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Old 11-20-2010, 11:55 PM   #21
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One thing to remember about management, they fear that what you say about one will be said about them.

Listen, confirm the obvious (don't broach any subject), communicate commitment to the company. If the question is too pointed simply state that your are uncomfortable with the inquiry, you do not like to speak about others behind their back.

Frankly, if his/her superiors don't already have the information they need to act what you say will not make a difference.

In some corporations they will send a representative from employee relations to make an inquiry. That is when they really want the scoop but even then silence by employees speaks volumes. That will be enough, with other facts, to prompt action.
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Old 11-21-2010, 08:15 AM   #22
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Are you the only one who the boss' boss has asked to meet with? If yes, I'd decline the meeting figuratively if not literally.

Without knowing your exact situation better, I don't know how anyone can advise you. But in general, I'd save the criticism of the boss for your exit interview, when you have another job you want in hand...
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Old 11-21-2010, 11:09 AM   #23
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If you do meet and report negatively on your boss, the manner in which you express your feelings and report the facts will be key. You'll be judged by how you deliver the information. Even if you are absolutely correct, if you are perceived as a whiner, cry baby, gossiper, busy-body, snitch, meddler or similar, that impression will live with you even after your boss has been moved on down the road.

If you can't deliver the goods in an objective, arms length, management-minded, factual manner with absolutely zero emotion or expression of personal feelings, I'd try to not be involved.
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Old 11-21-2010, 11:12 AM   #24
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This requires very careful diplomacy so that you can truthfully respond to Boss' Boss' questions while protecting yourself. On no account should you come across as vindictive. Your goal should be to take the high road and come across as a good team player who has suggestions for improvement.

Are you unionized? If so, talk to your union before going to the meeting. You may be entitled to have a union representative accompany you. If you were a trainee (e.g. in healthcare, a resident), you would be entitled to have your Program Director attend with you. If neither of these situations apply, you might consider asking the advice of an independent mediator or lawyer at your own expense. Of course, you have a lot of good (free) advice on this thread, but we cannot assume any liability.

I would also suggest that you bring along a portfolio and ask Boss' Boss' permission to take notes. Document everything. Type up a confidential summary after the meeting. If anyone tries to intimidate you later, this will be important.
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Old 11-21-2010, 11:19 AM   #25
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Well, the executive assistant to my boss' boss heard that I was unhappy and pulled me aside.

Ahhhhh.... just went back and reread the post. You're already well known around the office as unhappy. Be careful, this could be a "do we have a management problem or do we have a cry baby problem?" kind of meeting. If your unhappiness is moving around the coffee room and water cooler gossip chains already, BB may simply want to either find out if it's justified or elimnate the whiner. Be careful....... Think about who you have been talking to, how frequently and what you said to them that caused your boss' boss' executive assistant to hear that you were unhappy. Assume BB has knowledge of everything you've said.
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Old 11-21-2010, 01:27 PM   #26
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I went through this at the end of last year, except that it was HR conducting the interrogations. There is no upside in this for you. I think you have two choices:

1) Smile, nod, remain noncomittal, and do your best imitation of the Teflon Don. Give them nothng.

2) Tell the BB that you will need more lead time so that your lawyer can be at the meeting.

I chose door #1. Drove the conversation into trivialities and gave them nothing. Within a couple of months I was out of there into a new spot in the organization.
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Old 11-21-2010, 02:49 PM   #27
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Oh boy I am freaking out...I did not realize how much trouble this could be...yikes!!

Not sure if others have been asked to meet with the BB, but if I had to guess I would say no.
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Old 11-21-2010, 03:50 PM   #28
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...............I did not realize how much trouble this could be............
You have been given good advice. Assume that anything that you say will get back to your boss.
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Old 11-21-2010, 04:03 PM   #29
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Pretty judgmental. There are many people here with sr. mgmt. experience.


And how do you know management doesn't view GW as the problem and they are trying to evaluate GW?


How do you know GW perspective is that of senior management?
There is obviously a lot we don't know that only the OP does; company culture, reputation of the BB, the OP past interactions with the BB, and even some basics like how big the company is and the OPs length of service, current position, and how GW last review went. All of these are important factors in figuring out how to approach the meeting.

Clearly I am in the minority here in that I view this meeting as opportunity to fix a problem, and most of you view it as potential trap. As you said lots of people had senior management experience, and I know many people have had more years and managed much larger organizations than the few dozen I did. Which is why I am surprised by the responses. If forum members who were senior managers routinely set up meeting with folks two or more levels down the organization to talk about morale and management issues, with the hidden agenda to identify and root out malcontent, than I stand corrected and Andy Grove's famous saying "only the paranoid survive" is worth heeding. On the other hand if forum middle/senior manager i.e. the BB, generally set up meetings with folks like GW to help them identify bad managers in their organization, than I am not sure why they would assume the worse for GW's BB.

