I hear it every day. People are feeling so discouraged right now at work. There is so much to be done. It’s truly overwhelming. And on top of that, it truly feels like the boss just doesn’t care:
I told him I needed to be out so I could help my kid with their online school this morning, but he still sent me all these emails
Doesn’t she understand the kind of pressure I’m under? Why is she asking me to do one more thing?
They know I’m really focused on this other project. So why are they coming to me with this new assignment?
Despite everything already on your plate, your boss keeps asking for more and more until it feels like you can’t breathe. Like you’ll never get ahead of it all. Some days you just want to quit. And that’s a very scary thought in our current economic situation. Changing jobs feels very risky. The train of thought goes round-and-round till you feel completely stuck and discouraged.
Luckily, there is something you can do about that.
Here’s the truth: I don’t know whether your boss cares or not. But I’ll bet that even a boss who cares about you will end up in this situation at least some of the time. They’ll forget what they’ve asked you to do. They’ll forget what you’ve told them about your schedule or your workload. They’ll forget that you’re planning to take some time off, or that Tuesday is your day to take the kids to school. After all, they’re juggling a million different things, too.
The other truth is that most of the time, your boss won’t know what it takes to do what they’ve asked you to do. They may not know that the report they asked for requires you to compile data from three different databases. They may not realize that your new project requires coordination with two other departments.
Should your boss know these things without your having to remind them or tell them? Of course – that would be great!
But when they don’t, what happens next is up to you.
You can focus on how things “should” be, and stay stuck and frustrated. Or you can get into partnership with them. If you want to have a reasonable workload and the opportunity to do your work successfully, partnership is the only choice that will get you there.
When you work in partnership with someone, you see the world from their point of view, and help them see it from yours. You engage them in priority-setting and problem-solving. You make choices together about where to focus your time and energy. You remind them of your other commitments and the implications of those choices for them.
Getting into partnership with your boss takes skill. You need to be able to share the information you have without coming across as negative, or complaining, or as someone who’s unwilling to roll up their sleeves and pitch in.
You need an approach that’s calm, inviting and competent – grounded in a solid internal executive presence. You need to know your boss’s style and how they are likely to take in information, so you can approach them in a way that’s going to work for them. And you need to be strategic – bringing in solutions, as you’re identifying the problem.
That’s where the metaphor of partnership can be so helpful. When we think in terms of partnership, we move out of one-up/one-down thinking. One-down is feeling like you have to do whatever your boss says without question. One-up is feeling righteous about how they should be managing you. Either way is a ticket to staying stuck. The possibility that’s available to you is to shift out of those stories – the helplessness or righteousness — and see it as your responsibility to help your boss help you.
It takes skill and experience to build that kind of relationship. You need to be able to navigate differences in style, understand their concerns and accept their personal quirks. You need to be able to engage them in addressing key questions about your work: What will success look like? What are the priorities? Where should you focus your time, energy and talents to meet the team’s goals?
When you have the tools, the skills and the confidence to step into that partnership with your boss, your work life changes. When you can do this, you put yourself into the driver’s seat in your career. You negotiate for a workload that is actually doable. You create the conditions for your own success, where you can focus on the activities that make the best use of your talents.
Most importantly, when you have those skills, you can also see more clearly when it’s time to leave – if your boss truly isn’t willing to come into partnership with you. Either way, you’re in motion, no longer stuck and alone.
If this is something you’d like to develop for yourself, let’s talk. We’ll get on the phone for about 45 minutes and talk about where you are now in your work and where you might need to develop some of these partnership skills. And if I can help you get there, we’ll talk about what that could look like. If I’m not the right fit, I’ll point you to somebody who is so book a call now at ZMCoach.net/call. I look forward to talking to you soon.