What to do when a stakeholder contacts your boss instead of you?

What to do when a stakeholder contacts your boss instead of you?

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When a stakeholder contacts your boss behind your back it can be very frustrating and disempowering. You have put all this time and energy into building a relationship with them, yet they still don’t trust you or are just unaware of the things with which you can support them.

First, it’s important to understand the reasons why stakeholders may be bypassing you and going to your boss. This could be due to a lack of trust or confidence in your abilities, or a perception that your boss has more authority or decision-making power. It could also be that stakeholders simply don’t know who to contact and are reaching out to the person they think will be most helpful.

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Start with the basics

If that happens, start with the basics. The stakeholder contacting your boss is not the end of the world and it can be rectified. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of who they are, how are they positioned in the company, and what are their challenges.

For example, they might be expecting that more senior members of your team, like your boss, will have more accurate information. It is also possible, that they expect your boss to be a decision-maker and for them to make a decision more favorable to their needs.

Think about it this way, if they think that you don’t understand their workload and think that you are making an unreasonable request, they might go to your boss expecting them to be more understanding, as they are at the same level.

It can also have a lot to do with your gender (unfortunately!). I have seen in the past women bypassing other women, regardless of their title. There is still an odd assumption that there is a limited number of ‘female’ seats at the top and getting rid of other women’s opportunities will help you get to the top. I find this notion bizarre, yet I’ve seen it in action! If you think this is the case, it may be harder to break this, but keep on reading for the best way to act.


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It is also possible that you haven’t spent enough time getting to know your stakeholder and sharing what is it that you do and how can this make their work easier.

Once you find the reason, make sure to address it as you go forward.

Make sure your boss doesn’t “deal with it”

It is quite common for some bosses to want to take pressure off their staff and if a situation like this happens, they want to support their team and deal with the stakeholder themselves.

This is the worst that can happen!

If a stakeholder already thought that your boss is better to contact, having them answer their question or agree to a different proceeding than you suggested will undermine your authority even more.

What to do when your stakeholder contacts your boss

The best way to deal with it is to have your boss actually push back and refer the stakeholder back to you.

If there was a request sent via email asking about the process in a certain project, your boss could answer:

“Thank you for reaching out, unfortunately, I am not directly involved in this project. Please reach out to Klaudia if you need support”

or

“Thank you for reaching out. As Klaudia is our subject matter expert on this project, please refer to her for any clarification”

and then, CC you on the email chain. This way stakeholder knows that you are aware of their message.

Once your boss does that, you can respond by offering your help.

Consistency

A big part of stakeholders following the right ‘chain of command’ is having all your leaders and teammates follow the same procedure. If your stakeholders are known for bypassing you or even your boss, you might want to address the issue higher up and agree as a team on the process.

Hope this help! Make sure to share this article with your boss, if you have stakeholders that often go behind your back.

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