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ASK THE CAPITALIST: How Do You Hold Corporate Managers Accountable When They Act Illegally or Unethically?

A reader asks...

How do you hold the highest level corporate managers accountable when they make decisions that are illegal or unethical?  What do you say to them to make them know you are correct and their decision is wrong?  Using the threat of a penalty/fine for the situation would typically be the way to get the attention of a VP of Finance/Budget, but that does not seem to work. 

--Sarah from Syracuse


Hi Sarah -

Thanks for the question.  I'm going to stay true to the webinar you pinged me about and tell you what HR Doctor people I know and respect have learned from Sales Pros in this area.

The problem you're trying to solve is that someone you're serving is talking in circles and generally being slippery/slimy.  

Sales pros/Sales leaders have a way of cutting through the BS when someone is being slippery.  They ask for a forecast or probability that something is going to happen in the future.  In doing that, they box people in and refuse to let them off the hook with what I'll call glittering generalities.   Here's how the conversation would go:

You – What's the probability in your eyes we're going to get sued for that decision?

Them – Not much.

You – General is not going to work for me this time.  Give me a percentage chance/likelihood that we're going to get sued?

Them – 10% - minimal.

You – Well, in my eyes, the probability is more like 50%.  And if we're disagreeing on the probability, I have a responsibility to get another set of eyes on this for us, so I'm going to ask <insert name of that person's skip level, not an HR skip level> to help us look at this.  Or, the solution I have in mind is <describe what you need and tell them that reduces the probability to zero – you also have to tell them how it still fits their business need>.  If you go that route, there's no need for me to get the other set of eyes on this.  

You use probabilities to either get them to acknowledge the risk, or as an avenue to get you own number in there and intro the need for the skip level review.  

You have to tell them you're going to skip level based on the probability play.  If you're not willing to do that, there's not much you can do – but the above is what a sales pro would do.

Learn from the sales pros in this area - get a probability, intro your own as needed and then use the threat of skip level to try to get them to move off the bad decision.  And never skip level to anyone who's not more conservative than the person you're dealing with who's saying the business equivalent of "when am I going to be in Haiti again?"

Happy hunting.  Confront!


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