manager and employee align prioritiesMost of us have faced the situation at one time or another. As an employee of an organization, we set our priorities based on job responsibilities and how we feel we can best contribute to the organization. But, there are times that once we’ve set our own priorities, we’ve realized that they are not aligned with those of our boss creating a sticky situation and leaving us with a hard decision.

In a situation where our priorities as an employee differ from the priorities set by our boss, what should we do?

We usually look at this situation with a focus on one of two options:

  1. We can do what the boss wants. This decision will keep us in good graces with our boss, but ultimately, we will probably become frustrated because we don’t full-heartedly believe in what we are doing.
  1. Go with our own priorities and do what we believe in and that in which we have passion. If we take this route, there is a good chance that we will still get frustrated, but this time it will be because we are not rewarded nor viewed as team player.

To gain some insight on how to effectively approach this situation and come to a better conclusion than getting frustrated, I reached out to Jacob Morgan, principal and co-founder of Chess Media Group, a management consulting and strategic advisory firm on the future of work and collaboration and author of The Future of Work: Attract New Talent, Build Better Leaders, and Create a Competitive Organization.

Morgan, an expert when it comes to workplace communication, looked at the dilemma from the employee angle and pointed out that, “The big challenge for many employees is to actually recognize that priorities are not aligned.” He mentioned that realizing this is key and once the employee understands the reality of the situation, the next step is to approach the discussion in a face-to-face engagement, or at least, pick up the phone and make a call with the goal of understanding the root of the misalignment.

Morgan points out that, “Perhaps the manager didn’t share all of the information with the employee? Maybe the employee missed a crucial piece of information that he or she was supposed to receive? Still, maybe the information was interpreted in a different way. There are all sorts of reasons for a misalignment.”

So, instead of turning to the solutions of going against your intuition or against your boss, Morgan outlined a few simple things, which he believes can help mitigate the situation.

  1. From the employee side, he/she must speak up. Employees need to clarify their understanding to make sure it aligns with what the manager was thinking. If the employee has any apprehension or question from the beginning, this will only grow if the scope is left without clarification.
  1. Focus on collaboration and potentially deploy the use of a collaboration platform to ensure two-way, clear communication. This strategy creates a central and easy-to-use and access location for all information, conversations, discussions, and details around a particular project – a clear and important part of alignment.
  1. From a manager’s standpoint, he/she needs to ensure that he/she isn’t scared or worried about sharing information with said employee. Often, managers only share a small piece of the puzzle, which means that the employee never really understands the big picture. This leads to confusion regarding the ultimate goal and the employee might not understand how their immediate responsibilities to contribute to the big picture.

What this really boils down to is the foundation of the manager/employee relationship must be built on the principles of open communication and collaboration and when a misalignment occurs, identify it, and open that communication channel to solve it.


Thanks to Jacob Morgan for providing his thoughts and insights for this post.

Image credit: Shutterstock