How to Know When to Escalate Issues at Work


During workplace interactions, there are many people whom you’ll be sending emails to. A common behavior is to carbon copy (CC) the people who are stakeholders in whatever the subject of the email you’re sending is. This behavior is fine when the emails do not contain issues or to do lists. However, when you discover issues with the work which someone else is responsible for, the fewer people you CC on the email the better.


Give Others a Chance to Fix Issues, Let Them Save Face

People do not like being corrected. Especially through written electronic means – the inclusion of management, supervisors, and other higher-ups in the emails intended for solving issues is not recommended. You should try your best to work out the issues you are having only with the people who have direct control over those issues. When you CC managers without letting the your recipient solve the issues at hand first, you are making them feel inadequate in their managers eyes. Even though your issue may be solved marginally quicker when you CC managers in your email, your reputation will be ruined with the recipient.

The recipient of your emails should feel comfortable receiving your emails without there being a chance that their managers will find out about the smallest issues at hand. Always opt for the option to let your recipients save face.


Interacting with Higher Ups When the Issues Are Being Solved

Even if issues in their nature directly impact the work that you need to do, give their owners a chance to fix those issues without escalating up to higher powers. We often escalate issues because there are dependencies on our work being done, thereby forcing us to rush people whose work we depend on. Try to refrain, as best you could, from doing that. Explain to whoever needs to know the situation at hand, let them know that the delays are being mitigated as quickly as possible.

Keep things vague when the issues are actively being fixed, and comfort higher ups who have received word regarding the issues at hand. If the issues at hand are on their way to being fixed, there is no reason for you to be actively bringing the particulars of who is at fault to higher managementIf you are explicitly asked for information on how these issues occurred, then you may have no choice. However, always err on the side of protecting those who’ve made honest mistakes and who are working hard to resolve the mess they’ve created. 


Only Escalate When Your Recipients Are Refusing to / Can’t Solve the Issues at Hand

Your managers are not interested in issues that were not attempted to be solved. They are likely more interested in issues which cannot be solved using the powers that you and your colleagues possess. When you escalate your issues, you will have an email trail to rely on, and the timeliness of your escalation will be more appropriate than if you were to escalate these issues prematurely upon discovery.

Give your recipients as many chances to solve their issues as possible. Let them know about timelines, and always be on their side. Your ability to work as part of a team relies on you letting others save face when issues come up, which is a favor that will inevitably be returned by them. When you generate camaraderie and a sense of protection from management among your team members, they will be more willing to go the extra mile for you when the time comes.

Book Recommendation: 

Writing That Works; How to Communicate Effectively In Business


Disclaimer of Opinion:
This article is presented only as opinion. It does not make any scientific, factual, or legal claims in any way.