Myth: Your boss is too busy to meet with you

By Bruce Tulgan

Don't fall for the myth that some bosses are just too busy to meet with you. The truth is your boss does not have time not to meet with you on a regular basis no matter how busy your boss might be.

Don't get me wrong. You should be very careful about wasting one minute of your boss's time - or anybody's time for that matter. After all, there are only 168 hours in a week and everyone has zillions of demands on his or her time. Your boss has his own tasks and responsibilities and projects besides his management obligations to you. Your boss is busy. You are busy. Nobody has a minute to waste.

That's exactly why neither you nor your boss has time to not meet with you on a regular basis to talk about your work. When you have a boss who won't spend time talking through your work with you, misunderstandings occur, you don't always know what resources are necessary, you might find yourself in a real pickle, and, even if you succeed against all odds, then you probably won't get the credit you deserve.

But how often can you succeed against all odds? Without clear expectations, adequate resources, monitoring, and measuring of performance, here's what happens:

  • Unnecessary problems occur.
  • Problems that could have been solved easily get out of control.
  • The resources you do have get squandered.

As a result, the boss who tried so hard to avoid spending time managing you ends up spending lots of time managing you, anyway. Only it's after the fact because you were set up to fail, instead of being set up to succeed. When the boss avoids spending time in advance to make sure things go right, things usually go wrong. Small problems pile up. Often, small problems fester unattended until they become so big that they cannot be ignored. By that point, the boss has no choice but to chase down the problems and help you solve them.

In crisis, the boss is virtually guaranteed to be less effective - a further waste of time. What's more, these bosses run around solving problems that never had to happen, getting big problems under control that should have been solved easily, recouping squandered resources, dealing with long-standing issues, and then feeling even more pressed for time.

As a result, these are the bosses who go right back to avoiding spending time managing you, and the next time they'll make time for management is the next time there is another big problem to resolve.

So don't waste any boss's time. Make your one-on-one time with every boss brief, straightforward, efficient, and all about the work. But make sure you get that regular one-on-one time with every boss you answer to directly at any given time. How often? That depends on the nature of the work you are doing for that boss. Once a day? Once a week? Every other week?

If you push every boss to put the management time where it belongs, up front before anything goes right, wrong, or average, on a regular basis, and you make sure you get the basic elements you need to succeed, then the time every boss does spend managing you will be so much more effective.

If you make sure the time every boss spends with you is high-leverage time, bosses are going to want to give you that time. You will gain a reputation for not wasting anyone's time. You will gain a reputation for making good use of management time. Bosses will know that it is worth spending time with you, that there will be a return on investment for every minute a boss spends with you.

Reprinted with permission from HR.com.

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