Sticky work situation
November 20, 2009 9:38 AM   Subscribe

Sticky work situation, advice needed.

Had an incident at work last night around 2:00am, I made executive decision, my decision was correct (just trust me on that). Now there will be a post-mortem meeting to discuss what happened.

Thing is my supervisor is telling me to tell the higher ups a different reason for my decision than the actual reason, stating 'trust me, it will be easier this way' I actually think his reason is terrible and will make me look much worse. Do I give the actual reason for my decision or the tailored reasons my superior is suggesting?
posted by Cosine to Work & Money (17 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Has this supervisor lead you wrong before? How would you describe him or her as having "insider knowledge" about what works and doesn't work on a regular basis?
That said, I would always err on the side of caution and just tell the truth. You don't want to get busted as part of a coverup later on.
posted by amethysts at 9:41 AM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Leaving aside any moral questions here, It is unsafe to lie to the higher ups. Tell your supervisor that you appreciate his/her recommendation and respect his/her judgment, but that you need to be honest about why you did what you did so the higher ups can fairly assess it. I would be very deferential and respectful to your supervisor to help make your decision sell, but stick with the truth after you've given your supervisor a quick advance heads up on your plan.
posted by bearwife at 9:42 AM on November 20, 2009 [4 favorites]

If you get caught in a lie about this, the consequences will fall to you no matter how loudly you protest "But my boss TOLD ME TO!"

Be as diplomatic as you can with your supervisor, but tell the truth to the higher ups.

On preview: what bearwife said.
posted by Meg_Murry at 9:45 AM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Do you trust your boss?

Has he gone out of his way to help you before?

Is there any way he could benefit from you using his reason?

Could he know something you don't know?

Is he willing to explain beyond "trust me"?
posted by spaltavian at 9:47 AM on November 20, 2009

Do not lie. It leads to a whole bunch of actions that will lead to the discovery of the lie. Cover-ups get exposed because you have to take a series of actions to cover them up. You can bet people will look into the circumstances.

Tell him you made your decision and you're sticking by it.

More detail would help.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:52 AM on November 20, 2009

Can you give a tip of the hat to the explanation your boss wants you to use, but ultimately give your own rationale? For example, "While (boss's proposed explanation) was certainly a factor, ultimately it was because of (your actual explanation) that I decided to make the call I made." When in doubt, honesty is the best policy. Post-mortems are supposed to be held so we can share knowledge and learn to improve things in the future, not to place blame (though that does come into play). Since you made the right decision, I don't think you need to worry too much about blame in any case. You handled a difficult situation well and should be honest about what informed your response. Good luck!
posted by katemcd at 9:54 AM on November 20, 2009 [6 favorites]

Without knowing any details here, I would think the Big Cheeses are more concerned with the action and its consequences than with the justification. So, with that in mind, can you frame your statements as "Here's why this action was the right thing to do for the company: [my reason] PLUS [boss's reason]. By doing this, I prevented [bigger problem] and [dire consequences]."

It's less about what you were thinking at the time, and more about how to deal with the situation going forward. Your boss's angle may not have occurred to you at the moment, but it might retroactively work as additional support.

Of course, if the boss is proposing something really bad, take the advice upthread about declining diplomatically. In my experience, executives don't care what you were thinking except insofar as it gives them ideas how to spin a decision for the good of the company. (Or to justify letting you go.) They're not interested in soul-baring, just "how can we make this work for us?"

But don't lie - stuff has a way of getting found out.
posted by Quietgal at 10:12 AM on November 20, 2009 [3 favorites]

Without additional information it is hard for anybody here to give some specific advice. Other posters have outlined the additional information that would help the situation such as whether your boss has something to gain by you giving their version or conversely whether their version puts you in the line of fire and covers their ass.

At the end of the day you need to try to find a way (like Quietgal suggestions) to possibly add your boss's suggestion (only if you feel it would be beneficial) after giving your own reasoning.

Just be careful of throwing your boss under the bus on this one since they are the ones who will actively try to take retribution if you screw them on this. As your supervisor they are ultimately responsible for whatever actions you take and you may need to have a candid discussion with them about their request to give a different version and require actual reasons for why you should give it since the ones you received so far have been ridiculously insufficient for you to risk jeopardizing your career by lying to management.
posted by Elminster24 at 10:39 AM on November 20, 2009

Yeah, I'd be looking at your reason and your boss's reason and figure out who is made to look bad by either explanation. That will help you sort out the politics.

I agree don't lie to anyone, but the way I read the question, the answer is not verifiable. It seems to me from my reading that the question is more or less, "what were your thought processes at the time, that led to you take this action?"

And your answer to that could be anything up to and including a lucky guess. Who's to say otherwise?
posted by Naberius at 11:21 AM on November 20, 2009

Don't lie.

Is it possible that the truth actually makes *him* look bad or incompetent or not-forward-looking? Corollary: does it make you look better than him, in that it was a better decision than he would have been capable of? Just thinking Machiavelli.
posted by rhizome at 11:41 AM on November 20, 2009

You shut the line down? Damn.

I actually think his reason is terrible and will make me look much worse.

This part.
posted by fixedgear at 12:03 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Tell the truth. It's the easiest thing to remember.
posted by bunny hugger at 12:26 PM on November 20, 2009

Tell the truth and apologize to your boss. Tell him you can't lie, you're an awful liar.

You'll glow with integrity.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 12:30 PM on November 20, 2009

Ask yourself "What's the right thing to do?"
posted by theora55 at 2:12 PM on November 20, 2009

Just a note about everybody saying to just tell the truth, especially in light of your comment that:

"I actually think his reason is terrible and will make me look much worse."

If you tell the truth, make sure you are not doing so in a way that will have your boss looking for every opportunity he can to fire you. He is in essence wanting you to take the fall for him. Tread carefully.
posted by Elminster24 at 2:45 PM on November 20, 2009

One way to square the circle here is to bring up both reasons diplomatically.

"I [took action] because of [reason X], which was immediately apparent and required swift response. During our departmental post-mortem Boss alerted me to [reason Y] and we have agreed it is also a concern. Both need addressing if we are to avoid another incident."
posted by dhartung at 4:03 PM on November 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

You need to figure out why your boss prefers the alternate version. Is the real story poorly reflective on him? I.e, should he have prevented the situation coming up in the first place? Is the reason you had to make that decision because he was unavailable by phone when he should have been available? Maybe when someone pulls the string on your version, it will turn out that this has happened many times before and been handled inappropriately (by him?)

The reason you need to know that is because there's telling the truth, and there's telling the truth with emphasis on the part you want to sell and minimizing the part you don't really want noticed. You have to know what your boss considers the part to minimize, so you can cooperate while still not lying.

Telling some total B.S. story is most likely not the way to go. I find it very unlikely that he's using this as a mentoring opportunity to springboard you into the executive level's good graces out of the goodness of his own heart. Especially if he won't tell you exactly what it is about the real truth that he thinks they aren't going to like.
posted by ctmf at 5:10 PM on November 20, 2009

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