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The question you’ve all been waiting for somebody to offer quality advice on… This post will give you some common scenarios you would have experienced, and some good ways of dealing with them.


Boss wants to review your deliverables but drip feeds the feedback


Sometimes there’s a boss who insists on reviewing your deliverables before they are distributed outside the team. However each time you send over the deliverable, the boss gives 2 small pieces of feedback rather than actually fully reviewing the deliverable and giving all the feedback in one go. This can go on for days, wasting everybody’s time.


-Be a productivity guru like me:

  • Send your boss deliverable A for review, and start working on something else – deliverable B.
  • Boss sends back deliverable A with 2 minor review comments
  • Continue work on deliverable B, wait 1 hour, then send back the original deliverable A, unchanged
  • Boss sends back deliverable A with 2 more minor comments
  • Continue work on deliverable B, wait 1 hour, then send back the original deliverable A, unchanged
  • Eventually the boss will send through all of the review comments
  • Now switch your attention back to deliverable A; update it and send it back for final approval.

Saves you time!


-Another way:

Ok guys that might not work out exactly the way you want it to… The real way of dealing with this is to expect and plan for the drip feeding of feedback. Submit an early draft to ask your boss if it’s on the right track. Don’t wait for an answer though, keep working on it and once you’re happy just submit it. Remember not to get too attached. Expect that the above scenario will play out. Know that it’s not about the quality of your work; it’s just your boss’ need to feel that their time is more precious than anyone else’s. Then just make the one or two updates each time and re-submit it. Don’t bother re-working it to make sure it’s 100% perfect before the subsequent submissions – that’s just not effective use of your time because you know how it’s going to play out with the drip fed feedback. Just make the one or two updates each time, and a few versions later you’ll be done.


Boss waits till the end of the day and then gives you urgent tasks


You’ve almost finished your day and are about to pack up to go home, when your boss walks by and drops an urgent task on you that must be done today. Most jobs have waves of busy activity as deadlines approach, followed by slower periods and you just need to accept this. However at times, you may have a boss that constantly decides to give you tasks at the end of the day, rather than letting you know in the morning.


-Be a productivity guru like me:

Say “sure, I’ll do it” and when they go back to their desk, you pack up and leave. Then do the work in the morning the next day. When the boss questions you, you say you had family commitments and need to leave at a regular time.


-Another way:

The real way of dealing with this situation is to be proactive and seek things out. If your boss has this habit and gives you tasks at say 5pm, go to see your boss at 4pm and ask if there’s anything else you can help with today and let him/her know that you’re planning on leaving at 5pm. Then when your boss comes by at 5pm to drop the urgent tasks on you, you can say you have prior commitments and you’ll handle it tomorrow. If your boss insists, you’ll need to make a judgment call on how important the task is – if it’s just your boss whinging and it’s happened more than once, just say you’ll be doing it tomorrow, and leave. Your boss will soon get the message.


As things start to improve, you can start asking this question earlier in the day. If the boss is reasonable you should both be speaking about prioritising the work in the morning, rather than at the end of the day. If you’re really building a good relationship, you can prioritise once a week. This is what’s referred to as ‘managing up’ – helping your boss to do their job as a manager by managing your boss’ expectations. Some urgent things will still pop up, but they should be fewer and further in between.


Boss always looking for something to pick on


Whenever you submit your work, the boss always returns it with some criticism. This is a good thing when it is constructive feedback aimed at helping you become better at your job (as a good leader should be doing). However sometimes you’ll have a boss that seems to always be looking for something; never satisfied unless they’ve criticized your work in some way. The next time you work on a something similar you remember the feedback and try not to make the same mistakes again, however your boss then tells you that isn’t good enough either for some other bizarre reason.


-Be a productivity guru like me:

Feed their need… When you are ready to submit your work, save a copy and then create a more creative version; Change a couple of small things and insert a couple of typos that you know your boss will pick up on. Submit the creative version of your work and let your boss pick up your strategically inserted mistakes. Once you get the feedback, submit the original version. This will surely satisfy the boss’ need to criticise!


-Another way:

The real way? Resist the temptation to make your work perfect. Just submit it when it’s 90% done and expect the feedback. This kind of boss is always going to find something to pick on. If the boss tells you they want X done, and next time you submit something you do X, and then the boss will tell you that you didn’t do Y properly. When you get Y done, they’ll tell you that you didn’t do X, and so on. There will always be something. So expect it, and just get your work to 90%, then submit it, adjust with whatever the flavour of the day criticism is, and submit again.


Boss duplicating your efforts


Your boss is duplicating your efforts by giving you a task and then performing the same work themselves, making you feel like there’s no point in what you’re doing.


-Be a productivity guru like me:

Well, if you’re a true productivity guru, this situation is like discovering a gold mine in your backyard! It’s all about efficient use of your time. When your boss gives you a task, just say “sure, no worries” and start working on your personal investments. Then 10 minutes before you leave for the day, type up some half-baked solution and tell your boss it’s been done. Your boss will have already done the same work themselves anyway. Great time saver!


-Another way:

Actually, the above may be quite dangerous… There’s no funny way of dealing with this one. It’s either an issue of trust, or your boss can’t let go of their control over how the work is done. To build trust takes time and consistency. Being consistent with the timeliness of your deliverables, the quality and your reporting or just informal updates you give to your boss, will build up the trust between you and your boss. When that trust reaches the right level, your boss shouldn’t be duplicating your effort, because they will know that the work you do is going to be done well.


Long term


If there is a possibility of change in the relationship you have with your boss, the long term strategy that will alleviate most of these issues is to build up the trust between you and your boss. This can take a long time and a lot of persistence to build up. You’ll need to manage your boss’ expectations by letting them know what you’re doing, understand your boss’ KPIs and challenges, consider what will be important for them in the future, and prioritise your work such that it helps them with their challenges. You know you are planning and prioritising well when your boss comes and asks about something and you’ve already anticipated this and have started working on it before being asked. Focussing on these things will build trust and alleviate most issues you have with your boss.


However, there are some managers who shouldn’t really be managers at all…


You’ve got a completely unreasonable boss


If you find yourself thinking “None of those ‘other way’ ideas will work because my boss is just completely unreasonable”, now is the time to way up the pros and cons of the job. Are you getting enough benefits that you can deal with it and not leave work frustrated every day? If so, you should be able to continue working in this company, either with the same boss or by trying to get involved in other projects where you could gradually move into another team – you just need to find the right way of motivating yourself. On the other hand if you can’t stand the frustration and can’t see any change, you know it’s time to move on.


How about you? Would these ideas work in your challenging situations?

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