Handling one boss can be tough. Tougher still when you have multiple bosses! It can be challenging to navigate office politics when a corporate entity expects one thing, and your direct report boss asks you to do another.
Have you been in a situation where you have a dotted line reporting to corporate and a solid line reporting to both of the bosses at the facility?
In this week’s episode, I will tell you some of my experiences and how I handled those conflicts at work. It can definitely help you with what to do next time.
ALWAYS BE HONEST WITH YOUR DATA
When you report to two different entities, there can be conflicting priorities. Sometimes, one boss asks you to fudge information or not be completely honest when speaking to the other boss.
Honesty is a valuable characteristic of a successful safety manager. It shows the kind of work culture you want to create within your workplace.
Always think of your own integrity, and when corporate would call and ask you something, you want give them honest information. But be clear to your local boss what you’re doing to make sure you’re not taking them by surprise.
NEVER BE AFRAID OF DOING THE RIGHT THING
Many people from your workplace might hate that you report to corporate bosses. This puts you in a tough spot.
But always remember that by doing the right thing, you are contributing to the company’s development and success. Even if they don’t see that themselves.
Suppose you find yourself in a situation where you are having a hard time. In that case, you want to keep an open communication cadence with your boss and the corporate office.
Where do thing overlap and get blurry in your organizational structure? Set up a system where you are keeping those open lines of communication with your local boss before answering questions corporate may have.
Corporate vs. Local Bosses - Day 51
Safety Brye: [00:00:00] Today on the safety geek. We're talking about how to handle it. When you report to both your local boss and a corporate office. Let's get to it.
This is Safety Brye, your number one safety geek. Why do we have the behaviors that we do superheroes in the workplace? Right? All of those things that go into making you an effective safety manager, I love what we do, motivation learning, teaching, training, teamwork. So, I geek out over that just as much as I do safety.
Hello? Hello? Hello. My safety friends. Welcome to the safety geek. My name is Brye, your number one safety geek. And how are you today? So I had to tell you, the topic that I chose for today actually came from a listener. So shout out to Elizabeth who sent [00:01:00] me the nicest message within the community. And encouraged me and I don't think she meant to do this, but she actually encouraged me to get podcasting again.
But within her really nice message. She said something that I realized is probably a problem for many of you. And I wanted to address it a lot more fully than I could in just a text message back to Elizabeth or even a community post or anything like that. I don't have the message in front of me exactly. But basically what she was saying was that she reports to her local office, but she also has to report into the corporate office and then the local bosses don't like that.
So let me give you a scenario. That I experienced. So when I was first hired by a large corporation, they had multiple locations and they hired me to be the safety manager over two of them. Each of those locations had their own management [00:02:00] structure. They had their own executive team that then reported up to corporate.
When I was hired, I was hired by the corporate office, not by the local team. I was interviewed by the local team, but the final decision was from the corporate office. So I was told when I was hired, even though, like all my paperwork was done locally, but I was told that I, I have a dotted line reporting to corporate and a solid line reporting to both of the bosses at the facility.
When I started, they were a rack like, which is why I was hired. They were literally had nothing in place and DOD was coming in and they were afraid the DOD was going to shut them down. My theory is always, just be honest with your data. Be honest with your paperwork and when corporate would call and ask me something, I would just answer honestly.
It's always been my, my way, because I don't try to hide anything because that way I don't have to keep it in my head as [00:03:00] to what I was hiding and what I wasn't hiding. So I get called into my boss's office and saying, did you tell corporate yada yada? And I was like, well, yeah. And that just did it for them.
They were so mad. They were literally screaming at me. And luckily I'm the type of person that you can scream at me all you want. I'm not going to scream back. Because I believe that just escalates the situation. So I calmly just reported back going, look, what you're doing is illegal. This is why it is illegal.
I am told, do I not have this dotted line reporting? And they said, yes. And I am going to do what I feel is right. And that kind of set the stage between them and me for that point forward. Now I'm not saying that you should handle your situation like I did, but I handled it in a way that worked for me. I also understand that the way I handled it actually caused me a lot of problems my first few years at [00:04:00] those companies, because they did not trust me.
And they did not include me in a lot of conversations. Going back to that situation, would I do it differently? No, I wouldn't because that's just my personality and I would much rather change companies than try to make it. Try to force it at another company or try to live that kind of lie. Now, what I would say to you, if you were in this situation, if somebody came to me, let's say that Elizabeth was actually asking me this question and going, how do I navigate this situation of where my
boss wants me to do one thing, but my corporate office wants me to do another. As a regional, I had to deal with this a lot because I was a regional safety manager, but the safety managers at the facilities did not report to me. They reported to the bosses at their facilities. I was their dotted line. The way that I told my team to handle it was that one.
