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Back on the boss’s good side

Office politics can be tricky, cautions our elder. Here’s how to regain the trust of your manager.

Dear EWC:

What do you do when you’ve solved a problem and your boss gets upset? We created an internal logo for some documents, and when we went to marketing for approval, they denied it. It made no sense to me why it was denied, but my manager said we can’t use it. We have to use plain text instead.
So, I reached out to the person to clarify what is wrong with it and how we can change it. He approved it! I thought I solved the problem! I immediately went to tell my manager the good news. My manager was very upset because she said I “went around her back”. Honestly not the intention. I was just trying to figure out the situation. She considered the problem to be closed and not resolved. I looked at it as still figuring it out.
Anyway, she is really upset at me right now and I don’t want to come across as subordinate or not respecting leadership. Help?

William replies:

Thank you for writing to the Elder Wisdom Circle for advice. I have been in similar situations during my career both as a manager and as a worker. It’s frustrating to go the “extra mile” and fix a problem, only to be chastised by the boss for doing so. Your intentions were good, and you appear to have achieved positive results. What more could an organization ask? You obtained the outcome the client wanted. Everyone should be happy, but your boss is not.

I have to guess that you don’t know the whole story. It’s just a guess, but in my years working in medium to large organizations, there are invariable “office politics” going on at the medium and upper management levels of which most workers are unaware. It might be as simple as your boss’s ego, and she didn’t want you going around her, which is what she said. Or any of a dozen other things you and I can’t know. It might even be as simple as she and the marketing rep don’t like each other. She’s the boss, and her reaction may seem silly, illogical, etc. I have had to say yes or no to requests from others in the organization that I didn’t agree with because my boss instructed me to do so. I have also done what you did, fixed a problem, and then I was scolded for doing so.

My advice to you is not to dwell on it. Fix the immediate problem by talking to your boss one-on-one. Tell her something similar to, “I thought about what happened and your reaction. I understand you are in charge, and it was not my place to change the logo and give it to marketing. I should have talked to you first. I’m sorry, and it won’t happen again.” Use your own words, but make it contrite, short and straightforward. That will defuse any remaining friction between you and your boss. It takes the wind out of the argument. She may or may not give you more details of why she reacted the way she did.

Your goal should be to re-establish a good relationship with your boss. Few people will refuse an apology, and you may get back something like, “Forget it. I was having a bad day. I liked what you did.” For these reasons, I advise you to apologize and move on. You are not going to get fired over this. You do want to keep a cordial relationship with your boss. You may never know the reason why she reacted as she did. That’s life working in organizations!

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