By Ben Hargrove
There’s a critical project that has to be done by tomorrow – but put it aside and work on this first. But where’s the paperwork? And where’s the phone number for the person I needed to call first?
If your mercurial and disorganized boss has turned your office into a place where it’s almost impossible to work efficiently, there are still ways you can manage to stand out.
Offer to help organize
Too much reliance on status reports and other paperwork can result in annoying and counterproductive bureaucracy, but the lack of any sort of written plan can result in chaos. If your office lacks something along the lines of a project list with deadlines and priorities for each staffer, offer to maintain one for your boss.
Note: Don’t offer to create an office schedule, because that could come off as encroaching on the boss’s turf. Offering to maintain a schedule says that you want to relieve your boss of the drudgery of paperwork while leaving him with the decision-making responsibilities. With the structure for a schedule in place, he may be inspired to actually create one, or he may be willing to delegate some or all of the scheduling to you.
If your boss has trouble selecting priorities or keeps changing her mind, you may have to start setting priorities yourself. If you are working on project A and she tells you to starting working on project B even though you know that project A is more critical, you will need to find a way to still complete project A, which means that you will have to be able to…
You may prefer to be the sort of person who focuses on one thing at a time, but that may not be compatible with a boss who is all over the place. Find ways to break up your projects in small steps so you can more easily jump back and forth to the beginning of a new step that you can then complete as opposed to spending too much time trying to figure out where you left off.
This step obviously applies to any office, but in a chaotic office, people may have valid reasons for not meeting their deadlines, so simply getting your work done on time without excuses could make you stand out.
Have a thick skin
When things go wrong in a chaotic office, there a chance you could get blamed for something that is not your fault. The chaos may be the boss’s fault, but someone else often gets stuck with the blame when the chaos results in things not getting done.
But if you have successfully followed the above steps of prioritizing, multitasking and being reliable, you will be in a stronger position to show that you have been productive.
If there is still no formal schedule in your office, it will also help you to maintain your own project log, so you can present it to your boss to show that you are able to get your work done in a timely fashion despite the chaos.