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Why the boss’s irrational last-minute requests always win

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Q: “I am extremely organized and always plan my work carefully. I know exactly which tasks I must complete every day in order to meet my deadlines. The problem is that my boss constantly comes up with ad hoc requests and expects me to immediately drop whatever I’m doing to focus on his latest whim.

“Instead of rewarding this impulsive behavior, I usually put his requests aside until I can work them into my schedule. He doesn’t like this, so he has given me a bad performance review. I really can’t figure out how to work with him.” Hopeless

A: As long as you’re in this job, I’m afraid you will need to loosen up a bit. Telling your boss that you’ll get around to his requests when your schedule allows is not too politically bright. Although you clearly believe you are right and he is wrong, the fact is that the two of you simply have different work styles.

This particular personality difference is actually quite common. Highly structured people like to create detailed plans well in advance, while more spontaneous folks come up with new ideas at the eleventh hour. These two types routinely drive each other crazy.

The key point here, however, is that he’s the one doing your performance review, not the other way around. If he views you as obstructive, you are not likely to get a good rating. Given your talent for planning, the obvious solution is to start including time in your schedule for his predictable last-minute requests.

Do you have some colleagues with very different work habits?  This may help to explain: Understanding Work Style Differences.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy April 16, 2015 at 9:07 am

Wow, Hopeless, NEVER put aside the boss’ requests. Regardless of how those requests seem to you, they’re not “whims” to the boss. I agree with Latasha, go with the flow. I work for a small company of 25. When one of the owners says something needs done for them, I stop what I’m doing and get it done immediately, even if I’m told it can wait ’til the afternoon. The project managers’ work and other jobs can wait. Happy bosses make for a more relaxed atmosphere and less stress for my day.

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LaTasha April 14, 2015 at 1:43 pm

I know last minute requests are frustrating because I like to plan my day out in advance, too. Having a plan gives me peace and helps me meet deadlines. However, one thing a good administrative professional will remember is that the boss usually has a boss, as well. If your boss gets a last minute request, he or she will give you a last minute request. The boss is constantly getting new information that the administrative assistant may not be privy too so sometimes, you just have to go with the flow. There are probably a myriad of reasons as to why the boss’ requests seem ad hoc but if the boss expects you to drop everything and work on something else; by all means, drop everything and work on your boss’ requests. It will help the work relationship immensely if the boss feels like he or she has someone in their corner; someone they can count on. You will be amazed at how much better your performance evaluations will be.

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