It started with a commanding tone requesting her presence. Her previous manager had usually asked her when she would be available that week or that day to meet with him. Maybe the new boss was simply more direct, or she was too sensitive. The feeling of discomfort stayed.
Next came requirements that were impossible to meet. She went back to the drawing board numerous times, but her drafts were never quite what the new boss wanted. Additional information and data would constantly be sent her way with a flippant: “Here’s more data you may not have considered!” She would have, she would grumble, if she had been given this information from the start!
She tried clarifying comments, questions, concerns raised, but the answers provided weren’t helpful or forthcoming… and the yardstick kept moving. Sometimes there would be a few days of silence after her briefing notes or presentations were submitted. She would start to breathe a sigh of relief thinking she was finally on the right track, but then the document would return with so many corrections they were hard to follow.
The new boss started to bring others to meetings on her files, usually more senior, who would be asked for their input or critique. Some of the players were kind enough, but the group review was a bruising process to go through.
The last straw was when the boss started to ask someone else on the team for the same product. He would then send my client the other input and tell her to integrate those excellent ideas. There was no opportunity for my client to consult with her peers on her own terms.
Her confidence was slipping fast. Even with hours and days of minute preparation, the boss was impossible to please. After a few months of this treatment, my client concluded that she had lost her touch and needed to find another job ASAP!
On the other hand, she liked her job and her co-workers. As we continued to explore this situation in our coaching sessions, she chose another approach.
3 Key Boundaries that say: “Enough is enough, AND I’m willing to work with you.”
She came to the next meeting prepared with 3 requests:
- Parameters please!
- What is the ultimate purpose of the requested document?
- What is the intended audience?
- Who is responsible, accountable, consulted, informed (RACI) on the team?
- What are your expectations of me?
- Limits please!
- If after two edits I am not on target, let’s review the parameters together.
- I would like to think that there is such a thing as “good enough”. What does that look like to you?
- Can you bring me to senior meetings so I can hear first hand what is needed and reflect this more accurately in the first draft?
- No surprises please!
- Please tell me who will be at the meetings on my files.
- Keep me informed of developments so I can do my best work in a timely fashion.
- Provide all the data you have at once, or trust me to find it.
- We are on the same side! I want to do a good job and help you do yours.
After the initial defensiveness, her manager came around. After all, my client was asking for what she needed to deliver results for the team. As the tide changed, my client experienced renewed determination and confidence.
Leaving control of the agenda in someone else’s hands entirely, turns you into a passenger in their very rocky bus.
When you have tried everything and the bus driver is still zigzagging through traffic, you may have to hop off and take another route altogether. In the meantime, I invite you to show your mettle by respectfully taking back the controls of your life at work.
I look forward to reading your comments on the boundaries you have set at work to regain control of your professional life.