My CEO is acting strangely and I'm worried the business is heading for trouble. What should I do?

Your CEO is in need of help - have a quiet word with your chairman, says Jeremy Bullmore.

by Jeremy Bullmore
Last Updated: 24 Sep 2015

Q: Our CEO is behaving very oddly. He has become distant and evasive, and increasingly unwilling to share whatever it is that's clearly on his mind - even with fellow directors. Meanwhile the numbers are down and I am worried that the business is heading into trouble. I'm a senior manager, not on the board - what, if anything, should I do?

Jeremy says: The chances must be that the CEO's fellow directors are at least as aware of his disturbing behaviour as you are. I suspect that his change of manner has developed slowly over a period of months, which makes coming to terms with a tricky problem even more difficult. There's always the hope that he's just going through a bad patch and things will simply right themselves. When faced with the prospect of having to make a painful decision, people are to be forgiven for procrastinating. As a senior manager, you can't, of course, demand any action; but you do have a responsibility to report any unease that you and your teams may have about anything that seems to be affecting the efficient running of the business.

So I suggest you ask for a private conversation with your chairman, if you have one, or a non-executive director; and then say little more than you've said to me. Keep it very short and make it absolutely clear that you don't expect a response.

You may think this an act of disloyalty towards your CEO. It's not. Letting things continue to deteriorate is in nobody's interest - and certainly not in your CEO's. He's in need of help.

Jeremy Bullmore is a former creative director and chairman of J Walter Thompson London. Email him your problems at editorial@managementtoday.com. Regrettably, no correspondence can be entered into.

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