Premature Escalation?

by Levit, Alexandra Tuesday, April 24, 2012
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A few years ago, I was finishing up a project at the agency where I worked part time. My colleague and I had been working closely with another internal team on this initiative for a while and fortunately, things were going relatively smoothly.

As the vice president overseeing the project, I always tried to be responsive to the internal team’s needs, knowing that they represented the best interests of the client. My colleague and I talked to members of this team at least every other day, and sometimes multiple times in one day. They had my cell phone number. If I was not in the office, they knew where to find me.

Just after we launched the initiative, the vice president on the other internal team discovered that something was wrong. Normally, he or someone on his team would have called my colleague or me on our cell phones. Instead, he called my boss.

It was my role on projects like this to provide my boss with information on a “need to know” basis. He was unprepared for a call like this and caught off guard, and understandably reacted with a bit of panic. I was fortunate that I didn’t get in trouble, because my boss trusted me and wasn't quick to place blame just because someone expressed displeasure.

I hate corporate hierarchies as much as the next person, but it burned me that someone I’d been working with blatantly went over my head. My friend calls the phenomena “premature escalation” – referring to the fact that those who use it don’t even give the rightful people they’re working with a chance to respond appropriately.

In my opinion, you should reserve going to someone’s boss for cases in which that someone is not giving you what you need, and has been forewarned. Even then, you should be careful. Behavior like this is not going to endear you to your co-workers, so you should make sure it’s necessary and that you have no other choice.