Athlete’s Scalp

Bald head

Image via Wikipedia

So, what do you do when the slacker, gossip or incompetent in your office is the boss? Go over his head. Giving him athlete’s scalp may mean, in the end, you will have a new job, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.

One: Go to the boss first.

This may seem counter-intuitive, but it is the only career-salvaging part of going over his head. His supervisor’s first question will always be:

Did you discuss this with Mr. Jones?”

An affirmative answer to this question is the only way to be heard successfully. Part of reason she asks is the genuine desire to avoid inter-office conflict. The other part is knowing the company policy.

Who's the Boss?

Image via Wikipedia

Two: Know the chain of command.

Mr. Jones’ boss may not be the one who will ultimately rectify your issue. Possibly quality control, loss prevention or human resources will fix the issue. Upper management often defers to these three departments when faced with an inter-office problem. Find out who your problem solver really is. Follow the chain directly to that person.

Three: Document.

Keep a legibly written record of all offending actions, all your actions and the responses of others to all actions.

  • Keep a detailed account of all workplace and out-of-office situations directly affecting your issue.
  • Keep a copy of all correspondence regarding the matter.
  • Document all telephone conversations with the following:
  1. Date
  2. Time
  3. Telephone number
  4. Name of caller/recipient of call
  5. Job title
  6. Synopsis of conversation

Keep your record with you. This will prevent it from falling into the wrong hands and allow you access to it when you need to add items.

Four: Know the corporate policy.

In cases of integrity, the policy should be very straightforward. Cases of discrimination are not as clear cut. Be sure your issue does not fall into a corporate loophole.

meditateFive: Stay calm.

You will be passed along the chain of command and detoured to many fruitless places. The hope is your irritation at the issue will pale in comparison to your frustration at the bureaucracy. If you speak in tones of anger or frustration, your complaint will be taken as sour grapes no matter its veracity.

Six: Stay neutral.

If your boss is an absolute imbecile, portraying him in a less than favorable light ultimately hurts your claim of his incompetence. State events as they happened as an unbiased reporter, not as a victim. Emotion never plays in your favor.

When possible, write your complaints rather than speak on the telephone. Eventually, you will need to speak with someone. Do it calmly.

Seven: Be consistent.

Upper management will discuss your issue. Each participant in the conversation should be talking about the same issue. If you told one story to one manager and a totally unrelated incident to another, in conference, both managers will conclude you are not competent to make the complaint.

Eight: Have witnesses who will corroborate your issue.

This may not be easy. Most people fear retribution when they point out fallacies, incompetence and indiscretions of superiors. Still others will commiserate with you, but not tell a manager the same view. If you are not positive your witness will be truthful outside of your presence, do not include them.

Nine: Be appreciative.

Everyone who hears you out, regardless of the ability or inclination to assist you, must be thanked for taking time from appointed tasks. Include Mr. Jones.


Image by Leo Reynolds via Flickr

Ten: Be persistent.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

Just because one manager tells you there is nothing she can do does not mean one, who both can and will, does not exist. Repeat these steps until you meet just that person.

Bottom Line

The solution to your problem may not come in the package you expected. At the end, Mr. Jones may still be your boss. If you have been honest and neutral throughout the process, the end result is change. Sometimes the change is a corporate one, other times it is a career move.

Personal Note

I used these guidelines to become the manager of quality control and to enforce company policy when others brought complaints to me.


When or why did you go over the boss’ head?


(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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  1. Being the boss makes this a true issue. I make mistakes daily and my brain is the biggest complaintant. On the ride home, when I have time to reflect, my brain points out all the things that I have mishandled during the course of the day. There is nothing worse than reprimanding yourself.

    • I would suppose it is the disadvantage of the one-man band, eh? As long as you are not arguing with yourself and losing, I think you will be all right. Red.

  2. James Parsons

     /  November 17, 2011

    Going over the bosses head doesn’t always work. Sometimes the boss has more friends than you may think. But these rules are good ones to .follow

    • In those cases, Two and Five are the most important of the steps. Be really careful with Eight. Eight tends to trip most people. Everyone wants to assume their colleagues are truthful, when in fact employees have a tendency to agree with whomever they see in power and act completely different when outside the managerial eye. Red.

  3. Hey nice post 🙂 do drop by my blog sometime. thanks


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