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Tell Me What You Want To Hear

Posted by Chuck Csizmar | Posted in Articles, Universal Compensation | Posted on 30-01-2018

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Kambi Unedited, by Jonathan BensonHave you ever felt like asking your boss, “Just tell me what you want to hear?”  Of course, you have.  We all have.  But I’ll wager that you never actually voiced that question, did you?

Sticking your neck up above the crowd to voice a different, contentious or even challenging viewpoint that goes against the popular choice, or the boss’ choice, is rarely an action that you look forward to taking.  Sometimes though, just to avoid the headaches, the personal challenges and even cause of friction in the workplace you’ll want for nothing more than for someone else to make the call.  For someone else to tell you what to do or say.

So you can escape the heat/blame/pointed finger/bad reputation, etc.

Let Me Pass This Cup

Excuse the biblical reference, but the time comes for all of us when we would like nothing better than for someone else to wave their arms in front of that proverbial freight train.  For someone else to face down the storm that might be brewing just outside the door.  For someone else to make the unpopular choice – and then to deal with the repercussions.

It’s human nature.  Perhaps a bit of self-preservation to avoid what you fear might become a career-damaging moment.  We’ve all seen examples: pushing the call up the chain of command, having a subordinate “do it,” delaying a decision for as long as possible, or even simply pretending that a decision doesn’t have to be made at all.

Because we don’t want to be punished.  We don’t want to regret our actions.

The Manager’s Role

But hopefully, most of the time you’ll likely take a deep breath, suck in your gut, push back your nervous fears and make the call you feel you need to make.   Because you’re a professional.  Because that’s what you’re being paid to do as a Compensation Director/Manager/Leader at your organization.

We live in a time where we’re literally inundated with self-help posters, guides, seminars, workshops and a daily exposure to social media formats like LinkedIn, Facebook, et al.  Outsiders constantly painting a picture of a simple and uncomplicated life, using cute photos, catchy phrases, and other guilt-ridden inducements, admonishing you to “do the right thing.”

And they’re right.  You should.  But sometimes it can be damn hard to take that step, to raise your hand or simply say NO!  I’ve been there, and I’d bet you have as well.

Don’t Fall On Your Sword

In my experience, though, I’ve found a pathway forward that can take into account your professional needs without sawing off the branch you’re sitting on.  You CAN stick to your guns (opinions, recommendations, viewpoint), just modify your personal approach a bit.  Don’t be the bull in the china shop.

  • Don’t fall on your sword by making declarative statements that leave you little negotiating room.   “My way or the highway” is a foolish stratagem, no matter who is talking.
  • Allow for the fact that there may be information out there not yet available to the decision-makers.  “Based on the current information available . . . .” is a reasonable preface.
  • You will rarely see all the angles to an issue that senior management would be privy to.  So your compensation viewpoint, while objectively strong, might be trumped by other aspects of the business that you’re not aware of. Be aware of that possibility.
  • Surveys are not always right, so never start an argument with “Surveys say . . .”  In fact, numbers are neutral.  What you want to do about those numbers usually forms the core of your proposals.
  • Know your audience, and where their thinking is going.  Then modify your approach to at least take their viewpoints into account.
  • You are not the “answer man,” so be willing to compromise where half a loaf moves you in the right direction.  Playing the “resist” card in the workplace is a poor tactic.

So yes, you should be willing to stand up for what you believe and to say as much.  But be smart about it.

When you pass the cup to someone else too often, the question can become, what do we need you for?

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