aspects to it that you will not like. Sometimes it may seem as though your boss is piling unwanted tasks on your desk, but it may just be the reality of your job. Do not ignore their requests or bitch about them. What you may mistake for a dislike towards your boss may actually just be disdain about your job.
7. Consider legal implications
If your boss is doing something downright illegal, it is perfectly acceptable to go against your boss’s orders and tell someone what is going on. First, gather evidence, so it doesn’t simply seem as though you have a vendetta against your boss. Also, express your concern about the future of the company. This will show that you are a team player, and not simply trying to take down your boss.
Start by approaching someone within the organisation about what is going on, and then consider taking your insider knowledge to an outside source such as an attorney. Note that your boss will not be happy when they find out you’ve tattled, so don’t expect to remain in their good books.
Similarly, if your boss is partaking in unethical behaviour (such as sexual harassment, bullying, favouritism, and so on), do not be afraid to go to Human Resources for advice.
8. Prepare for the worst case scenario
As scary as it is to admit, you must acknowledge that every time you go over your boss’s head, you risk losing your job. Disregarding your boss’s opinion will not always be met with a handshake and admittance that they were wrong. Sometimes, they will resent you for disrespecting them, and will fire you on the spot. Even if they do not show you to the door, they still have the ability to affect your performance reviews, career opportunities, salary, project assignments, and general working environment. Remember that there will always be some kind of retribution for griping about your boss.
Whenever you think about going around your boss, always prepare for the best and worst outcomes that could result.
Going around your boss is always a challenge and a risk. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about it, but hopefully you have learnt how to do so respectfully and with the maximum chance of success.
If you have a good experience of going over your boss’s head, tell us in the comments below.