The first thing that comes to mind in this situation is to “document it.” Simply, it works like this. When the Boss suggests a method or action in a personal meeting or in a team meeting, follow up by sending him (and others effected) an email. You might say, “Just to follow up on our discussion in the cafeteria yesterday, we will be using your suggestion to run an ROI analysis at the conclusion of each project. Once it is complete, we will send you a copy.”
Or, include his instructions in the minutes of your meeting. This is why keeping and sharing even a brief bullet point list of decisions and actions agreed upon in a meeting will save you from endless “he said – she said” arguments. Written evidence can be your friend.
Receiving the email or a copy of the minutes should prompt a manager to ask him/herself, “Did I suggest that?” If he doesn't remember agreeing to what you've written he'll get in touch with you. You will now know a lot earlier than you would have before if he's going to change his mind. By sending the follow up email or meeting minutes, clarification is achieved. Isn't that all we really want?
When you follow up like this at least you are letting the boss know that “you know” what's going on. It will make it tougher to contradict you in the future and your credibility should increase because you have the evidence that proves you're right. Remember, this process is a tool to improve the way you work together, not a hammer to beat the boss with.
But let’s say you have a boss who is not only forgetful, but a real pain-in-the-neck. He/she may be a boss who really doesn’t think through the impact of their requests/demands and they don't really care. Instead, they change their mind on a whim and expect you to deal with it. In this case you have two choices – live with it or move on to a new position.
Other ideas are:
- Band together – all you employees – the next time a discrepancy comes up. Approach the boss together. Do this with tact in a low key manner so that your manager realizes you’re simply looking for clarification, not to punish, and you would like to avoid miscommunication in the future.
- Go to the manager’s boss as a group and describe the situation accurately, dispassionately and supported by facts. Some senior managers are good at handling situations like this, some aren’t. You may not get the support you want, so be prepared to fall back on the methods discussed above. Plus, if you have a real Atilla-the-Hun for a boss, he/she may attempt to seek retribution against you for going over his head. So hold this tactic as a last resort.