Telling the Emperor that He's Naked...


...Without going to the gallows!

One of my favourite fables is Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes". If you haven't already read that tale, do check out this charming little cartoon below:

In many of today's organisations, employees do occasionally face a similar dilemma. The scenario goes like this:

The head honcho of the organisation is surrounded by an inner circle of "Yes" men and women. Dispensing honeyed "advice" that he or she would like to hear rather than the gritty truth, they fail to point out the obvious flaws in an organisation's strategy even though it is apparent to everybody else.

How can one break through the Chinese wall - especially when these guys are way above you in the corporate food chain?

Here are some possible strategies to consider.

First, tap onto the groundswell and build your allies. To gain access to the organisation's "Holy of Holies", one needs to rope in as many people supporting one's cause as much as possible. The voices of many can be a powerful force in pushing for change.

Second, find a way to break the news gently! Nobody - least of all the Chairman of your Board or your CEO - likes to be told that he or she is wrong in front of all and sundry. Not everybody can get away scot-free like that little boy in the classic tale above! (Of course, this also depends on the personalities of the corporate chieftains)

Third, build up your case with as much evidence as you can gather. Accumulate as much facts, figures and data from third party sources (the more objective the better) to back up your assertions. Sure, to you it may be conventional wisdom, but not everybody lives in the same space as you do.

Finally, and very importantly, cultivate long-term goodwill and gain their trust. If you want to be taken seriously when you spill the beans, be sure that you have a positive track record in the first place. Sometimes the messenger can be just as important as the message.

Telling the bad news needn't be a suicidal mission if you prepare the ground before doing that.

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