Managing issues upwards

Caroline Mboijana, Managing Director, The Leadership Team (U). 

What you need to know:

  • You may want to speak with your team members and others to find out if there is something major going on apart from work

Dear Caroline, I work as part of a team of 10. My work requires me to coordinate logistics and support the team with administrative services. I enjoy what I do and know I do it well. In the last few months, we have been extremely busy and under pressure. My supervisor, who is usually very pleasant, has been asking me to do work that is not within my domain and even work that I have never done before so that we deliver. I like to work but  I feel that I am being asked to do work that I do not know. What do I do?  

Hello Emmanuel,  it sounds like your supervisor is under some pressure and is struggling to manage the workload. If you have noticed a difference in their behaviour, what you are observing is triggered by something else. We shall assume work. What you are going to have to do is find a moment to speak with your supervisor and find a way to communicate your concerns. In essence, you will have to manage upwards. Before you have a session with your supervisor, you will want to try to understand a little bit more about what is happening in your department that could be affecting your supervisor. 

You may want to speak with your team members and others to find out if there is something major going on apart from work. You could also ask others about the work that you are being given, this is to establish whether the work is new or was being done by someone else.  This investigation is important so you can then plan how to raise it with your supervisor. If the work was done by someone else, have a chat on how to go baout it, if it is brand new, you will have a different approach.

Once you have established the above, then we can think about speaking with your supervisor. Responding to the work with a ‘No’ will certainly cause conflict, so ask to meet with them so that you can better understand the issue. In the meeting, it is important that you first establish that you are keen to do the work but that you require clarification so you can do it well. Show your supervisor that you have taken time to investigate . This will show that you have the ability to take ownership of the work. You can then ask them to walk you through their expectations. The discussion will naturally progress into how to help you deliver . If you find the work is new, be honest that you do not know how to do it, but are willing to learn provided you are supported. 

Approaching the issue this way means that you have not responded based on emotions and frustrations, but rather have approached the solution in a calm manner. Manging upwards requires less emotions, calmness and a good rationale that supports your approach and thinking so that the other person comes on board. Good luck.