Most of us dream of the perfect career where we are performing acts of genius, admired by our peers and praised by the boss.
The reality is often just short of that and made worse if the boss is making demands of you that are unrealistic.
When the boss is expecting something from you which is out of alignment to either your skills, work load or job scope; you have a problem. It can be a recipe for failure. It can turn the dream into a nightmare of getting fired or working until after midnight. Either way, this is not in your best interest to let it be a chronic occurrence.
Let’s look at this issue from both an offensive (prevention) and defensive (mitigation) perspective.
Any time you get a new job or assigned a new job, you need to ensure you and the boss have documented not only the scope of your work but your performance expectations. You need to understand how you will be measured and what results are expected. From that point, you need to seek feedback on how you are doing to those expectations. This is your career; you need to be responsible for this most vital element. By setting performance expectations right up front, you can mitigate problems in the future.
Don’t expect the boss to go out of their way to discover how well your work is going. They will have some exposure to it but not all and not enough. You need to fill in the gaps without drowning them in too much detail. Also look at your ongoing communication as a way of training your boss on understanding your job. They will have a better appreciation for demands they may make of you if they know the flow of the work to and from you.
Proactively Raise Flags
At the first sign of a problem of delivering to the expectations of your job, you need to let the boss know. It’s not enough to simply tell them of a potential problem, you need to let them know what you are doing to reduce or eliminate the issue. You need to engage them in the solutions, as they will have access to more resources for solutions. The flag raising may actually need to occur when they assign you a project. If you think you can’t deliver to their expectations, for any reason, you need to let them know immediately. Again, you should offer up both the problem you see and solutions. It could be as simple as a different due date or delaying the work of something else. By engaging in a professional discussion at the time of a project assignment, you demonstrate a willingness to work with the boss for a positive outcome. Waiting to inform them about issues, especially any that you knew of to start with, will cause them to lose trust in you.
If the boss doesn’t agree with your assessment that their expectations of you should present a problem, you need an objective opinion. You may be inadvertently misinterpreting the direction the boss has given. Perhaps you don’t fully grasp the direction or the extent of the work involved in a given task. Don’t seek out your work BFF, as they may not have the perspective or experience unless you know they understand your work and have a good working history with the boss. You need to seek counsel with someone that can help you to see the task in a new way, or to help refine the direction the boss has given. You might discover a better way of doing your work.
Renegotiate A New Way
If you are barely treading water, get through the crisis and go back to the boss to negotiate a different situation for the future. An example: If they make last minute demands, see if you can get agreement on a longer lead time. If they can’t, then get agreement on lower priority items you can delay without reviewing each time. In other words, be the mature professional and solve the problem with the only person you can solve it with. You were hired to solve problems and this is just one of many.
Managing the expectations of your boss is something you should do with each and every boss you will have. By being proactive with your approach, you will reduce or eliminate the likelihood of demands being made of you that will cause you to fail. Notice I didn’t say you will completely do away with inappropriate expectations but when those to arise, take the approach you are solving a problem.