Does Your Boss Waste Your Time?
I once had a boss, Gerard, who excelled at wasting our time. I was an IT manager at the time, and my peer managers and I has a weekly meeting with him. Invariably, he’d come up with work for us to do that didn’t need to be done. Once, for example, he directed us to conduct a survey of IT management about some imagined need and to write up a report for him. Gerard used to arrive at work at 5:30 every morning, and he didn’t leave before 5:00 p.m., the better to devise ways to waste our time.
Poor management practices, such as operating without clear goals or well-defined objectives, are other ways of wasting your time. Other manager-imposed time wasters include micromanaging, holding unneeded meetings, requiring unnecessary status reports, and issuing ambiguous instructions that necessitate your seeking clarification.
Although your manager has the authority to direct your activities, an unspoken part of everyone’s responsibility is to manage upward. One way to do this is to gain insight into your manager’s priorities. By doing so, you can try to help your manager achieve at least one such priority, thereby gaining the credibility that will help you redirect your manager’s attempts to waste your time.
Sometimes, the best way to manage upward is to be direct and explain to your manager what you’d like done differently. My friend Debbie is taking a subtle approach to doing this. She recently started a new position in her organization. Her manager, Sheila, actively recruited her and totally trusts her. Unfortunately, Sheila is a micromanager, and her wanting to be involved in every little thing wastes Debbie’s time.
Debbie has decided to tell Sheila that she’d like to see how well she can do working a little more independently on an upcoming project. In other words, Debbie is making her request not about something Sheila is doing wrong, but about something that will help Debbie do her job better.
As to my experience with Gerard, I noticed as soon as I started working for him that he liked to study reports in great detail. That was in my favor because writing came easily to me: From time to time, I’d write a report on one of my department’s problems or projects and send it to him. Studying the report and deciding how to respond kept him busy and distracted. Writing the report took a bit of my own time, but it was worth it to keep him out of our hair. Devious, perhaps, but it worked!