Saturday 16 December 2017

'I'm a senior manager at a corporate firm. How can I make myself heard with new CEO who doesn't listen?'

If you’re going to approach your boss, keep the conversation civil and don’t rehearse ahead of it
If you’re going to approach your boss, keep the conversation civil and don’t rehearse ahead of it

David O'Reilly

Q: I have recently started as senior manager with a large corporate business in Dublin. I am finding it increasingly difficult to work for my new ceo. She has a very strong personality and doesn't ever want to listen to my views. I had a very responsible position with my previous employer and was viewed as central to the team. If I can't get a resolution I will have no alternative but to move on.

A: Having made the brave move to further your career with a new employer, it would be a shame to give up on them so quickly. A major skill of management is not only the ability to manage downwards, but also the ability to manage upwards.

This is often overlooked but I believe it requires much greater skill than the former.

Several thoughts strike me regarding your dilemma. Does your new ceo see you as a potential threat to her own career? Is this her management style with others, or just you? Some senior managers like to lay down the law early on and may feel that this is the best way to establish control and show who the boss is.

A core question to be answered by you is why did the ceo hire you in the first place?

Focus on your strengths and the characteristics that differentiated you from the other candidates. If you were interviewed by a panel, speak to others on the panel, possibly HR, to discover what it was for them that made you the stand out candidate.

Discuss your situation with trusted colleagues so you can better understand your ceo. Get their points of view and learn from their experiences from when they first started with the company.

If they had the same experience as you are having, how did they manage it? What actions did they take? What worked, what didn't work? How long did it take until things settled down for them?

If your experience is unique, then you must challenge your ceo in a calm and professional manner. She may not realise how she is treating you. If it is a personality issue, then let her get it out in the open.

If she feels she has made the wrong choice in hiring you, then let her get it out in the open. Ensure she understands your reservations so that she is given the opportunity to make things better.

Communication is key. If you feel you must move on, then this will allow you to manage the process for everyone's benefit.

No one is immune to workplace tensions: It is inevitable that you will have some trying moments and conversations with colleagues.

To reach the most productive outcome for you, keep these three points in mind:

1 Keep it civil. Don't turn the conversation into a combat with a winner and a loser. Everyone looks bad when the discussion turns toxic, and your ceo may not forgive you.

2 Don't rehearse. When you know things are going to be tough, it's tempting to practice what you're going to say ahead of time. But this is a conversation - not a performance. Instead, know where you stand but be open enough to listen and react.

3 Resist making assumptions. You don't have access to your ceo's mindset, only your own.

Don't assume that you know where your ceo is coming from or how she views the problem. Instead, ask for her perspective.

Her viewpoint may surprise you.

Ultimately, get your issue out in the open. Manage upwards to ensure the best outcome for yourself whilst showing strength, openness and the ability to take the lead in a very awkward situation.

David O'Reilly is a member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development with a MSc in business from TCD and employment law from UCD. O'Reilly Digney & Associates are leaders in the recruitment of professionals for industry and finance. If you have a career question, please send it to

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