How to Handle an Executive Informal Chat
I am writing this blog to those who work on the frontline but every once in a while find themselves in a conversation with an executive. Maybe you happened to be in an elevator at the same time or maybe they are an executive that likes to walk the floor to get a sense of how things are going…. the important thing to keep in mind is that this isn’t necessarily a planned meeting for either of you.
- Do not place too much emphasis that an executive is talking to you. The fact an executive is talking to you doesn’t mean dire consequences or preferential treatment. It’s very likely they are a) showing an interest in employees, b) trying to get direct employee feedback to compare it to information reported to them, and/or c) they are just a generally social person that likes to chat.
- Remember that they are level(s) removed from front line action, so their information can be incomplete or possibly out of date. Don’t assume that if an executive makes a comment on something that it's pure fact or an intent to change priorities. The situation may very well have changed since the executive was updated. Verify with your manager before taking any action or repeating the conversation to others as fact.
- Remember that just because they have risen to an executive position doesn’t mean they have outgrown the same human nature as any other employee. They still have a desire to share what they know and give advice, they still can accidentally share information inappropriately, and they can forget or confuse details.
- The latter being said, don’t forget even though they are a fellow employee, they are still an executive in a company. The good news is that you have an opportunity to give constructive criticism that can positively affect the company. The bad news is that anything negative you say, the executive will feel honor bound to investigate which will turn into investigations by their subordinates often with detailed reports. This can lead to a lot of extra work so think about whether the issue would be better handled at a lower level.