You have integrity with yourself, right? You do what [00:05:00] feels right to you. First and foremost, to understand that if you're calling me to tell on your boss, I'm going to keep your confidence, but your boss likely knows that you're the one that told on them. Right? And that's where your, that's what you're being tricky about because if your boss knows that you're telling on them to corporate using toddler terms here, they are not going to trust you.
They are not going to include you in things. They may be starting a file on you to fire you, which is basically what they did with me. They, they tried everything they could to fire me, but my results were so good. They could never justify it. So. I want you to think about that. So when you're thinking about your actions going, I have to report to corporate, but I also report to this local boss.
So generally what I would suggest people do, if you want to stay honest within your system is first. Before you tell corporate, you tell your local boss. Right? You go, okay, [00:06:00] corporate is asking for this information. This is my response. Just so you know, ahead of time. That keeps them in the loop and it doesn't make them feel like you are throwing them under the bus or you're going behind their back.
Include them in that communication. If your corporate office is asking you questions, and they're saying, don't tell your boss, that's another sneaky thing or I would say, do I really want to work for you? I don't believe in going behind anybody's back. Even when I was in this situation, I told the corporate office the same thing that I would tell people to their face.
I always make sure that I include that boss in before I answer the corporate office. Now, if the corporate office has a requirement that we at the facility are not fulfilling. Then once again, I go to the boss and I say, Hey, look, you know, the corporate office has this requirement that everybody's shoes are orange, but we don't have that requirement.
And you won't allow me to put that requirement in place. What do you want me to tell them [00:07:00] when they call me and say, why aren't the shoes orange? You know, I would just have that open dialogue with your local boss. So that way they understand that you're being put in the middle here, how do they want you to respond in that type of situation?
In my case where they were doing something that was illegal, like it was 100% illegal to the point that, I wanted to report them to, um, the regulatory bodies, because I felt like they were putting people at risk. I would not take that step without first going to the bosses and saying, Hey, what you're doing is illegal.
I want us to create a plan to get us out of this trouble and get us back into compliance. So a great example of this is that one of the companies that I started with had hours of service [00:08:00] logs that were just awful. Their drivers were, were literally on duty driving after 80 hours or 90 hours or something like that.
We couldn't fix that problem until we could identify the routes that were causing it. The drivers were falsifying their logs. So I had to go to the drivers and say, look, you're putting yourself at risk. I want to fix this problem. Make sure that your logs are accurate. And that way we can take steps to change the routing, change the scheduling, change you know, the number of drivers we have based on good data, because as of right now, our data is based on your falsified log, in that doesn't do us any good.
Sometimes when you're in that gray space, it's not that it's okay. Cause it's not, it's a hundred percent illegal, but if you have a plan to get out of it, it makes me as the safety manager feel more comfortable. [00:09:00] As long as that plan, isn't taking two years and that plan is taking a very short amount of time.
Like you can literally. Uh, DOD log problem within a month, just hiring more drivers, using temp agencies, communicating with your customers, that there are distribution issues for a couple of weeks. There are steps that you can take, you can't take immediately, even though the regulatory bodies would expect you to, but safety should be a compromise between operations and safety, as long as they're moving in the right direction.
I'm generally okay with it. I know that there's probably some safety people out there right now that are like flipping out over me saying that, but that's okay. This is how I approach safety management. And this is what has worked for me. You find things are a non-complaint. And you create a plan to get them back into compliance and you work with your team without disrupting the operations or disrupting them as little as possible because honestly [00:10:00] what the operations are doing or pay is paying your paycheck.
You don't want to have that. That would be my suggestion. If you find yourself in this situation is that you have an open communication cadence with your boss and with the corporate office. And if anyone is ever asking you to go behind someone else's back, I would just say, I will not do that. That is against my ethics.
And I will not do that unless of course it's not against your ethics and you're perfectly fine talking about people behind their back. I know there are people like that, right? We all do. But I have just always found that the open communication works best. Now, this situation is not ideal. When you work for a corporation, ideally the large executive positions.
So the head of the company, finance, HR safety quality, they should all report to the corporate office. They should not be reporting to the [00:11:00] local boss, because there is a conflict of interest. The corporate office is telling you to do something, but they don't have higher fire authority over you. Right. They can try to hold you accountable for it, but because they can't administer consequences, they can't.
