When do you send a distress signal to your boss?

Recently, a friend forwarded an email to me. As soon as I read the content, there was a sinking feeling inside me. The friend was experiencing issues at work and the email highlighted those issues to the major stakeholders. But on reading the email, I felt it was the beginning of the end.

My friend is what many says a middle-level manager. In the organizational hierarchy,  he reports to important people above him and he tracks a whole lot of important people under him. Tracking is a mild word as he also has to ensure the work is completed with acceptable delays. If you have heard the famous saying involving a horse, water and drinking, then you already know how difficult it is to make independent-minded intelligent people to stick to deadlines especially the ones in which they were not involved in the decision-making.

Coming back to the email, the targeted audience of email had all three levels - top, middle and bottom. The content was unsettling. The middle level, in this case my friend, was raising concerns to the top level about no-shows and lack of seriousness from the bottom level. I have seen such kind of emails in the past. For me, it is the beginning of the end because everything else has failed. That is why someone complaints about his team to his superiors. In a way, it is as good as saying I cannot manage this team! I like hierarchy. My liking has nothing to do with either how fancy it looks on the chart or how boosting it is for the ego. Hierarchy helps in faster resolution of issues and better decision-making. While all levels should not be far away from ground realities, every level should not be involved in day-to-day activities and related heartburn.  There are powers associated with each level. If you now take a look using my perspective, managing the team is my friend's responsibility.

Is he right in sending the distress signal? In my viewpoint, no. How can this be corrected? There are many options. One of the many options is inducting new members into the team. Probably, everyone is bored with their respective assignments. It might be the right time to inject fresh blood for new outlook. Whatever you choose, sending a distress signal like this makes you lose the trust of your next level. That, according to me, is the beginning of the end of a relationship.


  1. I think its important to keep communicating with your bosses frequently, so that a comfort level is established. Sometimes we fear that boss/management might not approve xyz and so we never communicate but we fail to realize that good boss and management means good people with more experience then yourself...so they might not be wrong all the times...

    1. Communication is important. Communicating doesn't mean that you have raising issues and asking for help all the time. That is the key different many fail to understand. If our superiors are solving our problems all the time, when are they going to their work? :)


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