The Self-Help Desk: You didn’t reply to my messages!

Self-Help Desk asks the experts to give advice on soft-skills, office politics and dealing with work-related stress.

I’m coordinating an IT project that requires the involvement of a senior executive. This executive is routinely impossible to get a hold of — he doesn’t return

calls or e-mail and I usually have to corner him in a hallway to get him to agree to a meeting. Then he always shows up late and has to be “”brought up to speed.”” This person is obviously not interested in this project but he is senior to me and I’m worried about “”making waves”” by going over his head and complaining. What should I do?

In this case I would want to ask the senior executive what’s important for him when he thinks of this project. Convey to the senior executive what your expectations are of him, whether it is attending the meeting to make a final decision, approve the budget or the final product. And ask him what he expects from you in this project, so it is clear to both of you. The executive may only want to be involved in the bottom line and has the confidence in you to complete the project successfully and is confused as to why you are calling and e-mailing him about the details of the project. If it is important that the executive be drawn into the project then inquire what would be a convenient time for him to attend the meetings or be briefed on the development of the project.

Perhaps he wants to have the information provided in writing prior to the meeting — you may also want to provide him with a specific time that it is vital for him to attend the meeting and its expected duration. I might suggest giving him a specific time, say 20 minutes and then he could leave, either at the beginning or the end of the meeting.

By sharing your expectations, roles and responsibilities up front with each other you will have a better understanding of what is expected of you. If not, then the executive may just leave you alone to do your job and will not be aware that they are causing you this problem.

It’s the lack of open communication which many times leaves us feeling that we are making waves when actually the waters are calm from the other person’s perspective.

Monika B. Jensen is a principal of the Aviary Group, specializing in conflict management, alternate dispute resolutions, diversity, change management, harassment prevention, and investigations. Send questions or problems to

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