There are many ways for a good boss to go bad, and one of those ways is a boss who doesn’t realise their own insane pace can’t be matched by their employees. There is hope, however, that you can reset boundaries.
A workaholic boss who is always the first to arrive and the last to leave can easily make everyone else in the company feel as though they can never do enough, or aren’t free to maintain a healthy work-life balance.
Life coach Melody Wilding writes for Quartz that something those employees should consider is that the boss doesn’t know their gruelling schedule is even that bad, and some clear communication can often turn things around.
Wilding says she has broken down the two most effective types of conversation strategies for doing this based on the work of Harvard Business School professor, Michael Watkins. She believes that if you approach your boss in one of these two manners, they’ll be receptive to change.
It may be that your boss doesn’t realise that you’re taking cues from them about when it’s OK to take breaks (never) or go home to your family (too late for dinner). They may just be hurtling along at their own pace and don’t actually intend for you to keep up:
Watkins suggests asking clarifying questions like, “What are the few key things [you need me to] accomplish in the short term and medium term? What will constitute success? When? How will it be measured?” From there, you can negotiate unrealistic deadlines to make them more attainable.
Having a clear idea of what their expectations for your output are will only be to both your benefit. If your boss is expecting two projects to be completed by a certain time, versus a certain amount of time spent on two projects, that could change your whole approach.
It’s possible to use your time more efficiently when you aren’t just trying to be the person who turns off the lights at night. It might also relieve anxiety to know your actual work expectations instead of imagining much higher ones.
Assess Each Others’ Work Style
How a boss wants to be interacted with is generally their call, up to a reasonable point. Wilding says that you can still reach a satisfying compromise over things that seem like energy sucks to you, but imperative to them. For example, a boss who wants daily work check-ins might agree to weekly ones, or emails versus face-to-face meetings. That could drastically reduce your time in the office.
To launch that discussion, she offers suggestions of questions from Watkins, such as, “What kinds of decisions [does your boss] want to be involved in and where can you make the call on your own? How do your styles differ and what are the implications for how you should interact?”
It may be that your approach to work is different, but you’re both achieving the predetermined goals. A style that’s more hands-on or micro-managing can feel stifling to someone who is used to managing their own time. If you’re responsible for managing a team, it’s possible you might need to work on your own ability to delegate, and hand off check-in responsibilities with the boss to another employee.
After The Conversation
These are both just opening forays into reestablishing boundaries a workaholic boss has barrelled through. They require maintenance, and Wilding suggests a few other ways to form those lines again.
In meetings with your boss, always emphasise results over time spent on projects, unless it’s to suggest ways that time could be eliminated from a process. Maybe unnecessary meetings, as an example. You don’t want to be rude, but saying something such as, “Your feedback is really valuable to me, but it would be more useful at wider intervals, so we have space to implement your ideas.”
Guarding your time off is also crucial. Though Wilding says there may inevitably be times when things are busy and you do need to be available and present after work hours, it’s usually best to be clear about when you’ll be answering emails. If it gives you peace of mind to write back to your boss on a Saturday night, do it; but she suggest that you just write that you received the message and will address it on Monday. Office hours.