What do you get when you mix a tough economy and job market with amazing wireless technology?
The answer is a really long work day. Most of us have to spend some of our “personal” time conducting business. Who hasn’t received that off hours email or phone call from the boss? Often times it is not an issues, but what if your boss really oversteps the boundaries- can you reel them back in?
That is the question I asked one of my favorite career guru’s Nicole Williams. She wrote the fabulous book: GIRL ON TOP: YOUR GUIDE TO TURNING DATING RULES INTO CAREER SUCCESS.
So I asked her what she recommends when it comes to boundaries and the boss.
Nicole: This is such a great question because honestly I think people are grappling with this. Because of the economy and layoffs the work load has been put on fewer people and they’re taxed to the brim. It makes it infinitely difficult so now I think is a good time to really think about boundaries. And really it’s an old dating adage but it’s like teaching people how to treat you. You have to in some instances lay down the law.
You know I had a situation the other day, where honestly we had a project that was due, everyone on the team knew that the project was due, and the fact that your blackberry had died, or that you were at the gym, is just going to infuriate your boss. So there are times when there are heavy duty projects and its 6 o’clock you can be expected to be in communication. But if it’s 2 o’clock in the morning on a Sunday or a Saturday night, no. You can respond back quickly on the Sunday morning, you get this e-mail at 2am, respond back and say “I’d love to take care of this, you know I’ll give it some thought over the course of the weekend and let’s touch base first thing Monday morning. You help to set the boundaries, as long as you’re indicating you’re a team player and as long as there isn’t a sense of urgency. If there’s a real emergency I do believe you have to step up at the end of the day.
Mary: But what if that “emergency” keeps re-occurring?
Nicole: If this emergency is happening every single weekend and depending on industries you may need to re-think whether or not this is the industry for you or the company for you. There’s a lot of people working in finance who depending on the industry and time of year, tax accounting. There are going to be some seasons where you’re very busy and overtaxed and you need to know that that’s true.
Mary: But if it is just a bad habit your boss has developed, you may have to lay down the law-delicately, right?
Nicole: Don’t be afraid of saying no. But say no in a very positive way. 112830 Another great way of saying no is “Hey, listen there are five tasks that I have to do on my to-do list here, help me to prioritize. What do you think is most important? So if you turn it around, the boss is A, understanding that you do have a lot of things on your agenda and you are working weekends and nights to fill all of the requirements but allow them to help you to prioritize. So not only, you’re not saying “I won’t do this” you’re not saying no, you’re just saying “Hey, help me to understand which is the priority here.” And that helps to turn it around for them.
Mary: Nicole your have a unique vantage point- you give career advice but you are a boss too. So do you think bosses test the boundaries on purpose?
Nicole: I think sometimes you know you’re over-playing your hand and you know putting too much on someone’s plate, but a lot of times I need the feedback, you need to know. And I don’t know, you’re going to have to tell me and when you tell me and you tell me in a way that it’s not a complain, it’s a “I love this company,” “I’m very excited to be here” If you pose it in the context of I’m not being lazy, I’m not, not a team player. I’m just trying to help and I know that if I’ve only got 24 hours in a day, and I need to get this, this, and this done, I want to do a good job for you so help me to understand what is most important. 112949 Turning it around like that not only helps them to see that you are a team player and willing to pitch in, but they also see that you’re doing a lot of work here.
BTW Nicole says before you have the “boundary talk” with your boss-get a script together and make sure it is up-beat. Then, rehearse it-and finally, stick to it!