I'd also point out that some organization are more hierarchical than others. For instance I suspect SamClem as senior Air Force officer often had a command of a large organization but the military operates under a strict chain of command. So privates don't wander in to Colonel's office and say my boss sucks and just as importantly Col. don't stop by the barracks and ask privates how do you like your Sargent. On the other my company had a very loose hierarchy and you were supposed to meet with your boss's boss several times per year, and direct communication between senior VPs and individual contributors was very common. Many tech/Silicon Valley companies have practically no hierarchy, and shooting off a email or instant message to the CEO happens all the time. If GW has had routine meetings with the BB on other matters, than I'd be much less concern than if this their first meeting.


Quote:
My original didn't get posted. It agreed with Samclem and added:
- don't be afraid to ask questions before you talk to get an idea of senior management's position
- are others going to be spoken with?
- what you say is an reflection on you
- focus on issues important to senior management
All very sensible advice. My disagreement is not with any of the specific advice, but rather should approach this meeting as opportunity or a minefield.

Assuming your BB is competent he is aware of some of your Boss's shortcoming, via direct observation and/or HR reports from exit interviews. If everybody in the dept. says naw nothing wrong with our boss he is fine, than BB can treat the exit interview of just whining by quitters and nothing will change. If on the other hand, BB gets feedback that your boss is rude and abusive than the BB has a problem; the management style of your boss. A bad boss is not only a problem for you but also for your boss, since HR probably has sent reports of the turnover complaints to the BB boss and the turnover can't be good for productivity.

The cautions in the thread are probably wise, but it is also very possible that you and the BB are allies not adversaries . So yes your complaints about your boss may get back to him, but quite possibly in the form of a stern warning from the BB, "If you continue to be rude and abusive of company employees you will be fired." IMO chasten bosses are fun to watch as they struggle to be nice to everybody in order to save their jobs.
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Old 11-21-2010, 04:09 PM   #30
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This same thing happened when I was at IBM--the world's most uptight business folks. We had an unfair, uptight, neurotic lady boss that everyone didn't like much who was more concerned about someone on the sales floor getting ahead of her than paying attention to the business competitors we were selling against. It was bizarre.
Anyway, the HR office came down (2 of them) and questioned each one of us. It took them 3 visits to get people to spill the truth about what was really going on 'cause IBM is such a paranoid place overall, but they KNEW something was totally wrong since our office had the highest turnover in the nation in that office.

I say: Make a point of being one of the last ones they talk with, and pray someone else spills the beans first and they just need you for confirmation of what they have already heard.
Myself, I'd be so tactful and gentle as possible about talking bad about this boss in case they are just looking for malcontents. Let them guide the talk and not you. You can say what you need to say about the boss in a tactful, professional manner that makes you come off as an adult who is aware of what is going on--but you can work around the strife regardless (cause you are such a hero).
Practice, practice, practice what you want to say to them and how to say it before they come down. Write your words down and keep them very professional so you come off well would be what I would do or did.
Frankly, I wanted to scream what a jerk this woman was, but I really controlled myself...and you should, too, regardless of how you really feel about the situation. This is NOT the time for emotion or you might come off badly yourself.

(My boss was totally fired once they found out all the illegal things she had done while there. Everyone was thrilled, too, to put it mildly.)
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Old 11-21-2010, 04:13 PM   #31
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(My boss was totally fired once they found out all the illegal things she had done while there. Everyone was thrilled, too, to put it mildly.)

See good things can happen by opening up.
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Old 11-21-2010, 04:15 PM   #32
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Once upon a time I had a megalomaniac boss, who disliked me and gave me an unjustified poor performance assessment, on which I was asked to sign off. I indicated in writing that I did not accept the assessment and requested a meeting with Boss' Boss to discuss it. I got the meeting. I gave factual evidence of Boss' dictatorial management style, cliquism, harassment and negative effect on output. But I was very careful to put things very diplomatically.

Six months later I had a new Boss.
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Old 11-21-2010, 04:41 PM   #33
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I like what Sam said in his first post. And I would let BB know that you are concerned about info you give being leaked and used against you. See what kind of assurances you get, and it'll be up to you to decide if you believe them.

It's a bad spot, but you're already in a bad spot. It can definitely backfire. But if you say nothing, BB may view you as weak and unwilling to take a stand, and you'll get no backing on anything. If you step up, you may get a "godfather", someone higher up watching out for you, and that can help a lot. It doesn't have to be a lose-lose meeting.

I'd take the meeting, but make sure BB lays out what he is looking for, and assuming you get the right signals, get assurances from him that you are protected, and then still keep it very professional.
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Old 11-21-2010, 06:13 PM   #34
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I survived 28 years in MegaCorp by following 3 basic rules:

1) Trust No One
2) Deny Everything
3) If you ignore a problem long enough it will go away

I suspect you can guess how I would deal with your problem.
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Old 11-21-2010, 06:26 PM   #35
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Once upon a time I had a megalomaniac boss, who disliked me and gave me an unjustified poor performance assessment, on which I was asked to sign off. I indicated in writing that I did not accept the assessment and requested a meeting with Boss' Boss to discuss it. I got the meeting. I gave factual evidence of Boss' dictatorial management style, cliquism, harassment and negative effect on output. But I was very careful to put things very diplomatically.

