HI all.

Background: My boss is Sam.  His ex-peer Elaine has recently promoted to Managing Director and became his direct boss.  It an be understood that Sam was not happy with her promotion.  

Situation: Today, Elaine (my boss' boss now) asked me to have an 1-to-1 with her tomorrow.  She mentioned something about "inefficiency in your department" and commented the personalty of my boss as "not willing to listen to others' opinion". 

My Question: I don't know how to handle this 1-to-1 because my boss is on 3 week vocation now.  Should I let him know the existence of this discussion?  Should I talk to him beforehand? 

My heart: I like Sam very much as a boss.  He is responsible, open-minded, he steps up to protect me when required, gives me a lot development opportunity, and he is smart.  He is actually my role model and I would like to follow him if he moves to other companies.  I quite lean to telling him beforehand to see what he wants me to mention in the 1-to-1 with Elaine.  My worry is that, this motion is not appropriate/professional.  I will end up upseting both Elaine and Sam.  What do you think?

What will you do if you were me?

Many thanks!



mmann's picture
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Clearly you already know that you'll have to step with care and great tact, and I'm assuming you can't call in sick till Sam returns.

My first reaction is to pull back and analyze personalities.  How do Elaine, Sam, and you stack up to the DISC profile?  I suspect there are conflicting behavior profiles between Elaine and Sam, and that Elaine sees something in you that leads her to believe you'd be willing to collude with her to alter Sam's behavior.  You'll want to have these dynamics in mind if/when you end up in that meeting with Elaine.

If you do end up in that meeting, take it slow.  Express concern that she's putting you in an awkward situation with Sam.  Hope she'll get the clue and let you bow out.  If she doesn't, then be professionally skeptical about her perception of Sam, and keep the focus of the discussion on the inefficiencies.  Get as many statistics as you can from her.  Take notes.  Don't agree or disagree, just gather facts that can be analyzed.  If she continues to press her opinion that Sam won't listen to others, I'd very tactfully use the Feel, Felt, Found response to introduce the DISC profile concept to her.


Good luck,


MsSunshine's picture

You are in a tough spot because you don't want to hang your boss.  But you also don't want the company to perceive you as someone weak who cares more about friends/personal relationships than results.


First, I have an observation about your statements.  Then I have a few ideas on what I would do different based on a personal experience I'll quickly summarize.

Observation:  Your boss's boss has business concerns about business results.  Your statements about your boss are personal - you don't mention anything about business results.  Without knowing more, I can't tell some key facts.   Is your boss's boss a very results driven person?  Is your boss actually producing results for the company or not?  Do you have any hints that the organization may think of your boss as really great on the people side but not good on the results side?  The fact is that in my experience the company really only cares about results.  A boss that is great with mentoring, coaching, etc. but does he produce?



  1. What are your thoughts on your boss's boss DISC type?  Knowing that will help you figure out what is important to her. 
  2. Take a hard look at your group's results?  You'll be more prepared for her to bring up an issue and thought of your response.
  3. I personally would not say that I was uncomfortable talking to her.  I said something similar and was told later that the organization felt that I cared too much about personal relationships over results.  She obviously doesn't care or wouldn't have asked you!
  4. I might think about starting the discussion by saying something that I'm happy to help her and my boss help our group deliver results in any way I can.  That sets the tone for how I'd be answering all questions.
  5. Listen to the podcast on 360's for ideas.  I found out the hard way that you NEVER give anything this way.
  6. I would not volunteer any information on my boss that is not strictly fact based.  This is not the time to discuss any weakness your boss has because she wouldn't be asking in this way if she really wanted to help your boss.
  7. NEVER draw conclusions on the results or how your boss contributed to them.  DO NOT comment on the vague conclusions you listed above.  I would say something like I'm not sure what those conclusions are based on and could you give me a specific example?
  8. If she pushes for conclusions, I'd stick firm on not having the full perspective on my boss's actions with everyone in order to make that determination.  STICK TO THAT!  If pushed, say you can't really draw conclusions because you don't think you have all the information.  I might even say something about being happy to go back and work with my boss and the team on how we can get the results she wants.
  9. In the meeting, keep your demeanor serious and helpful.  Do not try to defend your boss.


I was in sort of the same situation.  It started with some comments like "tell me what you think are the strengths and weaknesses of your boss" - which I gave two of each with what I thought was pretty equal weight.  It became pretty obvious that they just honed in on the weaknesses and moved on to "what about X that my peers had said - did I agree or disagree".  When I tried to beg off on not being able to generalize, the comment was whether I was doing that because I couldn't or just being to nice and not caring about the company's effectiveness.  So, I made the big mistake of saying that I did think that there were one or two areas to work on.

A little retrospection had me conclude that they were basically looking for ammunition to fire my boss.  They said that they were trying to get feedback so that they could help coach the management team - but I think that was really a lie.