Are you having a problem with your direct manager? Are you thinking about going over your manager’s head? If your instincts tell you that it is a bad idea, you are right. By not respecting the chain of command, you'll alienate your manager and potentially your manager’s colleagues.
Your secret is not safe.
Even if you ask your manager’s boss not to tell, you cannot rely on the fact that the conversation will remain a secret. How can she correct the issue without involving your manager? If you go above your manager, she will know it. After your manager knows, your relationship will not be the same. You'll be the one working to rebuild the relationship, and it will be a long, tough road.
So, play it smart. If you have a complaint, be direct and honest with your boss.
If your manager seems to have no interest in your issue, approach it differently. Draft talking points with language such as, "I hear you saying that you don't think we need to add temporary phone reps for the holidays. I feel frustrated because I want our department to succeed, and my projections show our hold times will increase tenfold if we do not add temporary staff. Would you like me to create a report to demonstrate these projections to justify the cost to senior management?" With language of this type, you are demonstrating that you are part of the solution.
It is unwise to usurp your boss.
Your boss has the authority to make decisions regarding your department. However, if you are concerned that her misjudgments will later be blamed on you, send her an email message documenting her decision. Try something like, "Thanks for our meeting today. As you advised, I will not hire temporary staff. Instead, we will begin ten hours of overtime per week. I'll alert you if our hold times or abandon rates are outside of company metrics."
When is it alright to go over your manager’s head?
There are unusual times when you should go to your manager’s boss or the Human Resources Manager. Here are examples of those scenarios:
If your manager is doing something illegal.
If your boss has a serious mental illness or substance abuse issue of which you are aware, and it is affecting the security of staff or the operations of the company.
If your boss is doing something that exposes the company to a lawsuit, such as sexual harassment.
These are examples of highly confidential issues. Don’t discuss the issues with anyone other than your manager’s manager or Human Resources. Document your conversation with that person in an email. Be aware that the email may be part of a lawsuit, so choose your words carefully.
Going over your manager’s head can be harmful to your current employment. Always carefully select your words when discussing disagreements with your manager. Think twice before going over your manager’s head. Consider the long-term effects this could have on your job and career.
Debra Wheatman, CPRW, CPCC is President of Careers Done Write, a premier career services provider focused on developing highly personalized career roadmaps for senior leaders and executives across all verticals and industries.