On the Job with Ken Lloyd: Drafting an Approach to Deal with Boss' Many Changes
Q: My manager asks me to write announcements and other communications for him. After I spend time writing whatever he needs, he changes all of it. He does not make small changes, but introduces new points that he never mentions in advance.
When I told him there's no need for me to do this writing, he said it's important to him. What can I do about this?
A: On the one hand, rather than actually writing announcements and other communications, you are writing first drafts of such documents. For whatever reason, whether it's control, lack of organization, or last minute inspiration, your manager apparently likes changing everything that you write. However, since you are providing him with first drafts, it's fair game for him to do this.
However, rather than rewriting your drafts, your manager is changing the assignments after he has given them to you. That fact may be the key to dealing with this matter. Rather than suggesting that he do his own writing, a suggestion he already dismissed, you should tell him that you can save him a great deal of time if he can provide you with all of the key points and parameters when he gives you a writing assignment.
In fact, after he gives you an assignment and before you write a single word, you should get back in touch with him to discuss what he is really seeking. In this discussion, let him know what you plan to write. After he hears your strategy, perhaps his thinking will be jogged and he will tell you some of the key points that he most likely would have included in his rewrite. Either way, your manager believes that your writing is important to him, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Q: We have a co-worker whose son goes to a prestigious university, and she has filled her cubicle with items from the school. She has a pennant on the wall, plus trinkets with the school's logo all over the place. Several of us are getting tired of seeing all of this when we meet with her, and we are wondering what you suggest.
A: This situation is literally and figuratively a matter of degrees. For example, if your co-worker has placed so much collegiate memorabilia around her cubicle that it looks more like a dorm room than a workstation, that could be the basis of some concern. At the same time, if this is really just a matter of a proud parent who has placed some of her son's collegiate paraphernalia in her workstation, that is not a major problem, nor is such behavior altogether uncommon.
In many companies, working parents are not only allowed to personalize their work areas, they are encouraged to do so.