How should you react when management has its head in the sand?

There are few things more irritating than a senior management team that wilfully ignores sensible advice writes our anonymous blogger. 

A few years back I had a constant battle with keeping my temper at work. I was suffering from a building rage that came from fighting a steady battle over a number of years but finding my efforts constantly dismissed or thwarted.

Ours was a small company with less than 10 members of senior staff and by this stage it was a company and team that I’d been a part of for a few years. The process had started on my arrival there, immediately I had identified a number of serious failings and risks, and brought them to the attention of anyone who would listen. However, there was a complete lack of interest from the top all the way down. You will have to take my word for it that I am talking about extremely basic matters, and that if I was only 20% correct in my assessment then that was still an awful lot of the company that was worryingly sub-optimal.


Then a combination of steady erosion of performance and a few temporary loadings towards those areas of risk resulted in quite a sustained problem. Yet not only were my views still rejected but the same old tactics of inefficient fire fighting and knee jerk reaction were deployed once more.

This resulted in us generally muddling through day to day but did very little to claw back the situation – and what it did achieve was attained in the least efficient way possible. Approximately 50% of the senior team agreed with me (or I with them if you prefer) regarding where the problems lay and the obvious ways to tackle them. Unfortunately the problems were also led from the top along with the other 50% of the senior team through their inadequacy or inefficiency.

I tried everything to change things for the better. Private informal chats, encouragement, explaining how good working practises could mitigate against risk – blazing rows even. Sadly nothing could either sway the CEO from his suicidal course or those who were failing us all from maintaining their woeful performance. To be able to see such problems, and to have what you know to be sound advice coupled with appropriate skills to help resolutely ignored is an infuriating experience.

The obvious solutions are “leave” or indeed “put up with it and take the money.” These bring their own problems though and it’s because of the dreaded “P word” – professionalism.

With the company in such a parlous state I knew that the loss of a senior member of staff might be enough to tip it over the edge. Of course no-one is indispensable but this could have been the final problem that would sink the whole enterprise. Probably not too horrendous for the members of the senior team who could either retire or move into positions in other companies, but possibly critical for the workforce on the shop floor. A mixture of skilled and semi-skilled, mainly on the minimum wage, few transferable skills and probably without savings to keep them going while they found somewhere else.

Equally it was difficult to carry on as a complicit drone while those who should have been central to rescuing the company from its predicament continued to swing the lead and cause further problems whilst bleating on about how terrible it all was.

I’m not sure if how it all ended was the best that could be hoped for given the circumstance (nothing radical or shocking but something that must remain shrouded in mystery to prevent my accidental unmasking) but for my part I did the best I could at the time. Not for the shareholders perhaps, nor the rest of the senior team or even possibly the customers (although by default I should imagine it was); but rather for those whose direct livelihood was most vulnerable.

Altruistic or selfish, shareholder or customer – just how does one determine where professional loyalties should lie and therefore how exactly such problems are dealt with?