So the person that's in between is this boss that you are supposed to be auditing and reporting on to the corporate. Anytime there is somebody in between in that accountability chain. It never works out. It just, it's just a constant struggle and a constant battle. And we are not the only ones going through this because like I said, it's, it should be like the CFO.
It should be HR. It should be safety. It should be quality. That entire management team goes through the same thing. The HR department has the same issues. Like I remember having an HR manager that got written up by the corporate office for doing something that the local head of the company forced them to do. And that's just not right.
It's not fair. It doesn't, it [00:12:00] it's not that the corporate office could have fired them because they reported to the local people. But still that really hit her. Like, why am I even talking to you? Why I'm even doing this job? If you're going. Write me up for something that I am being ordered to do by my boss.
And that is where that conflict of interest is. So how do you start changing that needle and the conflict of interest? Strangely enough, it is something that I teach in safety management academy, because most of the time you guys are not reporting even to the right person in your local facility. Ideally, you should be reporting to the head of the company, at least at your local facility, if not the corporate office and when you are not doing that, you have to constantly communicate this conflict of interest.
You have to constantly be telling them like, look, there's a conflict of interest here. Now. I don't mean that you bring it up every single day. But you bring it up occasionally. And especially when that conflict is showing in that HR managers [00:13:00] issue, they could easily bring that up. And then if you have enough of that, you can, you can then start to move that needle and start making that change.
Another thing, especially when you have this corporate versus local type of arrangement, a lot of corporations have an ethics line because. Honestly, it's not for safety, even though safety is part of it, but most of the ethics complaints come in on other things. So you can use that ethics line. You can report anonymously that you feel that the, the way that the organization chart is arranged, creates a conflict of interest.
And you can do that without citing your location, because if it's at your location within the corporate umbrella more than likely it's the same at every location within that corporate umbrella. So you could be safe to say, like I'm filing this complaint that the organizational structure is bad, and this is why, and it'll at least get them [00:14:00] thinking about it.
You can't do that over and over again, but shoot, if you knew all the safety managers within your corporate umbrella and they all did it, that might move the needle too. And then, the last thing is just learning to live with the bad situation, learning to be okay with the fact that you might've found safety hazards, your boss is telling you to ignore when the corporate office is, is saying you have to fix it and you want to have job security.
So in order to have that, sometimes you have to play around with the politics a little bit. There's some good and some bad. When you have this corporate structure, I personally love structures. That's that whole geekiness and, you know, loving to play by the rules type of thing. However, I do understand that there is a bad side to it too, and that this is part of it.
So I was recently in the squad. I did a member chat with Mike and Mike was saying how much he loved working for like a [00:15:00] mom-and-pop type of facility because he had so much more freedom than with a corporate office. It's just a job structure. And once you get confidence in your role and your position, then you get to choose the employer you work for.
So if you don't like the structure, then you just go choose a different employer. So just take it as where you are now is I'm learning skills to move to an employer that will treat me right. And will have me in the right structure or will at least listen to me. That's one way. I look at it too. That's where I'm sitting right now is like, I, I can pick who I can work for.
And if I don't like how they observe safety, then I'll just go work for another company, especially in a year from now when I'm an empty nester. And I. I can freely move to wherever my ideal job may be. Hopefully it's just right here at safety geek, because I'm loving what I'm doing here. And I'm loving training you guys and helping you propel in your career.
And it is amazing hearing the [00:16:00] stories of just the wins that people are getting in safety management academy and things like that. So hopefully this is where I will always be. Alrighty, my safety friend, that is what I have for you today. I know I was a bit rusty getting back on the microphone, but I'm excited to be back.
I have a list of topics, thanks to the community. I appreciate you. And I will chat with you next week. Bye. For now.
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Highlights From This Episode:
- How to Handle Tough Situations between Corporate and Local Bosses.
- Effective Ways to Report Safety Concerns
- Practice Open Communication within your Workplace.
- Why Honesty is a Valuable Characteristic of a Safety Manager.
- Every Report is Important for Company’s Improvement
- Motivation for being an Effective Safety Manager
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN
Alright, safety friends, in this “your turn” I want you to share other ways to handle multiple bosses.
AND don’t forget to share this post. It helps others find the show. Thanks.
Hi, I'm Brye (rhymes with sky)! I am a self-proclaimed safety geek with two decades of general industry safety experience. Specializing in bringing safety programs to a world-class level and building a safety culture, I have trained and coached many safety managers, just like you, on how to effectively manage workplace safety in the real world. I would love to help you too.