Improve Employee Buy In With a Little "Token Say"

As much as you strive (or should strive) to seek out feedback and include members of your team in the decision making process, at some point you’re likely going to be tasked with instituting programs, goals, or policies they’re probably not going to agree with (ahhh the challenges of being a manager). And when that happens, you basically have two options—roll it out without asking for input or ask for input even though it won’t really have any bearing on your ultimate decision (this usually happens when you’ve been given a mandate by your boss). In the end, both options will arrive at the same outcome, but one will help you secure more buy in from your staff and while at the same time going a long way in maintaining employee morale.

When you roll something out, especially when it’s going to directly impact those on your team, and you don’t give them the heads up, it’s a lot like throwing a grenade and then waiting for the collateral damage. Over the years, I’ve seen this happen more than a few times. Decisions were made without consulting the leaders and managers who would be the most affected by them…managers who were rock stars in their field and who had spent years helping to build the organization.

The other alternative is to give employees a say, even if it’s a token one at that. If you’re going to set goals for an operating unit, especially if they’re audacious goals (and who isn’t a fan of those?), schedule a meeting with the team, explain the purpose of the goals and what you’re hoping to accomplish by instituting them, ask for feedback, and then make a decision. Even if you think you’re going to have to institute changes irrespective of the feedback from the group, there’s a pretty good chance something will come up during the discussion that could make the roll out more effective. For example, they might have information on a particular measure that would change the way you’d want to capture information. If you don’t ask, you could be chasing the wrong metrics. And that will cause a backlash.

Instead of just blindsiding your team with an email on a new mandate without giving them any advanced warning, consider letting them a token say even if the mandate is pretty much a foregone conclusion.

Shawn Graham is Director of MBA Career Services at the University of Pittsburgh and author of Courting Your Career: Match Yourself with the Perfect Job (

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