Excuse To Fail

As an HR or Compensation practitioner, have you ever found yourself trying to change the mind of someone in Senior Management?  When the decision-maker seems hell-bent on rushing down a particular pathway that you’re positive leads only to a cliff?  From your own experience, you’re convinced that the endgame for the projected action will be negative results and also rife with unforeseen consequences.  Such pending damage will land with a thud and could burn you and the organization over undue costs, damaged employee morale, increased turnover, weakened market share, litigation liabilities, etc. etc.  Pick a bad reaction.

So it’s a clunker of an idea.

But the leadership has dug in their heels because they know best.  And you know how low you stand in the organization chart. 

We’ve talked before on these pages about various strategies to employ, if you want to, in an effort to chart a different course.  I say “if” because we’ve all seen examples of those who prefer to play the political game and administer vs. lead the compensation function.   Their apparent mantra is, “Keep my head down, smile, nod my head and say whatever the boss wants to hear.”

However, perhaps going with the flow is not for you.  Good, but be prepared for pushback when you say, “Yes, but” to those in charge.  You may find few with the stomach to discuss the merits of the plan about to be unfurled, but instead, they’ll want to reassure you over your apparent concerns about the funding.  Whether you’re actually concerned or not.

It’s a red herring, a distraction.

Because I Have The Money

Have you heard this one?  The reaction to whatever concerns you raise is simply that they have the money.  They’ll say this to you and then consider the issue closed.  It’s like them saying, “Don’t worry about it.  We can afford it.”  As if the availability to fund a bad idea is somehow going to turn lead into gold, to turn a bad idea into a good one.


This statement is a knee-jerk excuse used in an effort to quash an argument, as if the expense of an idea/program/policy/procedure, etc.  is the sole criteria for success or failure.  Tread carefully here though, because when leadership leads with this excuse, they essentially have nothing else to defend themselves.  It’s like saying, ” I am who am.  And I want to do this.  Deal with it.”  No other rationalization, explanation, justification or darn good reason is given.

You’re encouraged to check the organization chart again.

What to do?  One tactic to consider using is the “There is another way” counter argument, where you first present the problems set up with by the preferred management approach, then suggest circumventing tactics that would – in the end – achieve the same result (management’s goal).  Perhaps you could even save money in the process, but more importantly, you would be offering a way to gain success (their idea) with less downside (problems).

It’s Already In The Budget

This is another lame excuse that’s a close cousin to the first one.  The difference, I suppose is that having the money is anticipatory, while if the money is already budgeted, well then, we’re good to go.  The train has already left the station.

It’s as if to say, “No worries.  We have this covered.”  Again, this sort of response focuses solely on the availability of funds, not whether the idea itself – the reason for spending the money – is a good one.

Our response to this idiot cousin idea should also be similar to your earlier approach, that is, being careful not to overly criticize some senior manager’s pet idea or biased preference.  There’s no need to point out the obvious flaw in their logic.  Instead, you’ll need to be persuasive, not argumentative.  You’ll need to project a concern that the organization succeeds, to acknowledge the valuable contributions of the (suspect) planned approach, then offer a creative alternative that still gets them where they want to go.

Dealing with the lame excuses and poor logic offered by those supposed to be leading the organization is a competency in itself.  Not everyone can pull it off.  You’ll need such skills to succeed where you want to manage, to direct, to lead.  You won’t need it if your plan is to administer.

 Chuck Csizmar CCP is founder and Principal of CMC Compensation Group, providing global compensation consulting services to a wide variety of industries and non-profit organizations.  He is also associated with several HR Consulting firms as a contributing consultant.  Chuck is a broad based subject matter expert with a specialty in international and expatriate compensation.  He lives in Central Florida (near The Mouse) and enjoys growing fruit and managing (?) a clowder of cats.

Creative Commons image, “Mistakes,” by Orange_Beard

This post originally appeared on Compensation Cafe
Author: Chuck Csizmar