How do you deal with a team member who regularly goes “above your head”?

Two more days to go to the new year and here’s a another Q&A Monday: How do you deal with a team member who regularly goes “above your head”?
 
Discuss the problem openly and directly with the person. Since this has happened multiple times, discuss the pattern, i.e. the fact that the wrong behaviour keeps repeating. 
 
But before you start the conversation, get clear on what’s really happening. Avoid to make assumptions on why your direct report is doing that. From his/ her perspective, there might be a good reason, even though you see it differently. Don’t assume bad intent behind something that could be driven by some form of reward or incentive or other motivations.
 

Having the tough conversation

When having the conversation, describe the problem in a calm and neutral way. Be very clear and direct. Describe how their behaviour is different from what you expect it to be: “You have been talking to X without coming to me first in X and Y situation. I don’t think you had bad intentions doing that, but maybe you didn’t realise the impact this has. That’s why I wanted to talk to you.”
 
Then explain the consequences it has when your direct report “goes over your head” and he/ she might not be aware of.  You could also show him/ her how this conflicts with the team values you hold. He/ she might not know that in the long term there are disadvantages in continuously going over your head – even though it seems like the better solution currently. You could also share that you feel hurt when he/ she does that and that it creates a bad picture of him/ her in the eyes of others.
 

Remember to stay curious!

You can find out during the conversation why he/ she felt the need to go over your head. Listen curiously and work together to remove the barriers that stop him/ her from talking to you first. Get a verbal commitment to whatever solution you two come up with and make sure to acknowledge the next time it goes the way you agreed.
 
Have a great week!
Nicole
 
PS: Got a question you’d like me to answer? Email me!