As we've seen, skip-level interviews present risks to supervisors who initiate them. But there are also risks for subordinates who initiate skip-level interviews, however informal or spontaneous they might be. Because subordinates who initiate skip-level interviews almost always seek redress of grievances against their supervisors, this type will be our focus. As in the earlier installments of this exploration, we'll use the name Frodo for the subordinate, Bilbo for the subordinate's supervisor, and Gandalf for Bilbo's supervisor.
- When Frodo initiates a dialog with Gandalf, Bilbo might become worried. The less Bilbo knows about the topics of the dialog, the more worried he is likely to become. If the dialog is conducted in private, and especially if its existence is hidden, Bilbo is more likely to feel that his performance is the topic and that Frodo is attacking him.
- These risks are elevated when there is ongoing difficulty between Bilbo and Frodo. And such situations are exactly those in which Frodo is most likely to turn to Gandalf for assistance. Moreover, in times of difficulty between Bilbo and Frodo, Bilbo is likely to be most alert to contact between Frodo and Gandalf.
- Even if Bilbo has no definite knowledge of the content of the Frodo-Gandalf dialog, he might assume the worst, and seek retribution for Frodo's supposed offense. Retribution is even more likely if Gandalf subsequently takes any action that leads Bilbo to believe that it resulted from the Frodo-Gandalf dialog. Frodo would be wise to seek an interview with Gandalf only if he believes that Gandalf will act responsibly, with discretion, and with appropriate care for Frodo.
- Peer concerns
- When Frodo's peers learn that Frodo and Gandalf are meeting (or have met), they might also become worried. Like Bilbo, their level of concern is inversely correlated with their level of knowledge of the content and existence of the dialog.
- For example, Even if the supervisor has no
definite knowledge of the content of
the dialog between the subordinate
and the supervisor's supervisor, he
or she might assume the worst,
and seek retributionif one of Frodo's peers is a favorite of Bilbo, he or she might worry that Frodo is complaining to Gandalf about favoritism, and that Gandalf's response might end the favoritism. This worry might lead to difficulty between Frodo and his peer.
- Frodo's peers also present security risks with regard to the interview with Gandalf. If Frodo has been open about his desire to meet with Gandalf, and open about the appointment itself, then his peers might transfer this information to Bilbo, wittingly or not. If Bilbo's performance is indeed the topic of the meeting, Frodo would be wise to be discrete about the meeting, even with respect to his peers.
The most important risks for Frodo involve Bilbo's response. Initiating a meeting with Gandalf can expose Frodo to these very real risks. Unless Frodo is relatively certain that Gandalf will take effective action that will help Frodo, the risks probably outweigh the benefits. First in this series Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenldIFWtoLqitoyhYtner@ChacvMfhwpPgRpeoPdctoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Devious Political Tactics:
- Devious Political Tactics: The False Opportunity
- Workplace politics can make any environment dangerous, both to your career and to your health. This
excerpt from my little catalog of devious political tactics describes the false opportunity, which appears
to be a chance to perform, to contribute, or to make a real difference. It's often something else.
- Devious Political Tactics: Divide and Conquer, Part I
- While most leaders try to achieve organizational unity, some do use divisive tactics to maintain control,
or to elevate performance by fostering competition. Understanding the risks of these tactics can motivate
you to find another way.
- Deceptive Communications at Work
- Most workplace communication training emphasizes constructive uses of communication. But when we also
understand how communication can be abused, we're better able to defend ourselves from abusive communication.
One form of abusive communication is deception.
- Why People Hijack Meetings
- When as Chair of a meeting, you have difficulty completing a reasonable agenda, you might be the target
of a hijacking. Here's Part I of a series exploring meeting hijacking.
- Preventing Meeting Hijacking
- Meeting leads, meeting Chairs, and facilitators must be prepared to deal with meeting hijackers. Hesitation,
or any ineffectual action, enhances the hijacker's chances of success. Here are suggestions for preventing
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 25: Workplace Memes
- Some patterns of workplace society reduce organizational effectiveness in ways that often escape our notice. Here are five examples. Available here and by RSS on October 25.
- And on November 1: Risk Creep: I
- Risk creep is a term that describes the insidious and unrecognized increase in risk that occurs despite our every effort to mitigate risk or avoid it altogether. What are the dominant sources of risk creep? Available here and by RSS on November 1.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenZSuSmqcZQLTCLJYmner@ChacHIfAUDsmHbOsVpAUoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
- Most of what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.