Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I was told, “you can break the rules as long as your rank can handle it.” The takeaway from this statement is – as you grow in position, you lose the responsibility to follow the rules and directives. It means you won’t get into trouble unless you fall at the lower portion of the employee totem pole.
This story is going to ring true and be very familiar to my fellow military veterans, but it will also strike a chord of familiarity with the civilian workforce. The individual who made the above statement was a young officer. At some point in their approximately 6-8 year career, they were told by a more senior officer that they had a responsibility to break the rules as long as the goal in not following the policy was to show a change was necessary.
I think everyone will agree that old and ineffective policies should be modified or cut as soon as possible, but identifying these items for correction in the right way is vital. Many people in positions of power fail to realize this and instead aim to boost their already inflated egos. If you find yourself working for these kinds of leaders, you must take care. I have found them to be less concerned with their subordinates and mostly concerned with their promotions and making sure their boss knows their names.
Another way senior leaders fail their people is through either laziness or simple lack or respect for the subordinates time. The behavior is recognizable by their asking for you or your team to complete work that is not your responsibility. Usually, they do this because they lack the authority to get information or items from other departments. So instead of doing things the right way and letting data flow naturally or requesting the information from the proper department, they demand you or your team complete this work.
Sorry everyone, but there is very little if anything you can do about these type of leaders. This post is, in essence, is begging senior leaders that read it to stop doing these things. They create such a burden for your people! There will be times when this is ok, but they are emergencies. And real emergencies are rare.
So what do you do? The worker, the middle manager, the top manager with a CEO like this, the junior military member or senior military member under a leader that doesn’t value your time. The best thing I have found in this situation is to try to leverage peer pressure. Find one of their peers you trust and have a conversation. There will be times when a direct approach is appropriate, but with these kinds of leaders, they are rare. If you carefully approach the issue and are clearly not getting anywhere, then it is time to find someone they trust and respect to help your cause.
The bottom line is this: Once you are put into positions to get away with breaking rules, you must fight it! Don’t ask your people to do things that are clearly others jobs. And if your people tell you that you are asking them to do something another department already does, stop being lazy and go through that department. Great leaders never put their people in situations like these.