BATNA – What you do when your boss puts you in a no-win situation

I ran into an old friend/acquaintance who used to be the head of IT of this company; he had quit his job and was looking for his next gig – and so we got talking. Here was his story…..

The auditors had identified a potential gap in the company’s  IT security and had flagged it as a SOX deficiency in their statement. Of course, they also wanted to  to increase their audit scope (and fees!). To fix this issue my friend went to get approval for a project to tighten up IT security by automating certain features and processes. His supervisor however had no interest in approving the funding for this project; instead the supervisor, who had minimal IT experience, lectured him on how to run his IT organization. My friend, realized that he was in a no-win situation; so he followed the BATNA approach.

For those who do not know what BATNA is, my definition of ‘BATNA’ is, ‘Best Alternative to No Alternative’; in this case, the best alternative he had was to quit because he had no other alternative- he was in a lose-lose situation.

Note: A good friend (must be a good friend because she actually takes time to read my ramblings, aka blogs) pointed out that the wiki definition for BATNA is ‘best alternative to negotiated alternative’. I find ‘best alternative to no alternative’ to be a better fit for my use because that that is what we usually face – there is no alternative. So maybe I should go create a BATNA 2.0 definition……

We have had situations in our career at one point or the other when our supervisor puts us in a no-win situation. Your boss asks you to follow a certain strategy or take a certain approach that he or she believes in; you know that the strategy and/or approach is either not the right one, or a recipe for failure.  And yet, you have to follow your supervisor’s recommendation. You may try and persuade your supervisor against the approach, but unless you and your supervisor share a very strong and open relationship (and bond) with frequent information and idea sharing, chances are, you will have to tow the line and do as told.

So what do you do in such a situation. You look @ your BATNA, and if you do not have the option to change departments and supervisors, your only alternative is to quit. Unless your supervisor is one of those rare individuals who has your back and will stand up and take the blame if the strategy or approach fails, chances are high that you will be the fall guy anyway. And when the failure happens, you cannot use the excuse pthat you followed the guidance given to you – it seldom works. So, the earlier you recognize the situation, the sooner you can start working on on your exit strategy, which might be your only BATNA.


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