How to Communicate Poor Decisions Made by Management

Managing Up
Internal Communication

29 February, 2020

Evan Carmi

Evan Carmi

Engineering Manager at Airbnb

Evan Carmi, Engineering Manager at Airbnb, discusses how to approach higher-level managers and express your dissatisfaction with the poorly made decisions.

Problem

As a frontline manager who manages direct reports, I daily manage up to higher-level managers. How we approach higher-level managers when we want to raise some issues and concerns and how we communicate about them. Particularly, what should we do when we believe that our leadership team made a poor decision and how we communicate that?
 

Actions taken

I always try to fully understand the situation and learn more about why, how and who made the decision. Even if I feel impacted or frustrated about the decision I want to learn as much as I can about the circumstances that could eventually change my perspective. This is where your curiosity should come to play.
 

If I continue to strongly feel that there were some gaps in how the decision was made and communicated, I would like to share my feedback on that. I am trying to be constructive and make tangible requests. Rather than stating what shouldn’t be done, I use more affirmative phrasing like If you were to do it in the future this way, it would have impacted me more positively. Or if I would like to be informed who is the final decision maker and when the decision needs to be made by, I would phrase it like If I would have that information I would do a better job at prioritizing my tasks.
 

In the end, there is room for open-ended feedback. For example, My PM got disappointed that we did x and not y. Can we let them know sooner next time? or Can we appreciate their work even if we decide to go a different route?
 

Lessons learned

  • It is important to start with curiosity because there can always be things we didn’t know before and which can reshape our understanding of an issue. Don’t jump to a conclusion without letting your curiosity do its job.
  • Be specific with your ask since it will be easier for a manager to support you. Can you do this because it would really help me to…?
  • Oftentimes people are just too busy and things get dropped. If you are willing to volunteer and offer your help they may work out.

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