Q: My boss has really let me down. I thought he was addressing an issue I have been facing for several months, and now found out that, despite the impression he gave, he has taken no action. He didn’t actually lie, but he hasn’t helped, either. To make the situation more touchy, his boss now asked to talk to me about it. What do I do?
Marcie, 50, senior manager
A: Start with the facts. Write up some background on the issue, the implications and solutions from your point of view. Also collect your documentation about your interactions with your boss.
If it’s all been verbal, create your best recollection. There is absolutely no room for exaggeration, imputing motives or stating assumptions you made as fact.
Keep the tone neutral. Especially if you are going from memory, you will put yourself at a disadvantage if you sound like you are venting.
Your goal is to have something you would feel comfortable with in a meeting with all interested parties.
Be prepared for both your boss and his boss to ask for a copy and for it to be potentially considered an official document.
Be clear in your own mind about your desired outcome. While you are disappointed in your boss right now, keep the focus on solving your business issue.
You may be considering a conversation with him, letting him know that his boss has set up a call with you. Transparency is a good thing in general; however, this could be a touchy step to take. Ask your HR representative to advise you. In fact, as his boss has reached out to you, there’s a possibility they are already involved.
Worst case, he will likely find out that you and she have talked. If he puts you on the spot, he is being a bit out of line as your boss. And you can readily speak to the awkward position the whole business is putting you in.
Or, after everything is resolved, you can have a “clearing the air” conversation with him if you think there’s a need.
Do some prep to get ready for your chat with his boss. Using your documentation, be ready to give a concise summary of the situation. Think through questions she may have, and also challenges she may make to your viewpoint of the situation.
Talk it through with a trusted colleague, especially someone who knows the people involved (and who will keep quiet about it). They could help you strategize and could even be a role-playing partner if you feel the need.
Don’t be surprised if the situation is making you anxious. No one likes being caught between bosses! Take steps to ease your nerves that work for you. Get some fresh air or exercise, or try some deep breathing or meditation.
And accept that you may be in a situation that leaves your boss looking bad. This isn’t your fault, so don’t succumb to guilt or pressure to deny your experience. Since you are keeping your company’s needs front and center, you will be able to maintain the high ground.
What challenges do you face at work? Send your questions to Liz Reyer, leadership coach and president of Reyer Coaching & Consulting in Eagan. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.