Six months later I had a new Boss.

Yup, that's the way to do it alrighty.... The more real evidence that can be verified, the better. The more factual, the better. This is totally the time to act like a professional adult instead of screaming your "Id" off and jumping up and down. You can do this!
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Old 11-21-2010, 06:41 PM   #36
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. On the other my company had a very loose hierarchy and you were supposed to meet with your boss's boss several times per year, and direct communication between senior VPs and individual contributors was very common. Many tech/Silicon Valley companies have practically no hierarchy, and shooting off a email or instant message to the CEO happens all the time.
Those are probably the key differences in perspective. I'm guessing those businesses skew newer with younger employees. When a company matures and the people get older they tend to become inward looking and the bureaucracy grows.
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Old 11-21-2010, 07:13 PM   #37
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Unless your boss is putting people into real physical danger, is breaking the law, or is violating an important company policy, you are on thin ice in having any discussions with his boss about him. I've been approached like this once, and it was when my boss was about to be "removed for cause" and they were conducting a formal investigation. It's pretty unusual. Unless BB has already decided to fire him, she's got very little business talking to his subordinates in this way.
Spouse once had a boss who was crazy about "Seven Steps Habits" Covey. The boss put himself through all the training courses (at govt expense) and then subjected his officers & senior enlisted to the same curriculum (facilitated, of course, by himself, with all curriculum & materials furnished also at govt expense). This was the breakout initiative that would get him selected for flag officer over the community's only other reasonable competitor.

The highlight of the program was the command-wide implementation of the program and its tenets. Apparently part of this was a "command climate survey" where members could anonymously submit their opinions on the program, its implementation, and... the boss. The surveys (and other data) were forwarded back to the Covey company for assessment and feedback.

Covey Inter-Galactic HQ has some retired senior military on its staff, and they got the raw data. A few days later the word leaked out that the command had achieved the dubious distinction of having the absolute worst scores ever, and the harshest comments were reserved for... that boss. Fraud, waste, abuse, and malfeasance are grounds for a visit from the military's Inspector General, but apparently incompetence is not. However after months of training and implementation, no more was heard of the program.

Over the years it has become rumored that someone, perhaps those same retired military at Covey, shared the survey scuttlebutt with the flag selection board. It's gratifying to see that sometimes the promotion-selection system really does work.
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Old 11-21-2010, 07:14 PM   #38
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I view this meeting as opportunity to fix a problem, and most of you view it as potential trap.
I think your points are very valid clifp. My concern for OP revolves around this statement from his original post:


Quote:
Well, the executive assistant to my boss' boss heard that I was unhappy and pulled me aside.
Having the BB's admin "hear" that you're unhappy is not a good thing. It means you must be talking about it, and talking about it enough to folks who don't value confidentiality, that it's gotten to him/her by migrating along the gossip chain.

Even if all turns out for the best (entirely possible) and the rude boss is either moved or improved, if I were OP I'd make a note of how my conversations with peers moved along the grapevine. And I'd remember that everything you say to everyone will eventually get to whoever you'd least like to hear it with unpredictable results.
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Old 11-21-2010, 07:49 PM   #39
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Exec Asst (EA) has it out for my boss...she has seen him be rude to people, fire people, and run them off. She dislikes him immensely.

EA told me that another person in the ranks recently told her "that's it, there's no fixing it, I am looking for a job"; add to that my question about payback of the signing bonus, and EA went to BB and spilled the beans...that boss' rudeness is causing past and present unhappiness. BB was shocked and now wants to talk to me (and maybe some others; don't know for sure).

My gut tells me this is not a search for malcontents. And EA is the one that has noticed my discouragement over some months. My sense is my discouragement is coming to BB from EA and no one else.

And this is a very hiearchical organization btw.
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Old 11-21-2010, 07:57 PM   #40
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Exec Asst (EA) has it out for my boss...she has seen him be rude to people, fire people, and run them off. She dislikes him immensely.

EA told me that another person in the ranks recently told her "that's it, there's no fixing it, I am looking for a job"; add to that my question about payback of the signing bonus, and EA went to BB and spilled the beans...that boss' rudeness is causing past and present unhappiness. BB was shocked and now wants to talk to me (and maybe some others; don't know for sure).

My gut tells me this is not a search for malcontents. And EA is the one that has noticed my discouragement over some months. My sense is my discouragement is coming to BB from EA and no one else.
How did EA hear of your unhappiness?

Sorry, but all organizations have a unique personality and will suit some and not others. I don't like "gossip-driven" organizations and I'd be out of there in a flash. Your crappy boss would just be icing on the cake.
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