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The Frog – Leapfrogging Over Managers

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jun 16, 2011 in Executive Coaching, Lessons Learned

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Many companies have open door policies where employees may take suggestions and concerns to the top of the organization directly, essentially “leapfrogging” direct supervisors. Management, at all levels, is available with an “open door” to anyone who wishes to discuss the company or work environment.

These programs are generally greatly appreciated by both employees and managers who find the open dialogue a great source of immediate feedback and keep the lines of communication open. Sometimes, though, this policy is misinterpreted (or misused) as a vehicle for people to undermine their boss’ authority because they may disagree with the decision or policy.

Following proper channels is key. If an employee is at odds with their boss or supervisor, bringing complaints immediately to a manager above that boss without following the proper channels will reflect poorly on that person’s decision making skills. Their actions may cost them both trust and respect at the level above their boss and may unintentionally limit their future potential in the company. Taking an issue to the boss’ boss without ever addressing it with your boss is not proper business etiquette. If the issue is not resolved after this point to the employee’s satisfaction, other input may be necessary.

If you are a manager and your employee is consistently going above you without directing their concerns to you first, it needs to be addressed. Start with your own boss first. Discuss your intended course of action with them and obtain their support to counsel the employee. Business/management etiquette tells us that when your subordinate approaches your supervisor about an issue you have not yet had the opportunity to address; your boss should be deferring the topic back to you first with the second course of action to schedule a meeting for all three of you to discuss the issue. had the following QA on this subject:


I have several employees that continually go over my head. Quite simply because they don’t agree or like a decision I make or get the answer they want to hear. Although I have full support of my boss they keep doing it. They are not aware that I know. I actually intercepted an email that an employee sent to their customer stating to get back to them before I got back from vacation so they could go to my boss and ask for a better rate. How can I stop this behavior? Do I address it by telling the employees that if they don’t agree with me that we can see the boss together? Maybe this way they won’t want to appear like they are going to the boss all the time but somehow I feel they will just keep doing what they’ve always done.


“If you have the full support (assumption) of your boss then sadly, your boss is part of the problem. As a proper supervisory support technique he or she should be deferring your subordinates back to you when they circumvent your authority. If there is an issue then they have the right to ask for a meeting of all minds involved where you, your boss, and the subordinate sit for a discussion and a final decision. Until your boss will actually back you in both his or her words to you and in action regarding subordinates you are going to have continued problems.

In lieu of this you need to examine the “why” for your subordinates not working under your authority. It is a matter of respect to you and you apparently do not have it so the question is why? Jealousy for your position? Do they as a group undermine you because they feel you are not up to the task of managing them? Do they conspire in other ways to undermine you? If they go around you then they simply don’t respect you or your position. They find you a weak link.

Take some time and go through the history of your position. When you accepted or were given the position were some or all of the subordinates already in place? Does your boss have a history of not backing supervisors? There are a lot of questions to ask yourself and some will give you an insight into a direction for resolution. Take the situation to your boss and settle it, but have a plan. And, know that it may get worse before it gets better. You will be tested by both sides because developed habits do not quickly change.

You will need to have a sit down with your boss. You will need to establish some ground rules for your relationship and the chain of command and you will need to have a clear line of command protocols and an agreement for consistency with your boss enforcing them. If he or she won’t then there will be little you can do but attempt to build credibility in another way to gain the respect of your subordinates.

By understanding your own mental and emotional Perspective you can also discover your own biases. This is critical because biases simply push our ego to the surface at exactly the wrong time in a negotiation or conversation. Know what biases you harbor and you can keep them in check. Ask yourself if your position as a supervisor is being taken lightly; and, if people are going to continue to go around behind your back how does your boss expect you to lead properly?

