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6 ways to work around a disorganized boss

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A common trait among perpetually disorganized bosses is that they don’t prioritize well, says training consultant Donna Festa-Zereconsk. And that means you also end up wondering what to prioritize. “You can’t change your boss,” she said. “But if you’re a Felix and she’s an Oscar, good communication and good systems can bridge the gap.” She suggests:

1. Prioritize incoming mail to keep your boss on track.

2. Hand off minimal paperwork. That goes for e-mail messages, as well. “Sending your boss multiple email reminders can make matters worse,” she says. “If she’s disorganized, she may not even see them in her inbox.”

3. Use a sorting system to organize the work you pass back and forth. Festa-Zereconsk recommends color-coded files, for example, a green file for things needing signatures, yellow for pending work, red for urgent items. “If everything’s in a Manilla folder, it gets lost.” Another idea: Sort work into piles for a frequently traveling boss (e.g., 1. reading; 2. correspondence; and 3. high-priority items).

4. Photocopy the most important paperwork before putting it in her hands. That way, if she loses it, you have a back-up.

5. Comb her calendar for twin-bookings. Say, “I see you’re double-booked. Who would you like to attend this meeting in your place?”

6. Hold a five-minute ‘touch-base meeting’ at the beginning of the day to look at what work is on tap and to review the calendar for any changes.

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