How Do I Approach Executives Without My Boss Getting Mad?

Q: How do you approach executives without looking insubordinate to your immediate manager? My boss takes credit for work other people on the team do, or doesn’t pass along our ideas. How do we get recognized for our ideas and the work we’re doing without looking like we’re going behind his back?

Sooner or later, you’re bound to come across a boss like this. Unfortunately, the reality is that some managers will take credit for other people’s work and not pass along their ideas. However, there are some strategies you can implement to lessen the negative impact.

Assume the CEO position when it comes to your career.

While it makes good sense to not go out of the way to upset the boss, at the end of the day, this is your career and your livelihood. You have a responsibility to be the best you can be. So if this means your boss ends up feeling uncomfortable that you’re developing relationships with senior management, so be it.

Stop asking permission.

Is the fear of upsetting your manager and being labeled insubordinate worth it to play small, thereby limiting your own success? As the CEO of your career, ask yourself if you want to work for a boss like this over the long-term. You may have to be prepared to change teams or even companies. In the short term though, if you have a good idea and you believe it will add value to your company, then I’d encourage you to take the risk of potentially upsetting your boss and go directly to senior management. You never know: you could get a promotion and end up being your boss’s boss.

Developing senior relationships is a MUST for long-term career success.

The old saying of “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” definitely applies to your career. It’s not a savvy career strategy to rely on one person to do all your career promotion. Even if your boss was passing along your good ideas, what if he/she leaves the company? It seems no job is for life these days; people move around all the time. So it’s up to you to build goodwill in the company and with other individuals. The people who I’ve known to be good at fast-tracking their career have always made it a point of developing relationships with senior management. I don’t consider it being insubordinate in building relationships directly with executives at your company—I consider it career savvy.

Does your company have a Mentor program?

Speak to Human Resources to inquire if your company has a Mentor program. If they don’t, then suggest they start one. There are many studies that highlight the benefits for an individuals’ career growth as well as the growth of the company. Read Sheryl Sandberg’s recent book, titled “Lean In”. She writes, “Mentorship and sponsorship are crucial for career progression. Both men and women with sponsors are more likely to ask for stretch assignments and pay raises than their peers of the same gender without sponsors.”

Send group emails with timely updates and include good news.

In my previous post, “Ask Julie-Ann: Negotiating a Raise Above Your Typical Cost-of-Living Bump”, I advocate for self-promotion. Be the expert; show management and colleagues that you’re the go-to person. It’s not only helpful to send newsworthy emails with important updates and achievement of targets, but it shows you’re proactive and committed. Include your boss and, in this case, definitely include your boss’s boss, other divisional managers as well as colleagues in the email chain. This approach helps tremendously with your visibility in the firm. It also helps to make your boss look good that he/she has a competent team and lets management know you’re good at what you do, given your boss has a habit of taking the credit.

[Editor’s Note: Have a question YOU would like to ask Julie-Ann? Email your questions to or tweet us @iwantherjob using #AskJulieAnn.]