Working at a small businesses presents a number of challenges. Employees are often forced to wear many hats. They must learn quickly, work on their own, and create innovative solutions to problems — all with a limited budget.
Things only become more difficult with boss who doesn’t manage his or her time well.
Deadlines get missed. Meetings go nowhere. Employees spend too much time spinning their wheels. Best case, you’re confused about what you should be working on; worst case, you’re taking personal heat from higher-ups, even though you personally shouldn’t be at fault.
So what are you supposed to do? The answer: manage your boss’s time. In secret.
No, this doesn’t mean secretly replacing your boss’s schedule with one you’ve made. Nor – importantly – does it mean that you should do your boss’s work for them. (Doing your work is enough!)
But there are plenty of things you can do to subtly nudge your boss into managing their time better.
Don’t Wait for Your Boss
Is your manager not giving you direction about what you should be working on? Here’s an idea: instead of getting annoyed as you twiddle your thumbs, just start working. Take the initiative and work on projects that align with department and company goals. During your next 1:1 or meeting with your boss, you’ll have the opportunity to share what you’ve been working on, get feedback, and discuss your need for more direction.
Granted, if you have a particularly tough manager, there are other tactics you’ll want to employ. Either way, it’s in no one’s interest for you to be sitting around.
Regardless of you boss’s management abilities, you’ll want to have real work to show during your end-of-year review (or for interviews with other employers!).
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. (Then Communicate More.)
If your boss isn’t handling their time well, they may not be aware of what people are working on, what work has been done, or what’s left to do. Communicating – so much that you want to drown in communications – can help with this.
Send your boss an email letting him or her know the status of your work, your team’s work, and anything else you can think of. Be engaged during meetings with your team and others. And stay ahead of key deadlines and project milestones, even if others around you are not as concerned.
This may not explicitly change your boss’s behavior, but it gives them the tools to do so. Plus, at very least, you know your responsibilities are covered.
Don’t Make Things Political
When your boss’s poor time management skills make your job harder, it’s tempting to go up the ladder. Resist the urge! The last thing you want is to add more animosity to the situation.
It’s better to focus on what your boss is good at. (We’ve all got strengths and weaknesses, after all.) Maybe they’re a genius at interpersonal relations. Maybe they thrive at big-picture thinking. Use those assets to help your job and to learn how to improve what you are doing.
Odds are, your boss’s busy schedule is not malicious. But it’s something that you must manage. Make good use of your boss’s time, and he or she will be more likely to share some of that time with you.
Unless it’s urgent, avoid emailing (or worse, Slacking!) your boss after work hours or early in the morning.
If you are working odd hours and want to communicate with your team, use an app like Boomerang to delay the email until regular hours.
Do your work well, even generously, but avoid trying to pull your manager into an after-hours conversation. Because once that door opens, it can be difficult to close. You may suddenly find yourself feeling obligated to respond to evening emails and attend early morning meetings, which was most likely not your original intention.
Either way, by respecting your manager’s boundaries — and working with him or her — you’ll be in a better position to make such a suggestion.
Remember the Bigger Goals
As a dedicated employee, your number one priority is to help your company succeed. And keeping a good attitude makes everyone’s job easier.
Does complaining about what your boss’s help with these goals? Likely not. Does taking a step back to figure out how you can improve the situation? Absolutely.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t at some point confront your manager (or even your HR rep), if things go south. But if your primary motive is to help the team, and to learn new skills, you’ll can come out of this situation more capable than ever.
Managing up isn’t easy. But it’s a skill that few have. Attain it, and you’ll find yourself able to thrive almost anywhere.