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In Need of Some Advice

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I was recently asked for advice regarding how to address an issue with a boss. The boss had given her responsibility for their department’s budget. She was responsible and ready to take on this assignment. The dilemma was the boss was making commitments above the allotted budget and wasn’t communicating his actions with her. She was finding out about these commitments from other staff members. The budget was now off track due to her boss’s actions. She asked, how can I be expected to just “find the money” and how can I get him to understand this is not helping our budget? How do you suggest I discuss this with him?
I told her to schedule a meeting with her boss to provide an update on the budget. First prepare for the meeting by doing your homework. Make sure your facts are correct. Find out if anything could have changed without your knowledge. Consider the consequences of the meeting and look for an opportunity for a win/win versus telling your boss that he made a mistake. Secondly prepare for the meeting with your boss’s style in mind. Here are a few questions to help you determine your boss’s style:

1. Is he someone that wants to talk about new ideas? Is he spontaneous and has a lot of enthusiasm?
2. Is he someone that likes control and responsibility? Doe he talk in bullets and at a fast pace? Does he want the bottom line versus a story?
3. Is he someone that wants to talk about getting a consensus from others? Does he consider how his actions impact the team?
4. Is he someone that likes a lot of information and time to study and process the information? Does he like to work alone?

Thirdly, determine your approach with your boss’s style in mind. Here are a few approaches:

1. If he is someone that likes control and wants bullets and a quick summary. Or if he’s someone that has a lot of energy, is very creative and likes to talk about new ideas, don’t review an in depth budget and spreadsheet and cover each expense item with him.

Instead provide him a summary of the budget that he can quickly see the bottom line and see the budget is off track. Provide him with 3-5 reasons why (expenses approved without referring to the budget, commitments made that aren’t approved budget items, process for approval not followed, lack of communication regarding expenditures, etc.) Talk about the process instead of “you approved these expenses and you didn’t follow the process.” If he wants more details, he will ask you. Then you can mention the exact cost item and he will know he was the one that approved it and how it has affected the bottom line. Ask him for his advice to correct the budget issue. Then be quiet and wait for his direction.

2. If he is someone that likes a lot of information, likes to work alone spending time doing research and gathering more information to solidify and cement his point of view, then take the time to review an in depth budget and cover each expense item with him on the spreadsheet. Be prepared to discuss each item at length. Know the history and details. Once you have completed this review he will probably want time to process the information. He’ll want to crunch his own numbers and gather more information to verify accuracy. Follow up in a day or two. During the second meeting he will know without a doubt what needs to be done and why things are in the state they are in. Ask him what needs to be done to resolve the budget overage.

3. If he is someone that wants to connect with his direct reports and understands how he impacts the team. Make it easy for him to be straightforward. Show interest in him as an individual. Begin the conversation on a casual topic. Then go into the business conversation. Tell him you want to talk about the goal he assigned you regarding managing the budget and that you have some concerns. Let him know that you take this goal seriously and that you want to do a good job for him and the company. Be caring and sensitive. Let him know what actions have taken place causing the budget to be off track. Then ask him for advice and be quiet. Wait for him to think and process the issue. Sit in the silence and wait for his queue. He will see what needs to be corrected to keep the budget on track.

Here’s her response:

Hi Peggy,

This was very helpful. Thank you for taking time out of your busy day to send this. Our discussion went well and he even apologized for not keeping me in the loop.

Thanks again!

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