One of the most negative management stereotypes you'll come across in the workplace is the "yes-man," that weak-kneed subordinate who is always quick to agree with the boss. This is an empty suit having no other opinion other than agreement. Picture a nodding head and vacant smile.
In a similar vein, do you recall the old saying, "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil"? The modern version of this adage describes one who looks the other way, who refuses to acknowledge and even feigns ignorance when confronted with practices they should otherwise say or do something about.
Do the compensation practitioners in your organization, including the one looking back at you from the mirror, provide objective and unbiased counsel to management, or do they sometimes simply offer support and justification for what management wants to do?
Do you stand up?
There are always opportunities to turn a blind eye / closed mouth to improper practices taking place in the organization:
- Finance has lobbied Senior Management that the average merit increase next year should be x%, and you've been asked for your recommendation.
- The performance appraisal process is poorly designed and administered; rewards are often granted without legitimate justification. And you say . . . ?
- A Vice President wants to create a puffed-up Office Manager title for a long serving Secretary. This would also entail a higher grade and promotional increase.
Are you one to stand up and be counted, or do you let these and other possibly contentious events wash over you without voicing concern?
- Are your recommendations primarily based on competitive research, an understanding of compensation strategy and knowledge of business operations?
- Do you question those managers who wish to grant rewards for the wrong reasons?
- Do you strive to hold the line on meaningless titles that increase costs, create employee inequities and provide the company with little or no return value?
What's the worst that can happen?
Perhaps you're concerned that having an opinion out of step with senior management will damage your "team player" image. That your career would suffer because you can't get along with others, that you "don't get it"? Perhaps it's easier to simply go along for the ride.
It's my view that practitioners should provide the best advice they're capable of, on the basis of technical knowledge, experience and seasoning with business operations. Let management make the decision. They have a perspective that's wider than a singular compensation view, and it’s their company, budget, operations, etc. Your responsibility is to provide the best objective advice possible, to ensure that decision-makers have their eyes open and understand the ramifications involved.
Life isn't a tableau of black-and-white images, but a series of swirling grays. We should acknowledge that there are contingencies and alternative possibilities available. But we should not temper either our judgment or our opinions solely on the basis of what the boss wants to hear.
Management tends to respect straightforward analysis and honest feedback. However they won’t respect your input if it’s been tainted by political maneuverings or a “how many ways are there to say yes”? mentality.
Your job is to add value
You don't have to fall on your sword career-wise to make a point, to stand up for yourself, to add value to the decision-making process. Sometimes you just know that the direction management is taking is the wrong path to take, but that doesn't mean that you should step away from doing your job.
One of the best ways to establish yourself as a valuable contributor is to have an opinion, and not be afraid to voice it. Even when the management steamroller is moving and you have to get out of the way or be run over, you should always provide your professional input. You can do this by offering options and alternatives for management to consider. That's where you'll be able to present your own recommendations alongside the management point-of-view.
Get them thinking; that's your responsibility and how you add professional value. It's also how you build credibility and an invaluable personal awareness with Senior Management.
Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations. He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant. Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation. He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.
Creative Commons image, "See no evil," by allyaubry