We all have many biases we don’t even consciously recognize and they can be stumbling points on a path as we are trying to focus on other priorities. Make a list because pen-to-paper creates a validation of sorts to the mind and makes irritating self discovery more acceptable. It can be humbling but it is an important phase when persuading others to a different line of thinking and then, action. Cite specific examples of when and with what or whom your subordinates have gone to your superior rather than going through you or following your directive. Look for a pattern. You did not impart your exact profession but I suggest you follow the money. If your directives are lowering their immediate profit gratification it is a key issue.

Know what it is you want from the encounter, and from your subordinates and your supervisor. Your Purpose is to pick a final outcome that is satisfactory or from a list compromise points you will settle for at the end of the negotiation. These can be agreement for additional responsibilities to include mentoring and training, financial incentives, guarantees on position within the company, advancement possibilities and prospects, accounts under your control or your involvement, and any other ideas you can think of to add to the list.

Your Organization of particulars will offer you talking points for the meeting. You will be organized and therefore appear organized and project you have thought out the situation.

The skill of Active Listening is comprised of four steps:
1. Be open-minded and willing to listen by not judging the messenger.
2. Hear Initially what is being said so we gather enough information to make solid assessments.
3. Interpret what is meant from what is said. People rarely say what they mean the first time it comes out under stress or while in conflict.
4. Act Appropriately based upon the interpretation and not just what was actually said..

You can empathize with anyone. It is a feeling of connection. How would you feel if what is happening to another was actually happening to you. Act accordingly.”

Lee Fjelstad
Vice President, Verbal Judo Institute, Inc.
Associate, Verbal Defense & Influence

*paragraphs were removed from the original answer for space. You can read the full answer here:

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The Animals – Sharing Office Space: Is It A Jungle Or A Zoo?

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 22, 2010 in Executive Coaching, Self Improvement

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Do you share an office space? Are you swimming in a cubicle environment or crammed into an office with more than one person? Is office etiquette different when you are closer together? Yes! When you do not have your own space and your own door, you have to realize that you are around other people and that is where manners need a little jungle taming!

As a contractor on site at a client, I work in the field and share space with 2 other consultants. The quarters are tight and you have no privacy whatsoever. It’s a tough environment to work in, but even more challenging when:

1. Speakerphones! I have often run into this issue and I’ll bet you have too! Even if you are working in your own office space, the polite thing is to close the door so as not to disturb your co-workers. It does not matter how often you have conference calls, who you are calling, the reason, or even what you think you have to do simultaneously (surfing personal internet sites? = not professional), you do not have the luxury of putting a call on speaker when you are in close quarters.
Resolution: If this person is you, give up the speaker! If you have a speakerphone problem person, speak up and politely, but sternly, ask the person to not put their calls on speaker as it disturbs the productivity and personal space of others. (Or just nicely tell them it’s annoying!). Perhaps suggest to that person that they borrow a separate office space or go outside on their cell phones. Most companies can issue a laptop and have wireless internet available if they can plan to move to a different area.

2. Bodily Functions. (Ew!) Miss Manners would say in ANY environment, a gentleman or lady should not burp loudly in front of another person – or any other strange noise emissions. (However, in a work environment, I would venture to say that it’s more inappropriate.)
Resolution: If you are someone who burps loudly, a simple “excuse me” or an apology is appropriate (not: “well you’re in for a real treat today because I forgot my Gas-x.” I can’t make this stuff up!). The offense has already been committed; a slight effort towards damage-control helps co-workers think better of your manners. Burping is natural, but your response to it can make or break relationships. (No joke!). Faced with a burping co-worker, don’t encourage them and be proactive in setting an example for behavior.

3. Food. I can go in a million directions with this, but here are a couple of points: You should not try to cut a whole watermelon at your desk (or do any sort of food preparation outside of the kitchen beyond some condiments) and if your lunch has a very strong odor, not everyone may appreciate it, so please save it for home.
Resolution: Bringing lunch is great and cost-effective, but bringing the farm or sharing the wafting aroma with the entire office can send some people running or gagging. Cold food is typically safe as it usually has less of an odor. Anything that can be packed into Tupperware or comes in its own container is appreciated. Rule of thumb: if you can’t buy it in your building’s café, stop to think about how it could look/smell to others before you pack it for the office. Take it outside or try eating in a less-populated area of the office if you aren’t sure. And always keep your workspace free of lunch-leftovers! NO ONE wants to share a sticky, stinky office with a little critter or a hundred…

Keep these few things in mind and the jungle may seem a little less like a zoo!

