When the Boss Is Wrong: A Self-Storage Manager's Professional Guide to Finding Middle Ground With Superiors
|Copyright 2014 by Virgo Publishing.|
|By: Gina Kudo|
|Posted on: 10/26/2010|
At times in our lives, we’ve each made the occasional business mistake. Most of the time, there are no financial ramifications for our errors. But what if you are a self-storage site manager and the blunder of all blunders is about to be made by your owner? What do you do?
First, do not cross the line. Where’s the line? You’ll know when you’re just about to cross it, or the second after you’ve stepped over. I crossed that line once with a boss, using a line akin to Johnny Paycheck’s musical hit, “Take This Job and Shove It.” I’m not proud of letting things get that far out of control.
Thankfully, my supervisor had firsthand knowledge of what I was facing and knew I had been pushed to the breaking point and beyond. As we backed away to our opposing corners, there was time to breathe, reflect and determine how to best handle an emotionally charged situation. We were fortunate enough to move forward to a highly profitable and, most important, mutually respectful arrangement. We survived the tension-filled circumstances. Hopefully, you’ll take away information from this article to help you if you ever face a similar one.
Disagreeing With Tact
While disagreements between employees and superiors can be sparked by any number of things, let’s use marketing as an example. This is the place where I’ve seen the most discourse between self-storage owners and site staff.
Let’s say the boss wants you to execute a marketing idea you think would be an embarrassment to you and the facility. Your first thought? This guy is nuts. Of course, that’s not something you should blurt out. In fact, don’t knock his idea from the word go.
Instead, since you’ve already built a good rapport with your owner, ask for some time to mull the idea over. This buys you time for evaluation, and you’ll have the ability to research and gather some ideas, facts and figures to dispute the concept without making it a personal attack. Or perhaps you can add or enhance the idea to make it more workable.
Abruptly dismissing anyone’s idea outright may lead to a negative confrontation. The idea-maker will naturally become defensive, and you’ll find yourself in a battle of egos rather than on the path to creating a great marketing program. Don’t inject emotions into the discussion; keep it based in fact.
You also need to learn the best way to approach your boss with ideas or changes. Some people have better analytical or critical thinking skills, while others are more emotional or reactive thinkers. This doesn’t mean one type of thinker is any more intelligent; it’s just a natural predilection of the individual. Some people are more inflexible in their thought processes, so you may need to adapt to their thought methodology to get your ideas across. The goal is to identify the other person’s preferred methods and adapt to meet him in the middle.
We’ve all made our share of mistakes. Taking ownership or responsibility for an error in judgment is a good place to start; forgive yourself and move forward. Accepting that others suffer from the same human faults is another good starting place. Besides, what will happen tomorrow? A new day will begin with yet another opportunity to make a mistake or a good call. Each day is like a do-over with the knowledge gained from the days prior.
Building Respect and Trust
What if you don’t have a good rapport with your boss? Don’t fret. It can be developed. Interpersonal relationships require mutual respect and trust. Your boss is already showing you trust—he trusts you with his facility. You know your paycheck arrives promptly so, in a subliminal way, you trust your owner too. Continue on that path and think about other ways you trust one another. If you find there are places where there’s no trust, move in a positive direction to rectify it.
Open Communication Lines
Another critical element is opening the door for honest conversations with your owner. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to meet with him off site in a non-work-related environment. This is the time to present issues important to you, your site and your owner. Meeting outside of the trappings of your office provides a place where the flow of conversation won’t be interrupted by customers or co-workers.
Another benefit: You won’t be stressed about “performing per script” as you would in an office setting. An offsite location is conducive to a more laid-back dialogue. In this comfortable locale, armed with your facts, figures and research put together in a professional manner, you’ve got the start of a great way to address a concern or combat a bad idea.
Don’t write volumes, instead focus on bullet points that are easy to present with one- or two-sentence leads. For example, “I believe we need to consider addressing this issue. Please take a look at these bids (or ideas or my reasons) at your earliest convenience and let me know your thoughts.” Then drop the subject and move on to a friendlier, non-threatening topic of conversation such as the latest game scores or a new play in town.
Be a Team Player
Despite your best efforts to turn any idea or project around, there may still come a time when you feel the boss is completely wrong. What do you do? You have two choices: sit back and watch his concept potentially fail, or jump in with both feet and help. One of two things will occur: Your owner will realize you were correct after all, and may then appreciate that you were so astute and on target. Or, by jumping in despite your take on the situation, you’ll show yourself to be a true professional and a real team player. Either way, you must give the owner’s ideas a chance to succeed or fail as they may.
What’s the absolute worst that can happen by trying even a really bad idea? Sure, there may be an “I told you so” moment, which you, of course, will not use as an opportunity to gloat; and you could even be slightly embarrassed along the way. On the other hand, you could learn something new, make a friend, or discover a new skill.
Be a team player, even when you think someone else is completely wrong. You can prove to yourself and your team that you’ll put forth 110 percent even if you disagree, and you’ll gain respect along the way. How you overcome objections or less-than-optimal ideas by others within your organization is something you should accomplish through tact, grace and compassion. You have nothing to lose, but much to gain by working together in a non-threatening, mutually respectful manner.
Gina Six Kudo is the general manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. She has more than 16 years of self-storage experience and a strong customer-service and sales background. She can be reached at 408.782.8883; e-mail email@example.com , visit www.cochranestorage.com .