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Confusing, indecisive boss wreaks havoc

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

This month’s Worst Communicator Award comes courtesy of a colleague who is at her wit’s end with her supervisor. She says, “She’ll make a decision and then do a complete about-face, sometimes within the same meeting. She assigns me hours of research and planning, only to scrap everything on a whim and go in a different direction. Worse: She’s unclear about what she wants, talks in circles and becomes upset when I’m confused. I usually leave meetings unsure of what to do.”

It’s clear this boss struggles with decision-making, because she lacks either the knowledge or confidence to do so. The problem extends beyond that, though. She struggles to communicate her decisions, expectations and directions with her employees—and she doesn’t hold herself accountable. Instead, she blames her employees for their inability to understand.

It’s frustrating, so if you find yourself in this situation, take this advice:

  • Confirm changes—immediately. Say, “What I’m hearing is that you want to abandon XYZ and go with …?” That subtly points out her tendency to change plans abruptly.
  • Ask for clarification. Ask, “Could you explain that again?” or “Could you offer more detail about this new direction?” If your boss becomes agitated, stay calm and focused, and continue to ask questions. Hold your supervisor accountable for clear communication.
  • Summarize actions items and decisions. Say, “OK, before we end, here’s what we decided and what you’ve assigned me. Anything else?” Additionally, following your meeting, send an email detailing your decisions and action items.

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