How much does the boss need to know?
November 2009 update:
Rather than repeat it here, see my post on Overselling a 401K – especially the update at the top!
We now return you to the original blog post:
No, I’m not talking about keeping secrets from the boss. The issue is how well does the boss, or her boss and on up the chain NEED to know about the challenges, duties, responsibilities, distractions and conflicting priorities of the people below them?
I think it’s indisputable that a person needs to understand the challenges (et al) of the people who directly report to her. Without that understanding, the boss cannot resolve problems brought to her by an immediate underling. This I feel to be true regardless of the size of the organization.
On the other end of the spectrum, when the boss is the CEO of a multi-layered company employing thousands of people, it is unreasonable to expect her to be familiar with the challenges presented to every employee who is 5 or 6 levels down the chain. That’s what the chain is for! (Assuming the business HAS a chain of command, but that’s a future post!)
The ideal is certainly somewhere between the extremes I’ve described above, but I’m not sure WHERE the ideal lies. My gut reaction should be that a boss be intimately familiar with the challenges of her direct report, somewhat familiar with the challenges presented to employees one level below that, and have at least a nodding acquaintance 1 level further down. I also think it’s important that the boss be somewhat familiar with the challenges of at least 1 job function at every level of the heap. Note that I don’t think this needs to happen for ALL job functions, just that it should be true for 1 at each level, just so the boss can better keep her hand on the pulse of the business. Breadth AND some depth. But this gut reaction is just that, my first thoughts, I’m certainly open and ready for persuasion towards a different viewpoint!