I will tell the Boss - The Grumbler

Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, Rewards and Recognition

While we were students in school, all of us had those classmates who would often whine, “I will tell the teacher” or “I will tell my mother.” On some days they did bring their parents to school to speak to the teacher and complain. Those students, even when they grow-up and join an organization, the word “teacher” in their whining statement gets replaced by “Boss” and it becomes “I will tell the boss”.  They start this mantra when they join as fresh graduates and continues till they become managers. Usually, they threaten to complain to the Head of Department, CEO or the Managing Director

Although I get a chance to work with many “I will tell the Boss” kind of employees, here I would specifically like to mention about Alok Khanna, who was heading the Marketing Department. For me, it was my first chance to lead HR & Admin Function. Alok was senior to me in every aspect, his total work experience, his stay in the organization as well as his age. In most of the organizations, HR and Marketing are at opposing ends – One is a revenue generator, and other is revenue spender. Many marketing teams, worldwide, live with a belief, that the entire revenue generated by them should be spent on them. Alok wasn’t an exception to this rule. We both were reporting to the CEO. Whether there was a client visit or they needed to visit a customer or if there was an event to be organized, Alok and his team would always send their requests at the last minute. These demands could be about anything, such as picking guest from the airport, arranging for transportation, flight, and hotel bookings, arranging the conference rooms, etc. and since it was done at the last minute, it would cost us 30-40% more than the standard rate. Whenever the Office Administration denied their request, he would say the customer would be giving a business of a million or a two USD, and I will tell the CEO that we lost this customer due to the lacklustre behaviour of HR & Admin. Often we would end up giving in.

As a “Compliance Manager” of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) of Organization and “Expense Controller”, HR has a very crucial role to play. However, in these cases neither we were complying with SOP’s nor we were able to confine expenses. Our SOP’s assigned a Turnaround Time (TAT) of THREE days, which meant HR & Admin must respond to requests from employees within THREE days, in other words, they must get a minimum of THREE days to process a request.

One day Alok sent a request to us at around 4 PM asking to arrange airport pickups for THREE guests and hotel bookings for them for the next day morning at 8 AM. I said, “It cannot be done.” “I will tell the CEO,” he threatened. I said, “Okay, let’s go.”  “It’s a small matter. Just do it. Why do you want to take it to him? He will shout at you”, he tried to pacify. “Don’t worry. Let’s go”, I held his hand, and we walked to the cabin of CEO. I narrated the entire episode to the CEO. CEO looked at Alok and said, “Aren’t they the same customers who confirmed their visit last week? I thought you have already informed the HR & Admin”? “Sorry Sir. It just slipped out of my mind”, he responded.  “That’s fine. Ask your team to arrange for pickups and hotels. And from next time onwards, don’t try to bypass SOP. They are there for a purpose”, CEO concluded.

I won’t say that Alok showed tremendous improvement in his working style after that meeting with CEO; however, every time he tried to bypass the system in the name of “I will tell the Boss,” I took him to the CEO. Later a process was created asking HR to adhere to only those requests from employees that complied with SOP. Any deviation from the process should have approval from the CEO.  It worked.

Maybe based on their previous experiences or maybe they are scared of talking to senior management, often support functions give in to the threats of “I will tell the boss” kinds of employees. The only thing you need to do is to confront them once or maybe twice, you can also speak to the person whose name is used to scare you. Just do not deviate from the process unless it is a situation of life and death. 

“I Have Spoken to the Boss” – The Politicians

In an organizational set-up, “I have Spoken to the Boss” are close relatives of “I will tell the Boss.” While the later threatens of taking you to the boss; the former informs you that he has already spoken to the boss, and it is the boss who has asked you to follow X, Y, Z through this mediator. You don’t cross-check with your boss because you know that the individual is senior in the team and closer to the boss, so you oblige to him only to learn later that you have been used by the mediator for a different cause and purpose.

They are attention seekers. Nothing is easier to get the attention of your colleagues than to demonstrate your closeness with your boss. They try to hide their incompetence and non-performance by displaying unwanted and overly care towards their reporting managers and diverting his or her focus from the core performance issues.

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