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Don’t Shoot the Messenger! Delivering Your Boss’ Bad Message

Pam Hager, Ph.D., Senior Vice President of Instructional Consulting, shares another leadership learning insight with us:

“In conversation with a workshop group the other day, I was asked such an interesting question: Is it insubordination not to deliver the boss’ message as he/she dictated, even if originally it was shared in a Q1 manner?

Excellent question! The first consideration is whether the message is appropriate.

Balance Message With Delivery

If the heart of the message is appropriate and worth sharing with others, then what you need is a bit of finesse. Frame the message in a Q4 manner so that the true content — not a bunch of negative emotion — is heard. The degree to which you can shift toward a Q4 delivery depends on your understanding of the boss’ tone and style.

The key here is that you ensure the spirit of the message remains. More often, it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.

Dimensional Model of Behavior

Personal Benefits Are Key

To the degree that you feel comfortable, it is important that you share with the audience some appropriate benefits that appeal to the listener’s personal needs, while still reinforcing your boss’ Call to Action. Praise is a universal benefit, of course. But beyond that, rely on the individual needs of each Q Behavior:

  • Independence for Q1
  • Security for Q2
  • Harmony for Q3
  • And collaboration for Q4.

A leader whose primary behavior is Q1 usually has solid ideas and energy. But a manager who leans toward Q1 behavior also tends to value results with little concern for how those results are achieved. Q1 behavior can often miss the mark in terms of delivering the message in a way that boosts receptivity in others. When you treat others with respect and show that you value their personal needs, you’re far more likely to get respect and results in return.”

Thanks, Pam!

To learn more about your boss’ and coworkers’ behaviors — and for tips on how to best engage them to maximize results, check out our Behavior Questionnaire.

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