Dear Maria,

I have a bossy boss. His emails and texts are brief and kinda mean, and he expects a quick response. In group emails, where several people are asked for their input, he answers like his word is final. I try to be a good employee and just do what he wants. But, I get anxious that I’m not doing it right or quickly enough.  When I’m not at work, I think about it all the time. Notifications pop up on my phone, and I answer right away, but then don’t get a reply from him. It’s frustrating. What can I do?

Signed,

I’m Tired but I’m Working

Dear Tired,

Congratulations on doing what you can to keep the place running smoothly. You’re not alone in these feelings. I suspect many of your coworkers can empathize. Organizational communications are critical to the success of any enterprise. Your group has a lot of media available to it, and yet the conversation gets shut down, or goes on at inappropriate times. The boss has a lot of power to set the terms of the conversation.

It’s a curse of our contemporary era that, communications-wise, we are not tied to an office or desk, and yet are tethered to our work more than ever. The good news about showing up at an office or shop, and working with a land line, is that you get to leave it behind when you walk out the door. There’s a natural boundary. But, our cell phones and personal tablets or laptops open lines of accessibility that chain us to work even when we’re on vacation or off the clock.

Some suggestions: When you respond to your boss, during regular business hours, get clear timelines and deadlines out in the open. This will help set expectations on projects. If you hear from him outside of business hours, gently remind him of when he can expect a response. For example, if he’s asked for a project status update, you might reply, “Let me look into that first thing tomorrow morning and I’ll get you that information.” Unspoken or assumed expectations are probably contributing to your frustration. Get these out in the open as much as possible, and refer back to them as needed.

Is your cell phone a company phone, or personal one? If it’s personal, turn off the notifications! If your job requires you to be available outside of regular business hours, there should be some standards in place as to when you are not expected to respond. If not, talk to your boss. You’re only as available as you allow yourself to be.

The internal work you can do in this situation is perhaps the most important. Pay attention to when your thoughts get carried away with work concerns during non-business hours. Deliberately redirect your thoughts to other things. It’s tough to do at first, but you’ll get the hang of it. For me, there’s relief when I realize I haven’t thought for a while about something that worries me. A mental break is very refreshing. Take good care of your head space.

If none of these bring you relief, or your boss scoffs at setting boundaries or clarifying expectations, then maybe it’s time to look for another job. Having no time to recharge your batteries away from work will impact your mental and physical health in the long run. You weren’t born to serve this company, you were born to have a good life. Decide what that means to you, and what you need to do to create it for yourself and those you love.

 

Photo by Cris Saur on Unsplash