I recently came across this great article about how to disagree with your boss. I realize I’ve been ‘dissenting’ quite a lot recently. As I’ve been focusing on efficiency/productivity (with help from the guys over at Asian Efficiency), I’m more aware than ever of the problems all around me.
I’ve spoken many times to my boss about professional integrity and how it often contradicts how senior management behave. Recently her own very supportive boss (who would fight for his team) was replaced by a disinterested boss (who already has another team) and now she’s afraid to make waves. She’s admitted this herself, and it’s darn frustrating when she passes down senseless decisions that she’s too scared to challenge.
Cut staff to save (no) money
We were given the opportunity to challenge a restructure in our department which would create more high paid managerial staff and fewer ‘worker bees’, move work around, maintain/increase silo working and ’empower’ staff to challenge inefficient working practices. All of this was based on a business case that basically said “this will make us a better service” with nothing to support such a bold statement.
Of course I put forward a challenge making my dissent quite clear. That probably didn’t help my relationship with my boss, who was a key contributor to the business case. My proposals to tweak the restructure to address some of the issues highlighted above were ‘carefully considered’ (but never discussed with me) before being rejected almost in their entirety.
Despite losing quite a few staff, due to poor cost modelling it turns out that no saving has been made…
Following the ’empowering’ element of the restructure, and driven by necessity due to losing staff, we’ve cut down on what we do in my team. We used to do a lot of checking of various things because every once in a while we would prevent something bad from happening. We’ve now recognized the risk as minimal and abandoned that kind of checking.
Bring on the auditors, and a draft report that says we need to do more to reduce risk. With my tongue slightly in my cheek I suggested the wording should be “completely eliminate risk”, thinking they might see some sense, but instead they used the revised wording in their final report! Having been an auditor I know that low risk is fine. *Sigh*
People just aren’t seeing how much time they waste. The other day there was a whole conversation about how something might go wrong with a particular thing and could someone check this, check that etc. In not so many words I asked them not to bother me until there was actually a problem, at which point it would be worth my time. I also pointed out how someone appeared to have spent a fair bit of time looking for possible problems when it would have taken little more than a minute (by running a program) to hit any actual problems… or not.
Generally, time-saving ideas are going over people’s heads, as the rest of this article perhaps demonstrates.
The selling game
Management has invested in a sales training ‘game’. The company selling it has great reviews and it sounds like it really works for sales teams. Did I mention that our department is not a sales team? We’re back office support to internal ‘customers’. We don’t sell our services.
My suggestion that there may be more useful ways for us to spend our time has been taken rather personally by my boss, even though it wasn’t her idea and she is also not convinced that it will be of any use. She basically can’t handle dissent, because she’s paralysed by fear for her job.
As if we don’t have enough actual work to do, HR decided that line managers must record sickness as soon as an employee calls in, rather than them logging it when they return. It’s a (daily) task that isn’t that onerous I admit, but add it to all the other tasks like this that are not part of our productive output and you can lose a lot of productive time.
At the same time as telling me I must comply with this decision, my boss is chasing me for an overdue report. “Lucky no one’s off sick today,” I commented.
What do you do all day?
Department managers were recently asked to report what they and their teams actually do, including time allocations. My first attempt at this was rejected because I included general management/supervision and administration time for myself and my deputy and they “didn’t like it”. Fortunately there’s been no further feedback after a number of weeks, probably because the people tasked with reviewing the data have no understanding of the tasks I’ve listed, making this yet another waste of productive time.
Information technology fail
Me and the IT department have a difficult relationship. It doesn’t help that they seem to employ helpdesk staff straight out of kindergarten. I’ve developed a few in-house solutions that my team support, and we also support some of the purchased solutions. Obviously we rely on the overall IT infrastructure and the administrator rights that only IT possess.
So when the infrastructure fails, we experience a knock-on demand for our support service. And while I don’t technically have permission to email all users, I know a workaround. Having experienced previously the reluctance of IT and subsequent delay in sending out a message on behalf of my team, I took matters into my own hands and got an email out quickly to provide advice for users before they all started calling for help, saving everyone time (including IT as users often call them in error) and allowing us all to be more productive/efficient.
As you might have guessed by now, my actions did not result in praise for my initiative and quick action. Instead I was confronted (or rather my boss was) with an angry email from IT management. Strange, as I’d resisted the urge to start my global email with “So, IT have f*cked up again…”
Meanwhile, IT are keeping quiet about the fact that the network is not up to speed and getting calls from exasperated users like me when they could easily issue a global email that would reduce the demand on the helpdesk. My boss is too scared to respond to the criticism from IT, and again takes my dissent as a personal disagreement with her and doesn’t recognize the effects on productivity.