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My boss gave me a task list

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  • #16
    Thanks all, very good advice here. Sorry I've not replied earlier, but I was too upset even to read the forums! I started working with my boss Feb 2008, and realised 6 months later I couldn't work well with him and started actively looking for more work. Another 18 months later I gave up and then started looking around for ways to make my work situation better, and hence found GTD. The task list is only the list of high priority work, we are supposed to specialise in two areas of expertise, his way of reducing my workload was to reduce the focus on one of them. I have known other people I have worked with previously come into my company and leave because of the huge workload that seems to be expected on a regular basis.

    Part of the problem seems to stem from me not working long hours to get it done. I have co-workers doing 50-60 hours a week, and I find it really hard to do that because of my family responsibilities, I can do do 45, occasionally get close to 50 but not often. My boss is often working weekends at the moment, and I think he's frustrated because I'm not. Oh, and none of that overtime is paid, we're all on government salaries.

    He is a perfectionist, that is well known by many people. For example, a tour was planned to take some other government people around our plant. Initially it was just going to be a guy from another group driving them around talking about features of the plant. My boss got me to organise meeting with him, insisted an agenda be done, a map made up of the tour route, a pack for each person with several reports and information etc. Everything he does has to be bigger and better and more impressive. He will insist on refining the wording of everything I write - literally sits next to me at the computer and discusses wording of the sentences (he does this to many others too). When other people write up two pages for an expenditure approvals, we have to write ten. It just means that things take 5 times longer than they would working for any other person, and because I can't put in the hours he would like, I just fall behind.
    Ask him about priorities, its all a priority. Not has to do now, but all should have been done months ago. He likes to be ahead of the game by years, but doesn't like to help or mentor. I ask him if I need to make an official file for the task he's just given me, he gets flustered and jabbers on for half an hour because he can't handle answering detailed questions like that. He likes to give out work but not help with doing any of it.

    I think I have improved a lot since starting GTD, I'm also a lot more confident, however the workload has increased faster than my GTDing skills. I have not been keen to change jobs as my husband has injured his back at work and is awaiting surgery, so I'm wanting work to be stable as things are unsettled at home at the moment. Also, this job is really flexible and allows working from home and more locally. The rest of the people in my team are highly supportive and really great to work with, so I have one difficult person and 3 fantastic people, and then many other good people I work with in other teams. Seems a shame to leave because of one person.
    Am wondering if there is a way that I can learn to work with him in spite of his difficulties.

    Comment


    • #17
      Working with him

      Suelin,
      We're all very glad to hear from you again and it sounds as if some of the emotion has peeled off and you're in problem solving mode. I hope you'll carefully read every response--there is gold there for you!

      Enyo mentioned something particularly important--you don't have problems, you have projects. I had a major health issue a few years ago and I was PARALYZED with fear over it. When Meg Edwards said those words--no problems, just projects--it flipped a switch for me and I was able to calmly lay out a project to tackle it.

      None of us are in your exact situation and our advice will only go so far, of course. Here in the U.S., for instance, employees in positions like yours (exempt employees we are called) are expected to work until the work is done and are not paid for hours worked beyond the normal 40. MANY people here routinely work well over 40 hours per week, right or wrong, because that's the expectation of the corporate culture and jobs are scarce. Not every company is like that, of course, but it's more common than most people think.

      So it sounds as if two things may need to happen: You're going to need to work both smarter and more hours in order to keep your job.

      If I were in your position and losing my job would be a crisis for my family, I think I would consider:
      • Delegating as many personal things as I possibly could so i could focus on work
      • Get GTD telecoaching right away--there are bound to be some improvement opportunities you aren't seeing
      • Enlist the help of any co-workers you trust--get feedback!
      • Figure out how to make your boss happy--you aren't going to change him!

      You also probably need to own some of this internally. In all of your posts over the past year or so, it does seem as if your boss is completely at fault. But other people are succeeding with him. How are they doing it? Can you seek them out and ask? It just is not possible to change someone else...the only person you can change is yourself.

      Tough words, I know, but they come from a place of genuine care and concern for your well-being...please know that.

      Comment


      • #18
        Don't work for him - work for your organization.

        Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
        I started working with my boss Feb 2008, and realised 6 months later I couldn't work well with him and started actively looking for more work.
        My experience tells me that bad first impressions are self-fulfilling prophecy. So now I never ignore my negative feelings and look for "exit" solutions as soon as possible.

        Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
        Part of the problem seems to stem from me not working long hours to get it done. I have co-workers doing 50-60 hours a week, and I find it really hard to do that because of my family responsibilities, I can do do 45, occasionally get close to 50 but not often. My boss is often working weekends at the moment, and I think he's frustrated because I'm not. Oh, and none of that overtime is paid, we're all on government salaries.
        You cannot fight with the math. 50 is less than 60. And I understand your boss that he's frustrated that you cannot work when he works. There's significant mismatch between your boss's and your life priorities.

        Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
        He is a perfectionist, that is well known by many people. For example, a tour was planned to take some other government people around our plant. Initially it was just going to be a guy from another group driving them around talking about features of the plant. My boss got me to organise meeting with him, insisted an agenda be done, a map made up of the tour route, a pack for each person with several reports and information etc. Everything he does has to be bigger and better and more impressive. He will insist on refining the wording of everything I write - literally sits next to me at the computer and discusses wording of the sentences (he does this to many others too). When other people write up two pages for an expenditure approvals, we have to write ten. It just means that things take 5 times longer than they would working for any other person, and because I can't put in the hours he would like, I just fall behind.
        Steve Jobs was a perfectionst too and made many people cry.

        Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
        Ask him about priorities, its all a priority. Not has to do now, but all should have been done months ago. He likes to be ahead of the game by years, but doesn't like to help or mentor. I ask him if I need to make an official file for the task he's just given me, he gets flustered and jabbers on for half an hour because he can't handle answering detailed questions like that. He likes to give out work but not help with doing any of it.
        Some people have difficulty in prioritizing the list of tasks but can easily determine if task A is more urgent/important than task B. So don't ask him about priorities but about relative priorities of particular task (or task category) pairs.

        Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
        I think I have improved a lot since starting GTD, I'm also a lot more confident, however the workload has increased faster than my GTDing skills. I have not been keen to change jobs as my husband has injured his back at work and is awaiting surgery, so I'm wanting work to be stable as things are unsettled at home at the moment. Also, this job is really flexible and allows working from home and more locally. The rest of the people in my team are highly supportive and really great to work with, so I have one difficult person and 3 fantastic people, and then many other good people I work with in other teams. Seems a shame to leave because of one person.
        We have a saying in Polish that one spoon of tar spoils the whole barrel of honey.

        Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
        Am wondering if there is a way that I can learn to work with him in spite of his difficulties.
        YES. Do your best and treat his attitude in the same way as you treat a rain. Inform him about your progress in doing the tasks from the list and don't expect any positive feedback. Don't work for him - work for your organization and to earn money needed for your family.

        Comment


        • #19
          In Europe...

          Originally posted by Barb View Post
          None of us are in your exact situation and our advice will only go so far, of course. Here in the U.S., for instance, employees in positions like yours (exempt employees we are called) are expected to work until the work is done and are not paid for hours worked beyond the normal 40. MANY people here routinely work well over 40 hours per week, right or wrong, because that's the expectation of the corporate culture and jobs are scarce. Not every company is like that, of course, but it's more common than most people think.
          In Europe (at least in most of the countries) government employees enjoy 40-hour (or less) workweek and are paid for any additional work. Maybe all European countries go bankrupt but after happy, stress-free and early-retirement time.

          Comment


          • #20
            I believe there's a silver lining here....

            Hi Suelin, Glad to read your post this morning.

            And I'm so glad for you that you've got such great advice in this thread and that in particular Barb has responded. ... It's not often you get free advice from a GTD'ing HR consultant! Only on GTD Connect

            I just wanted to add that you've said something very key and that is that your boss is a perfectionist. And from your last post he sounds like he's an olympic-class perfectionist. As a recovering perfectionist myself , I would encourage you to also look at his perspective a little more as it would help to understand what he's doing. As much as you're suffering from work headaches and task-list-itis ... he's possibly suffering the same, if not more! Perhaps he's frustrated that he's got more to do than he + his team can do. And perhaps he's thinking if his team could put in as much time as he's putting in, or be as much as of a perfectionist as he is, then maybe the team could keep up with everything that needs to be done. Even if he's the one creating the work! If this is the case, then he's probably just as frustrated as you are!

            If this is your boss, then you are SO lucky you have GTD! The first thing to realise is that you CANNOT change your boss - you just have to learn to work with him. And getting good at GTD has certainly helped me (for instance) deal with environments where you feel the fire hose has been turned on you. I absolutely agree with Barb that the best investment you can make in this regard, is getting some one-on-one DAC coaching.

            You also need to be very clear about what your commitments at work are. And this means, at some point, negotiating (or renegotiating) those commitments with your boss. Your work hours commitment for instance is one. If he's given you task lists fit for 60-hour weeks and you're only able/willing to do 45 hours, then of course there will always be tension. You need some clear tactics on how to renegotiate this commitment. And sounds to me with your personal situation, you've got to do this renegotiation beyond your task list - you need to climb up your horizons of focus at least to your areas of focus/responsibility and possibly your 30k or higher. Maybe this sounds like gibberish but I am sure one-on-one coaching will assist.

            I do think dealing with this work situation has a silver lining somewhere. I certainly do not know enough about your situation to guess intelligently what this is. Perhaps it's getting to black belt GTD, or perhaps it's being able to join in the credit of a well-respected organisation, ... or perhaps there are multiple takeaways. I think you are the only one who would know what the silver lining is. But, I do think there will be at least one.

            Best wishes!

            Comment


            • #21
              I don't think you necessarily have to assume your boss is trying to fire you. It's good to take precautions in case, as others have suggested. However, he may just be trying to get you to work harder, or trying to prove you're not better than him or something.

              When he looks over your shoulder when you're typing, you might try stopping (maybe closing the document) turning to him and saying "Did you want to talk to me about something?" or if he asks you to type so he can watch, you might keep saying "I'll email it to you in half an hour." or maybe even "Actually, it makes me nervous when someone watches while I type. I'll email it to you in half an hour."

              Cathy

              Comment


              • #22
                Originally posted by Suelin23 View Post
                Thanks all, very good advice here. Sorry I've not replied earlier, but I was too upset even to read the forums! I started working with my boss Feb 2008, and realised 6 months later I couldn't work well with him and started actively looking for more work. Another 18 months later I gave up and then started looking around for ways to make my work situation better, and hence found GTD. The task list is only the list of high priority work, we are supposed to specialise in two areas of expertise, his way of reducing my workload was to reduce the focus on one of them. I have known other people I have worked with previously come into my company and leave because of the huge workload that seems to be expected on a regular basis.
                I wanted to pull this out. You started to work at this job at the very beginning of the horrible period of the 2008 economic mess. You started to look for another job, also still in that period. I don't know what came before this job on your resume, but whatever it was, it was probably offset by the relatively short amount of time you had been at your job.

                The economy is still tight, but not as bad as it was then. You may want to retool your resume with your four years at this job. You also, now, should have more contacts from this very job (remember the private contractors? you could go to work for them).

                Comment

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