Dealing with your management and doing what you know is right can often leave you in a Catch-22.
The other night I had a discussion with a friend who is stuck between a rock and a hard place. As a high school art teacher, he was completing plans for the upcoming school year, frustrated that school management had not yet delivered his course schedule, or even provided a budget for classroom materials.
On top of this, they have set extremely high expectations for his performance.
This situation isn’t unheard of. Most people can identify with unrealistic expectations, coupled with slim budgets and tight deadlines. And while you may feel like everything is stacked against you so you can’t win – sometimes the real loser in the end turns out to be your customer. Or in my friend’s case – his students.
Giving actionable advice was tough. He is stuck in a triangle where he can do more to appease management, which would make his job substantially more difficult. He could ignore some of the directions and demands of management to improve the education for his students, but at the same time sabotage his career at the school. Or he could do what’s best for himself, which would ultimately be to snub management, and compromise the education of the students. The latter we agreed, was not an option.
So my advice was simple: do the work that will make you proud.
Ultimately, you have to live with yourself for the rest of your life. Giving your students (or customers/clients/partners) the short end of the stick is a weight you would be carrying for quite some time. So instead, do what’s best for them, and let your managers know what they could be doing to benefit all parties.
I suggested the following:
- Don’t Stray From Your Course. You were hired to do the job you are doing. You are in the trenches everyday. You have the micro-level view of what is working, and what is not. Do the job that you are proud of, not the one that leaves you guilt ridden.
- Keep Yourself Covered. If you are unable to deliver results due to unrealistic demands, let your managers know. Rather than run yourself ragged only to fall short in trying to achieve the impossible, show your managers the errors in their assessment of what they believe is possible. If they don’t want to listen, they can only blame themselves when targets are not reached, or objectives are not met.
- Manage Up. Try to understand the position your managers are coming from. What are their concerns or fears? Don’t dwell on everything that is being done wrong – reframe the situation you are in, and show them how taking steps X,Y, and Z will improve your results, which will benefit the customer, and ultimately improve the effectiveness and reputation of the organization.