Gently prod troublesome boss into delegating

Can They Do That?

Your Money

August 15, 2004|By Carrie Mason-Draffen

We are the victims of a boss with grossly inefficient work habits. Most of us don't mind pitching in and are willing to help one another to make this business a success, especially since she is the owner. But her weird work habits often cause her to miss deadlines and wreak havoc in the office. She is talented and knowledgeable but so disorganized and without any concept of time management.

We resent it when she digs in her heels at the last minute on a project and says that 45 hours or more a week are expected since we are salaried. Is she right? And shouldn't she pay us overtime when we work more than 40 hours? How can we manage our way out of this madness?

If you're genuinely overtime-exempt employees, she can require you to work any number of hours a week without paying you time-and-a-half. Exempt employees include managers meeting certain requirements or workers who fall into the administrative, executive, professional or outside-sales categories.

I turned to a career expert for answers to your tougher question. She's author Kate Wendleton, president of the Five O'Clock Club in Manhattan, which provides career-coaching and outplacement services. As a high-ranking executive, she has grappled with her own time-management and task-management problems.

If you want results, Wendleton says, you're going to have to manage your boss by helping her meet deadlines.

"You may say it's not your job to keep track of her deadlines," says Wendleton. "But then you pay a price if you expect her to do something she's not good at."

So you or a co-worker need to coax your boss into the gentle art of delegating, Wendleton says. It allows talented employees to lead in areas in which the boss is weak.

"I expect those who work for me to bail me out on certain things," Wendleton says. "I'm not expert at everything."

How do you help your boss discover the joys of delegating? Designate someone to set interim deadlines for big projects so the office doesn't have to stampede toward the finish line because of poor scheduling. Then have that person or someone who has a good rapport with the boss inform her.

Your entrenched boss may still delay things and may need new prompting coupled with an offer to help, Wendleton says. Simply say, "Just a gentle reminder that so and so has to be done. How can I help you with that?" or "Can I ask Janie to start on such and such because I know we have a deadline next Tuesday?"

If a looming deadline is bearing down on you now, make yourself feel better by devising plans right away to avoid a near-miss the next time.

You may have to bear down on a boss who just doesn't get it. In that case, someone will have to sit her down and emphasize that everyone wants projects to be more enjoyable. And present your plan of attack.

Wendleton suggests saying, "We all want to make this business a success, and we enjoy working here. We think we can help things run more smoothly. So here's our proposal."

You'll have to be patient, though. It may take her several months to change her last-minute ways.

But Wendleton adds, "If this is important to you, you have to keep chipping away at it."

Carrie Mason-Draffen is a columnist for Newsday, a Tribune Publishing newspaper. E-mail her at yourmoney@trib

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