Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hard Choices

One of the hard choices you may be call to make in the course of your career is "what do you do when you think your company is making a bad call". The exact circumstances can vary in a hundred ways, but the overall structure of it is almost always the same. The "Powers That Be" have reached a conclusion and announced a course of action and you have serious misgivings about it. They may be legal, they may be ethical, they may be strategic or they may be purely functional. You have a choice - and the choices is - what do you do.

I am not a plastic saint, you'll never see a statue of me mounted on anyone's dash board, but I do try to be as true to my own values as I possibly can. For me, that means I am compelled to speak up. Now, how you handle this type of event can have a big difference in the impact. Always start from the assumption of innocence - that the decision, whatever it was, was reached by a logical process and is driven by solid reasoning that you simply don't understand. Then, ask someone to help you understand the reasoning that went into the decision. If you approach it delicately, with a sincere desire to understand and that assumption of innocence several things may be the outcome.

First, they might actually be able to persuade you that it was the right decision. It is always possible, and indeed, often the case, that we don't understand things because we don't have the full picture. So, often enough, you'll discover it was the right decision. But, not always. Then, you have another decision point. Fortunately for me, right now, I am only at the first decision point. I became aware of a decision that was made at work and some actions that were implemented and they raised a pair of red flags for me. So, I documented when I perceived and what I understood, then contacted my immediate manager and asked for a teleconference to raise my concerns. My immediate manager agreed with my concerns and if facilitating a discussion somewhat later in the week between myself and the director who is in charge of the questionable activity. I have my fingers crossed that they can convince me that I am not quite understanding what I heard, and I freely admit that may be the case.

But, it could be that I understood correctly - and then we will land in a place where we have a serious disagreement. If that arises, then I will do what I have always done - I will push a bit harder. Fortunately, we are a large company and we have the mechanisms in place for just such a push. As I am going through initiating this whole process today, I couldn't help by thinking of Cersei Lannisters line "When you play the Game of Thrones, you win or you die". Whether I win or die in corporate terms I am always happy to be able to look myself in the eye.

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