Work Hacks Wednesday: Never break rank

In the first month of my first internship, I complained about my boss to my boss’ boss via SMS. Ah! To be 17 again.. :-)

I was schooled the next day on a very basic principle – never break rank. I believe the origins of this come from the army (I am hoping JLM stops by today to give us a lesson this). The concept is simple – always keep the chain of command. There is no such thing as a flat hierarchy. It’s either flat or it’s a hierarchy. And, great teams are built on a hierarchy and chain of command. One point of control is essential. If the point of control is not explicit, you can be sure it’s implicit.

This rule reinforces the importance of finding great bosses. It takes a combination of luck, skill, and intent to find them. But, boy, are they worth it.

There are instances when breaking rank has worked but these are rare. You do so at great risk to your reputation. You are typically better off working to switch teams or companies rather than risking your reputation. But, then again, you know your situation best..

So, what’s a far better way to solve an issue with a boss? Schedule 30’ in their calendar and have a frank conversation with them. It will take a lot more courage, will avoid all the politics, and, best of all, it will be the right thing to do.

(And, if it isn’t the right thing to do, it might just be life’s way of asking you to move on…)