I have been asked many questions at the seminars and workshops I have presented. One of those questions pertains to a common situation and I have been asked it so often. As a supervisor, how do you cope with a staff member that won't accept your answer and goes over your head to your manager for "a second opinion"?
Believe it or not, this is so common there is an actual term for it. We refer to it as "triangulation". It needs to be met with firmly yet with diplomacy and compassion as well.
One way to deal with these situations is for the manager to let the supervisor know about the conversation. If the supervisor has already dealt with the situation, the manager could advise the employee that it was not appropriate to disregard the supervisor and bring him/her forward in such a manner. But, communication is essential between the supervisor and the manager. Not just in this situation but also in the time leading up to it. Both the supervisor and the manager need to know that they can comfortably approach each other and discuss these situations in order to come to a resolution in them. It is also essential for the supervisor and the staff member to have open lines of communication because it may well be suggested by the manager for them to come together and discuss the situation again. It needs to be found out why the staff member was not happy with the original decision made by the supervisor. It should also be requested that the supervisor provide feedback about how the employee handled the situation and provide coaching about the organizational expectations around issue management.
I would like to point out two very important factors in this becoming a successful conversation. As mentioned, open lines of communication between all levels of an organization is very important. It needs to be a part of the corporate culture. The second factor is that there needs to be a clear plan regarding issue resolution within the workplace and all employees need to be educated as to what that plan is and the expectations of the organization when such situations arise.
Following these guidelines will help to ensure a healthy and happy workplace environment that can move through issues quickly and smoothly.