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Six tips on how to question management without rocking the boat

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10th Dec 2014
Trainer Acuity Training
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Nick Williams gives the community some good advice on how to be tactful with the management team. 

Questioning the decisions your manager has made can be awkward, however with the right approach it can be done without rocking the boat. It is important to remember that a good manager will want you to show initiative and providing you handle the situation professionally, they will respect you for it.

Here are six tips on how to question management without rocking the boat so you don’t end up talking yourself out of your job.

Ask for clarification

If your manager has asked you and your team to do something that you do not agree with or you do not think is a good approach, try not to jump down their throat immediately. It may be a case of your mishearing them or misunderstanding them, so take time to consider this. If you think this may be the case, it is worth asking them to clarify what they want you to do. Only when you have done this and are still unhappy with what they have said, should you decide to question them.

When questioning management you need to give them room to change their minds and go back on their words, without being smug about it. The best thing to do is clarify what they have said by repeating it back to them. At this point they may realise that what they have said to you doesn’t sound right, so they will have the opportunity to clarify and change it without any awkwardness.=

Make sure you get your facts right

There is nothing worse than going to question your manager, only to find you have got the completely wrong end of the stick, which is why I suggested clarification as the first tip. Before you go into speak with your manager, make sure you have got all of your facts right and have prepared what you want to say. Your manager is only going to take you seriously if you have evidence to back up your points and reasons why you are questioning their decision.

Arrange to meet with them privately

Unless your manager specifically asks for immediate feedback, never question their decisions in front of your peers. It is much more professional and respectful to arrange to meet with them privately to discuss your concerns, as your manager won’t have to worry as much about saving face.

Questioning them in front of others can look like you are trying to undermine them, so instead ask if you can speak with them at a time that is convenient and make sure you follow tip two so you are well prepared for your discussion.

Always do what’s best for the company

When it comes to questioning management without rocking the boat, you need to make sure that you are doing it for the sake of the company and not just because you are personally unhappy with what they have asked you to do. At the end of the day they are your manager, so just because you may not like their approach, it doesn’t mean it isn’t right.

If you have decided to question them, it is important that you show you are doing so because you have concerns about how it will affect your team or even your client. Avoid making it personal and your manager will have much more respect for you.

Offer an alternative

If the aim of you questioning management is to get them to rethink what they have said or the action they are planning on taking; then you need to make sure you provide them with at least one valid alternative.

Your manager will not be pleased if you have questioned their decision without coming up with a better solution. They want you to have thought about an alternative approach or it will simply look like you are being disruptive and trying to cause trouble.

Before heading into your meeting with them, make sure you have prepared an alternative strategy. Acknowledge the good points about their decision, but integrate them with your strategy as a way of suggesting improvements that could be made. Your manager will then take you much more seriously and is likely to reward you for taking initiative.

Never go over their head

I previously said that there is nothing worse than questioning management before getting your facts right, but the ultimate faux pas has to be going over their head to their manager. Unless your manager has done something seriously wrong that is either illegal or has put the company in jeopardy, there is no reason for you to go over their head.

Taking your concerns to their manager will look like you are undermining them and they along with your peers are likely to lose all respect for you. Instead, take the professional approach and address your concerns directly with your manager.

Nick Williams works for Acuity Training, who provide hands-on professional training from their two UK offices. Nick works as an assistant on a number of courses including the communication training courses

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