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GTD and bosses?

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  • GTD and bosses?

    I am in a situation I'm sure many of you have dealt with, and I would truly appreciate input on: my boss is the type that will toss random things at me to do throughout the day. This is no problem, however, he is a severe micro-manager, a workaholic, not very organized, doesn't have a great memory, and doesn't generally think more than a couple of minutes into the future. Everything he comes up with, even if I'm still in the middle of the last thing, becomes an immediate priority. As a result, I am constantly putting out fires or dealing with the current "critical thing". (Which is rarely, by the way, actually critical. These things tend to fall mainly in the "if I never did them nothing would really happen" category.) All of this makes it extremely difficult to implement any kind of system for getting any work done. I know this is exactly the sort of thing GTD is supposed to address, but he has no interest in it. What do you do if the real problem is the boss? Short of finding another job, how have the rest of you dealt with difficult bosses? (In particular the micro-management?)

  • #2
    Boss management

    I've been fortunate not to be in your shoes to that degree. (I'm getting closer w/ current boss, but the exception is most taskings are at least clearly higher value, so it's a little less stressful.) With that disclaimer, here's how I'd approach it. Credit goes to Brian Tracy for the idea.

    1) Take your project list to your boss.

    2) Have him prioritize everything on it (sit down and do it with him). Estimate times for completion, too.

    2a) Another approach I've seen recommended is, upon the next line-of-sight tasking (sees you, tasks you with something), grab your project list and say, "No problem, boss. Here's my list of already agreed-to work. What should I let slip to handle this?"

    The key is to enforce an awareness of workload on your boss, and get his recognition of both the quantity and the intensity of the workload. This should work assuming a boss with some shred of common sense. I realize from your description my assumption might not be safe. But, if you do this, it gives you valuable insight into whether your boss is so lacking in common courtesy and decency that you probably should consider adding, "Job search" to your project list...



    • #3
      AMS, I think we work for the same guy!!! What's your extension?


      • #4

        Meant to post this here instead of starting a new thread:

        I'd be careful with the "let me show you my lists and you can tell me what to let slide" approach. My boss would say, "I'm paying you to figure that out - why are you asking me to do it for you?"

        Been there - done that - it didnt work...


        • #5

          My boss has a very short attention span and is quick to jump on the crisis of the moment. I have used GTD for just over a year and it works great. I just list my projects, keep next actions identified and work them based on where I'm at and what I can do. When he interrrupts, I grab my trusty PPC and add whatever "urgent and important" task he has for me and ask him when he needs it. If it's now, I get it done now and resume my other next actions afterwards. He is actually getting to the point once in a while where he will see me working on something and say "whenever you can work it in with your other next actions". I can't get him to use GTD yet but I'm getting closer. I brought the book for him to read this week when we had to go to Chicago for a meeting and he is taking a little interest. I'm not giving up and he is not going to stress me out. I can do what I can do and that's good enough for me.


          • #6
            Thanks for the input on this. It has really crystallized my thinking on the issue. I have long suspected I need to add "job search" to my list. The relationship has really deteriorated to the point where I'm beginning to suspect a medical problem. I have never seen such memory loss and fairly sudden erratic behavior. We all of a sudden have new "policies" that dictate how files are set up on our hard drives, I am no longer permitted to delete emails he sends me, several times a week I have to call someone and tell them that I lost something and need another copy (when I never saw it at all), and he's gotten into the habit of demanding status reports on projects I've never heard of because they were assigned to someone else and he couldn't remember. This is the tip of the iceberg, and a light bulb went off when someone said something about operating on the basic assumption that the boss was a reasonable person. After thinking through what's been going on for the last several months, I have realized that I can't operate on that assumption and that no matter how "on top of it" I think I'm getting, there's no way I can combat or work with this kind of behavior. The real shame of it all is that I don't hate him as a person, in fact personally we are friends, and everyone sees this downward slide except him. He's close to losing most of the staff over this. Sorry for the long pity party, but when I'm not annoyed by it I'm actually a little sad about the situation.


            • #7
              If you have a close personal relationship with him, and others around you are seeing this decline, can you confront him with the issue? Explain, as you just did, that you are wondering if there is a medical problem, or if there is something going on that you should know about. Give him some examples of specific incidents that have concerned you.

              Speaking for myself, I can tell you that I was recently on a medication which was really affecting my memory, my emotional state, and my performance as a whole. I had made a number of bizarre mistakes in my work, but when they were pointed out to me I blamed my boss for being so critical. Couldn't I be allowed to make one or two mistakes? It was not until the Christmas break that I realized how much it was affecting me. I went off of it, but it took a while to clear my system and my boss took me out to lunch in January to find out what was going on. I knew I should have approached him about it sooner, but I just couldn't figure out how to go about it.

              On a similar note, we are working on two cases right now where a person has started to lose their short-term memory. We are trying to help them to get their estates and businesses in order in anticipation of further degeneration. One of them just told his secretary this week what has been going on, and I imagine it is a great relief to her to know what is going on. She now knows what the problem is and can help him to stay on track until everything can be sorted out.