A reader from Ohio asked, “As nice as I try to be, sometimes it just happens that the person at, for example, the front desk is not helping to solve my problem. There are times when I must go ‘over their head’ and talk to the manager or supervisor. How do I do that without creating ill will or future confrontation with that person and still get the results I need from their manager who might think I’m being one of those difficult customers?
What a great question. The good news is that this type of situation is actually quite simple to work with and, from now on, you’re going to feel great about being to handle it almost effortlessly.
First, let’s face it; regardless of how proficient you’ve become at the art of positive persuasion there are times your just not going to be able to move someone to your side of the issue. In these instances, you might need to kindly bypass that person and speak with someone in a position of higher authority who can decide your way. That’s fine, providing you do it correctly, does not offend the first person and sets you up correctly with the next person you speak to.
Here are two steps you can take to get what you want, and make everyone happy in the process.
#1 Place the blame on yourself. For example: “I’m awfully sorry to be putting you in this position; it might be easier for you if I were to talk to your supervisor personally. That will take you off the hook. What’s his or her name?”
In phrasing it this way, you have honored the current person and not put them in a defensive position where they feel the need to make you the “bad guy” to their supervisor. You let him or her off the hook by both your words, and your attitude. He or she will be ready to be more helpful to you next time you visit.
Still, typically, when a supervisor is called, they are expecting a scowling, complaining, argumentative “opponent.” Instead…
#2 Greet with a smile, a pleasant countenance and the right words. Take a Step toward him with your hand outstretched and say, “I’m Carol James, thank you so much for coming out to see me, I know you’re very busy.”
Wow! Talk about disarming that person, and positioning yourself as someone they “want” to do for.
So, if you’re dealing with someone with whom you are simply not going to get the results you need without going over their head, then do it…go over their head, but do so with tact, kindness, class and in such a way that everyone possible gets to be and feel part of the solution.
* Based on the kind suggestion of Deborah Stewart below, it reminds me that an important part of this is the ability to be in control of your own emotions. I should have provided a link to my article series on “Responding vs. Reacting.”