Should you lie to make your employees or subordinates think the management team all agrees on the decision? Is there a way to disagree with the decision but still support it or is it better to just pretend everyone thinks the solution is the best?
There is a theory with some managers in leadership positions that to “sell” a decision to the organization, leaders must all agree with the decision. They are expected to go back to people they manage and tell them the new direction as if they agree with it, regardless of whether they do or not. A higher-level manager has counseled me that I should not express my views on the decision with my subordinates. Because I am forthcoming with my viewpoint and wish to always understand decisions, managers with the “sell” mentality often find it frustrating to answer questions or listen to differing points of view.
If you have more than one person in an organization, you will have different opinions. A manager needs to know this. It is simple-minded to expect all members of the organization to believe everyone in a manager role has the same beliefs and always agrees with the decisions. Someone is paid to make a decision. All personnel below that person are there to advise them and suggest courses of action.
When a decision is made, and there is confusion about the decision, communication must clear it up. There are several reasons for this. The first is that managers will need to understand the problem and how the decision was made to properly explain it to their subordinates. As the reasons are being explained, it is a fact those subordinates will have their viewpoints and will come up with solutions they think are best. It is natural for people to do this and a positive sign for the organization. It means they care and have the expertise and knowledge to problem solve. At this point, the interaction becomes a teaching moment for the manager. The manager needs to take steps to ensure they understand the decision even if they disagree and explain why the decision was made. Nothing is worse than thinking the people who make decisions do not know why or can’t explain why they made a decision. Even worse is if they don’t feel like they shouldn’t have to explain their reasons. Walking your people through these decisions will help them grow. They will gain experience from these events and will use them in future efforts to base their decisions.
A manager with little confidence in their decision will attempt to convince people that telling others of your disagreement with a decision is insubordinate and will encourage open disrespect of the manager. They will say things like, “We need to present a united front” and “They don’t need to know we disagree.” The reality is, the leader decided and the team has no choice but to follow through. But they think they should lie and deceive the people they are in charge of for fear they will think less of the boss who made the decision.
The reality is if discussed openly and honestly, the opposite effect is most likely to happen. People appreciate honesty and recognize there are many different solutions to a problem. Once this has been discussed the questions will stop being about why the decision is made and will be about how we can best support this decision to make it successful. This is the real role of the leader. To influence people who disagree to accept the decision they did not want and to support it anyway. It’s as simple as that.