I’m Your Boss. Here’s How You’re On My Nerves Today. And How to Fix It.
Every leader has been there: you’ve got an awesome employee: smart, fun, capable. But for some reason(s) this person just drives you absolutely mad. You know they’ve got it in them somewhere, if you can just dig it out of them.
Or maybe YOU are that employee. You’re bursting with enthusiasm, busting your ass to do a great job. You think you’re doing all of the right things but for some uncontemplatable reason, you can sense that your boss wants to throw you out the window every time you know on her door.
I’m here to help you contemplate with five common ways employees get on their boss’s (last, ever-loving) nerve and how to fix it.
99 Problems & A Solution Ain’t One
Look, I know your job is hard and you are bound to have questions. Problems are always going to pop-up and we’re always going to have to deal with them in some way or another. But before you come to me with all of the reasons you can’t do something, take a moment and think about a way to make it work. If there’s a constant problem with one of the systems we’ve put in place – perhaps one that’s taking up too much of your energy – come up with the solution before you come to me with the complaint. I want to be a part of the problem-solving, but I’ve hired you to do some
of the heavy-lifting. Especially if you know a problem will greatly upset me, come up with a few different solutions before you put the bad news in front of me. If you are always coming to me with bad news, I synonmize you with Grumpy Carebear – the bearer of all bad news and shirker of responsibilities. Studies and surveys across the board show that effective problem solving skills ranks in the top five qualities employers look for in both hiring and performance review.
Everyone loves to have a fun, fancy-free workplace. Especially in throws of television production, feeling like we are all riding the same tsunami. We go through so much together and we end up pretty close. But no matter how friendly we get with one another, as my employee, you need to respect my position when we are in the work place. Hierarchies exist for a reason, even if you aren’t always aware of it. I see it time and time again in TV production. An AP gets close with the Showrunner and before you know it, they are being a little too outspoken at crew meetings – sometimes stepping on the toes of their superiors. Or a coordinator gets chummy with a network exec and suddenly they are a bit too big for their britches, showing off this friendship whenever they can. Newsflash: this actually embarrasses the exec. Remember that even if we spent last night pounding tequilas, you still need to defer to me in meetings with our higher ups. You still need to show up the next day listening to my orders and sharing my visions.
I once worked with one of my best friends. I was the Supervising Producer and she was the Production Coordinator. We had been friends for over a decade and in our personal lives, she was often following her leader. She was the Pooh to my Tigger, keeping me in line and in check. But at work, I was bosslady. The dynamic changed as soon as we walked through the office doors and whenever we took our work home. She was mature enough to know that I was the boss for a reason and that we could learn from each other. Even when I was being a total nincompoop at the office, she deferred to me and asked my counsel, especially in front of my bosses.
It’s not that we have to hide our friendship like some sort of secret affair. But, when you respect the boundaries of our work relationship while we are at work, it shows you are not just using our connection to better your own place in the office and that you respect me as your boss. Building me up and supporting me as your employer makes me more likely to want to see you thrive.
Life Job Easier
The number one priority in your job is to make my life easier. It sounds selfish – but its realistic and true. If I could do it all myself, no company in their right mind would spend money on hiring more people. This doesn’t mean you are my personal assistant and should constantly run around preforming my personal tasks. What this means is that you should consistently think about what you can do to ensure our shared goals, as I have laid out, come to fruition smoothly. If you find yourself with some extra time in your day, come ask me what you can take off my plate. If I’m stressed out and you’ve got free time, chances are something is off-balance.
Hopefully there’s a reason you are in your position and are working under me. In all liklihood, as you move up your own career ladder, you want to have my job or at least a job like it. There’s no shame in that. You want my job and I want my boss’s job. If we are clicking and connecting, the more quickly I move up the more quickly you move up. So if you want my job, take it! Literally and figuratively. Take initiative to learn how to perform aspects of my job that you don’t yet have experience with. Not only will you be lightening my load, but I’ll be so happy about it I’ll be more than happy to give you pointers as you go. And as things start to come off of my plate, I can start to take things off my boss’s plate. Voila, we’re both Movin’ On Up, baby!
My favorite example of this in my own work took place when I was just a baby production coordinator. I was working on my first really big gig, the first season of America’s Got Talent. My boss was a kick ass production manager and a friend. We’d worked together before, but this was our first time in the really big leagues. A few months in after the first couple of weeks of filming, as things got more comfortable, I asked her if I could take over her payroll duties. Payroll for a 300+ person crew was due on Mondays – and we filmed through Saturdays. This meant she had to go through over 300 timecards one by one, making sure the production reports for overtimes and meal penalties for each department matched and that these were pre-approved by her. She had to do this on her one day “off”, Sunday. I was able to do the first pass at this for her, freeing her up to focus on other things or get some much needed rest. When I had questions about complicated union rules, she was all to excited to explain. Soon enough, I was accompanying her to more important meetings and taking other tasks off of her plate. After that show, I became a production manager who already had experience with pretty complicated union payrolls. All because I asked my boss how I could help.
Don’t Be Late
Okay, I’m not exactly busting your brain here. You’ve heard this before time and time again. Especially in Los
Angeles with highways more congested than Jabba the Hut’s arteries. However, this continues to be an annoyance even after all of the studies that show it really pisses your boss off with you are chronically late. We all have an
occasional lapse on punctuality and even the most hardass bosses get that, but if you are continually late it means that you don’t give a damn about my time and the time of your co-workers.
This also applies to the backend of the day. If you really want to impress me, especially in TV production, you should be in the office before me and leave after I am gone. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, but if you are consistently leaving before I do, it generally means there’s something off-balance. Ask to take something off my plate (see above). It’s an old-fashioned rule, but it holds true even in today’s more lax work universe.
Ban It’s Not My Job From Your Vocab
Seriously, the phrase “It’s Not My Job” shouldn’t come out of your mouth. Ever. We’re all on the same team here and we all have the same goals whether its to make a kickass TV show or keep an administrative office rolling. Sometimes there are challenges for which there is no department head. If I’m asking you to do it it’s because I think, at this moment, for whatever reason, you are the best person to do the job. Take that as a compliment – even if it’s a
Of course, if you are consistently asked to perform tasks outside of your job responsibilities, you need to learn to say no effectively and do something about it. Don’t let it build up to where you are rolling your eyes or getting huffy when I ask you to make that copy, even though you thought the whole premise of your job was that you’d never have to touch a g@*^&&$mn copier again. So what should you do? Make the damn copy. Go home, have some tea, and take a breath. Make a list of what you thought you would be doing in this position, how much time you believe you waste performing your tasks that are below your paygrade, and what you think some plausible solutions could be. Then, when appropriate, ask me if I have a few minutes to chat. The point you want to get across to me is that you know what I am asking you to do is important and you are glad I trust you and rely on you. However, you would like to shift responsibilities so that you can focus more on [insert skills and tasks]. Of course, you’d never just come to me with a problem. Present your viable solutions. In this way, I’m showing you that I respect you and want to use my skills to help you at a higher level, while proving I can be a problem-solver as well. You’ve also shown me that you are mature, confident, and can have the hard conversations. Even if I disagree with your solutions at the moment, and you still get stuck with some shit work, your wants and needs are on my radar – and so are you.
By and large, you impress me most as an employee when you support me and vision in every way. The more you are proactive, solve problems before they hit my
fan desk, and respect the boundaries of the office hierarchy, the more motivated I am to want to give you boost on your way up the ladder. I’ve said it once, I’ll it a million times over: Help Me, Help You.