Communication With Management: Taming the Beast

By Shawn Bailey
Turf Management Student, Olds College

Being able to effectively communicate in a workplace increases efficiency, productivity and professional relationships. The ability to get a constructive discussion started without stepping on toes can be very difficult as a lower level management type. I intend to shed light on a particular communication strategy that has helped me keep my feet in the safe zone. 

Communication with Upper Management

From my own extensive experience, communicating ideas to those who make the decisions, and have been making these for many years, is a tight dance floor. As a newly schooled young professional, my fellow classmates and I can attest to the fact that we come out with some of the newest and greatest ideas along with truly tried and tested management strategies. 

These newly acquired tactics, along with influencing factors like the courses found on the professional golf tours, help stoke our passion for our chosen industry. We arrive at our golf courses where management has been running the show for many years, and for the most part with great success, even with cost cuts raining down from above.

I believe that having new young professionals coming into the management team is not only a benefit to the management team, but an indication that management is willing to have conversations to help guide the future of the industry. These young professionals can be volatile, due to their passion and eagerness, which adds to the potential for some spectacular reactions. This will more than likely happen when the mentee starts to question established management strategies. Hopefully, this article may help focusing some of these potential reactions. I know that with my own passion and drive, I have had to find a way to communicate without hurting my professional relationships. 

Redirect Frustrations 

So during the morning meeting, or sometime during the day, you are asked to do a task that seems to go against everything you know and believe. Firstly, ask questions and try to figure out why you may not have understood the directive. Next go out and do that task. Don’t go out and do your own thing, it spells disaster for you and your job. I had a friend who didn’t agree with the fungicide rates, changed the rate and applied the fungicide, he was then applying for a job the next day.   

I believe that if you make it through the day and all the way home and your still jazzed about a decision, then we have something to talk about. Use these fired up emotions to fuel research and not a heated debate that goes nowhere. 

Collect and organize findings 

Emotions are powerful and can help guide or hide the right path.  Jump onto that emotional trip and let it take you into the depths of the internet. There you will be able to find articles and studies to either stoke your fire, or cool your jets. Either way, knowledge is power, so empower yourself. Once you’ve found validated articles and/or studies supporting your thoughts, put them into a document that is simple and coherent to read. If you’re still emotionally jacked, putting together a document will be quick and easy. The words will seamlessly flow onto a page and before your know it, your argument is now backed with solid evidence. 

You don’t need to make it a thesis paper, just something that has continuity and maybe some pictures, tables, and preferably hyperlinks to the articles to allow for quick access. Before you email the document, check the spelling, grammar and tone, this will ensure you’re not attacking, but informing. 

Let it Stew

Okay, so you sent in the email. In the morning ask if your boss has received the email and let them know that you would like to discuss the content when it is the most opportune. This is the part where you have to wait and let the information steep, allowing your superior to re-adjust, and take-in not only the information, but the professionalism that you just displayed by presenting your thoughts in a coherent manner.  

This part can be difficult. You have just spent time and effort building a document, an argument that you can flash burn anybody who questions you. Be still, when both parties are ready, move to the next step in the process: The Discussion. 

The Discussion 

This is where all your work comes together. Both parties have now recognized that there needs to be a discussion. You must remain respectful, you are talking to your boss. Although you have all the answers and the data to back you up, in the end any decision is theirs.  Take this opportunity to find out why. What is motivating them and their decisions?

If you have any predictions for the consequences of the discussed decision, write them down in a notebook and keep track, take pictures. Maybe your fears will be proven wrong, or even better, proven right. Either one should lead to more discussions and more questions. You may gather the evidence to back up your ideas when this particular decision will be made again. 

Pros and Cons of This Method

Look and sound professional
Sound coherent
Everybody has a chance to collect their thoughts 
Learning new ideas and processes for both parties
Self discipline
Ensures you still have a job

Takes time
Things don’t change right away
Some things never change
You may be asked to put together more “reports” which kinda turns into a good thing, if your thinking about job protection. 


We all work for somebody, whether its the General Manager, Club Membership, Private Owner, or Superintendent. The strategy described above may be a solid way to communicate with your superiors. Obviously tailoring the content for the viewer goes without mentioning. 

The strategy described above has been developed by adapting the way I’ve been presenting assignments to my teachers and mentors. I found that as I created and wrote these assignments, I was creating structure in my mind while empowering myself with information. This allowed me to coherently discuss my ideas in a manner that allowed for productive conversations. Trust me, I’ve tried it the other way, all too often, parties on both sides of the discussion felt like things could have gone better. 

In the end, we are all just trying to do our best. One day you will have the chance to take the reigns but until then, keep it on the short grass. 

About Myself 

My name is Shawn Bailey, currently I’m finalizing my second year of studies at Olds College in their Diploma of Turfgrass Management. On top of the schooling I have accumulated over 15 seasons of golf course maintenance from many different regions of Canada. In Quebec, I worked for the superintendent (my dad) on a private 27 hole golf course.

I then found fairer ways to the west which brought me to the beautiful Thompson-Nicola region in British-Columbia where I was employed at Tobiano golf course. Tobiano a top notch course with a great reputation and many accolades awarded for their playing conditions and services provided. This was an eye opening experience and really helped my decision of going to school. After 2 seasons at Tobiano, I started my schooling. 

For my first required internship, I moved to Vancouver and worked closely with the management team Capilano Golf and Country Club. This was a unique experience where I was able to see the inner workings of a private premier golf course, and how they maintain their status and prestige. After an enlightening season at Cap, I returned to school for another year. 

For my second required internship,I returned to Tobiano. After having been in school returning to Tobiano was a whole new experience.  I must say a big thank you to Paul Mcdonald and Ryan Sauser for all the help, mentorship and great discussions.

 If anybody wishes to get intouch with me with questions or comments, you can email me at