CG #35 – How to Escalate Without Offending

The distance between agreement and commitment can be vast.  Here’s how to bridge that gap.

Word Count: 735

Reading Time: under 3 minutes

“I’ve asked, I’ve explained, I’ve sent email reminders, I’ve suggested strongly.  Every agrees it should happen, but it’s not getting done.”

What do you do when you need your boss to take action, but he isn’t?  Here’s a template for getting results without giving offense.


There are good reasons for the gap between agreeing to do something and getting it done.  You aren’t interested in any of them.  You are interested in results.  Results don’t come from telling the story of why – why it should happen, why it hasn’t happened, why it’s so hard to get things done around here.   Results come from a relentless focus on movement, no matter how small.


Get clear about what you need and when you need it.  Gather evidence that supports what you are asking for.   Pick a date.  All this preparation creates clarity, and clarity creates movement.  Clarity is more powerful than job titles are.

If it’s hard for you get clear, that’s an indication you’re still stuck in the story of why.  Choose clarity instead.


This is not a job for email.  You’ve got to interact with the person who can help you in real time.  Schedule a short (10 min) phone call or face-to-face meeting.


Here’s an extended example of getting your boss to commit to open a new position for which there is no money.  Watch for the narrow open-ended questions, which I’ve put in bold type.  Notice the lack of conversational filler.

YOU:  Thank you for making the time to meet with me.  I need your help filling the assistant manager position by the end of next month.  I‘m not getting any traction on this.  What am I missing?

BOSS:  Approval for starters.  I don’t recall agreeing to fill this position.

YOU:  Great!  Let’s start there.  What would it take for you to approve this position?

BOSS:  I’d need to see sufficient volume to justify the position.  But I don’t have budget.

YOU:  Setting aside budget for now, What would convince you that there was sufficient volume?

BOSS:  Data, perhaps a chart that shows a month of volume against available staff hours.

YOU:  Would project delays be of interest?

BOSS:  What delays?

YOU:  Let’s not get distracted!  I’ll include that in the information I’m putting together for you.  So, volume against available staff time, project delays…what else would help you establish the need for this position?

BOSS:  That should do it

YOU:  I can get all that for you.  (pause.)  Assuming I can establish need to your satisfaction, what else would it take to get this position posted and filled?

BOSS:  A Job description, a hiring manager, a workspace and budget.

YOU:  We’re ¾ of the way there!  I have an approved job description, an open cubicle and I’m the hiring manager.  That leaves budget.

BOSS:  Yes.

YOU:  I have 3 out of the 4 requirements, but no authority to approve budget for this.  Who does?

BOSS:  I do, but I have no money for this.

YOU:  How are these situations usually handled?  When there is a clear business need that the budget doesn’t yet cover?

BOSS:  I ask for a budget exception.  But it won’t be approved.  There’s no money.

YOU:  That’s OK.  What do you need from me to prepare the exception?

BOSS:  The volume information.

YOU:  Is that all?

BOSS:  That’s all.

YOU:  I’m going to get you the volume information, the Job description and the date we need to have the position filled.  (pause.)

What other information would make getting the exception more likely?

BOSS:  A short description of what this position contributes to service or cost savings.

YOU:  The impact it has on the business?

BOSS:  Yes.

YOU:  Alright.  What else?

BOSS:  That should do it.

YOU:  I’ll get all this to you by Friday at noon.  Can we meet on Monday to follow up?

BOSS:  That’s fast!

YOU:  Yes.  We’ll only need 5-10 minutes.

BOSS:  I don’t know about Monday.  I’ll ask my assistant to give you my first available 10 minutes next week.

YOU:  That’s wonderful.  Thank you very much for your help.


I’m looking for the right mix of example and explanation for these CG posts.  What did you think of this one?  Please consider leaving your feedback as a comment on my blog so others can benefit.  Thanks so much!







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