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My boss is a constant pain in the neck. His style is to look over my shoulder to follow-up on my work assignments. Even after office hours, he calls me to inquire about the status of my projects and other routines. How do I correct his evil ways? – Pestered to Death.
This one is not exactly from Aesop’s fables. But read on anyway. Two turtles are camping. After four days of hiking, they realize they’ve left behind a bottle opener for their beer. The first turns to the second and says, “You’ve to go back or else we’ll not enjoy the beer.”
“No way,” says the second turtle. “By the time I get back you’ll have eaten all the food.”
The first turtle replies – “I promise, I won’t, OK? Just hurry up.”
Nine full days pass and there’s still no sign of the second turtle, so the first finally cracks and digs into a sandwich. Suddenly the second turtle pops out from behind a big rock and yells:
“I knew it! I’m definitely not going now!”
Like the first turtle, you may have the misfortune to have a boss with a micro-managing style who appears not to trust you with anything, if not annoy you in some ways. No matter how careful you are in accepting directions, still there are few bosses who may not be satisfied that you got it all correct unless they see that satisfactory progress is being made every minute of the day.
Management is about making things happen through other people. And that includes you. If you cannot understand why your boss is closely guarding you 24/7, then you have to be brave, but diplomatically bold enough to find out why. There’s no other way, but for you to discuss such problem with him.
Otherwise, no amount of good advice can tell you what to do.
Jo Owen, in his book “50 New Rules for Managers” (2011) says managers cannot understand their own style until they understand how it affects other people. Or is it true that people with body odor don’t know a hint about their problem? Talk of blindness by proximity.
Owen says: “There is no right or wrong: there is only what works and what does not…you have to find a way of adapting to their style of working, if you are to make progress.”
Does this mean that you’ve to suffer in silence? Not necessarily. I don’t mean to interpret Owen’s prescription as “surrender.” As I said earlier, you’ve to discuss this issue with the boss to tell him how he could save the time and effort in making follow-ups.
Sometimes, we take this as an issue of trust or competence. Maybe, but that’s precisely the point. We don’t have to take a guess. It’s easy to know if you’re part of the problem.
Whatever is your negative attitude, don’t give up, at least not yet prior to having a heart-to-heart with your boss. Give him a clean slate. Besides, you must also understand that for the boss, neglecting you completely can cause trouble. Therefore, both the task and the timing of follow-up must be considered to determine how much or how little follow-up is needed.
When you discuss this issue with your boss, get behind the wheel by exploring the following suggestions:
- Have a mutually agreeable timetable and work standards. If you’re clear about it, chances are the boss will not make a premature follow-up. But one important thing – don’t delay or submit a project way past its deadline. If possible, complete your work way ahead of the schedule with the right quantity and quality.
- Separate the tasks according to their degree of difficulty or urgency. Accept the fact that difficult and challenging jobs must receive greater scrutiny and constant follow-ups, while a relatively minor assignment may take a back seat. In the case of difficult tasks, be proactive in giving updates to your boss, instead of the other way around.
- Ask for an immediate help at the first sign of trouble. Offer to explore the problem with the boss if you encounter bottlenecks or lack of cooperation from other workers or departments. When it’s feasible to do, try to share the work with others, subject only to management approval.
- Be supportive of your boss, regardless of his toxic work style. Don’t be openly critical. Be silent about your problem with other people in the organization. Otherwise, your attitude and body language will betray you sooner than you can imagine. If that happens, you can be dead meat right away.
CHALLENGED? This article is for non-management people who can’t raise an issue directly against his/her boss for fear of reprisal or insecurity. If you’re part of management who has an opposing or supporting view, then send us your position by citing your own experience or any published material by a management expert to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Rey Elbo for his random management thoughts on Facebook and Twitter.
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