Guest post by Michelle Cecchett

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Mating Ritual – Job Dating (Simple Rules For Interviewers and Interviewees)

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Oct 19, 2009 in Interviewing Skills

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In the jungle, the mating ritual is simple.  It’s an animal’s most basic survival instinct: to mate, procreate, and continue its species.

For much of the human species, mating starts with dating. 

In the workplace, the mating ritual is translated into succession planning, and dating starts with the interview.

Just like dating, interviewing has a few “rules” that both the interviewer and the interviewee should adhere to for best success in the relationship.  Etiquette applies for all parties, so take heed of these ideas to be a good interviewer/interviewee.

FOR COMPANIES – The interviewer

The new economy does not mean you should wait weeks to call people back!  Just as in dating, the three day rule applies.  If you want a candidate to remain interested in working for you, whether they are unemployed or not, you should give them feedback and/or second interviews within 72 hours of their first interview.  In the past few months companies have been dragging out the interview process for weeks and many of the people they started with a month or two ago have moved on…they are already dating someone else seriously and your inability to move your process along often means they don’t want to see you again.

Think long and hard about how many people should be involved in the interview process. You need time before introducing your new love interest to all your friends. Adding even a single person to the interview process empowers them to give you their opinions, which will encourage them to offer their opinions when you may not want them, thus adding to the length of time.  Keep the process tight, and only involve those people who are in direct reporting line and decision makers who are in good standing with the company.  One disgruntled person in the mix can ruin the recruiting process.

If you were dating someone, you wouldn’t call all of the person’s former boyfriends and girlfriends for their opinions as they have already broken up and moved on. Similarly, you shouldn’t check references “off list”.  Many people are searching confidentially and by asking questions of people they currently work with you breach that professional courtesy making you and your company less trustworthy in the marketplace.   Besides, let’s face it, work is work and we often have professional disagreements with people in the workplace.  Reference checks should be limited to the former supervisors, peers, and subordinates the candidate has provided to you as their references.  These are people with whom they have developed working relationships and the former co-worker you may know from church, LinkedIn, or other civic groups may not be able to speak to the true skills and abilities of the person interviewing.  Besides, who’s to say they weren’t in the race for the same promotion in the past or something, even worse, what if they dated outside the office in the past? Many people look for open avenues to gossip about others so don’t fall victim to some people’s need to focus on negatives when we can all find something positive about everyone when push comes to shove.  

FOR CANDIDATES – The interviewee

Many companies do phone interviews first, something they are placing increasing emphasis on as in many cases they save time and money. Answer your phone professionally and in a positive manner at all times.  If you are busy and can’t speak, DON’T ANSWER THE PHONE.  You only get one chance to make a first impression and if you don’t impress someone on the first call, you’re unlikely to get a call back.  You need to be equally prepared for these interviews as if you were sitting in front of the CEO of the company him- or herself.

Express interest and enthusiasm, even if the topic may not be at the top of your list.  Just as when you’re out on a first date and the conversation veers to something more mundane, you maintain interest if you’re attracted to the person physically.  If you’re attracted to a company financially, you should be astute in all conversations with any parties involved.

Don’t expect a proposal on the second, or even third date.  A recent article in the NY Times reiterated what we are seeing in the market, longer, more complex interview processes leading to protracted job searches. Don’t get discouraged! Just make sure you have that fabulous interview outfit for the next meeting ready to go.

Always send a thank you note!  Common courtesy goes a long way.

For more job search tips, please visit where you can find resources on interviewing, resume writing, and making a great first impression!

Carolyn Thompson

Author of TEN EASY STEPS TO A PERFECT RESUME…available on!

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