5 questions that must be answered by a boss-jerk

Font Size
Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

My boss wants me to work hard on my job and gives result before his unilaterally imposed deadline. The trouble is that we’re doing a lot of back-and-forth meetings that cause delay in the completion of my work. This includes waiting for him for hours to come to the office and when’s in, he drags his feet in making decisions. I think it boils down to one thing — he’s giving me piecemeal information and at times, wouldn’t allow himself to be taken on record. If “cornered,” he would often hide under the company’s confidentiality rule. Am I working for a jerk? — Amazingly Dumbfounded.

We human beings are physically created so that we can walk more easily forward than backward. Look at how easy it is to use our hands in front of us than behind us. This principle can be easily discovered by every young girl as she tries to button the buttons on the back of her dress.

Always, you can hear a frustrated little girl exclaiming: “How can I button these buttons when I am in front of myself?” It’s difficult to answer your question if your boss is a jerk or not. That’s because you know him more than I do. But with the preceding story, I can easily paraphrase your question with the following: “How can I do my job more effectively and efficiently if the boss is withholding information?”

One of the irritating aspects of a working (if a not working) relationship is to be delayed in your work because the boss does not share complete information about a certain task or project. If this is happening regularly, you may start to think that you’re working for a jerk. Or is it? Is it enough basis to judge his competence?

On the other hand, the boss you suspect of being a “jerk” may not trust you well enough with vital facts and figures so that you can do your job ahead of schedule. Of course, that approach will just serve to increase the burden on you, if not create conflict between you and your boss. Then you resent him for that.

Therefore, rather than perpetually calling your boss a “jerk” behind his back, the solution lies in remaining positive about the situation and figure out why he appears not to understand your current needs. Most likely, the reason is either in the way the instructions were given or the circumstances of your boss.

Even if you think you’re not part of the problem, try to look back and discover your own faults and weaknesses. For this approach, you need to take a proactive stance in knowing everything from your boss with the following exploratory but magical questions:

One, how can I perform better in my job as you want it to be? Take the time to clarify the boss’s expectations. Sometimes, the instructions are given in haste, particularly when the boss is too busy and he has no time to document everything. More often, this is the time when he could miss on many things. Therefore, the best tactic for you is to summarize in an e-mail, test message or any written form about your understanding of the boss’s instructions and the information you need. Then, be happy if he replies with either of the words – “OK” or “noted.”

Two, would you like me to drop Project ABC, so I can prioritize XYZ? Perhaps the greatest challenge in working with so many simultaneous projects is to determine one’s priority. And that can only be done with the boss’s permission. Don’t try to do everything in one major sweep and fare poorly. It’s bad for your health, your family life, and of course with your relations with the boss. So the only guarantee you have is to concentrate on working on one project at a time, and do it well, if not exceed the boss’s expectations so that you can proceed on working with confidence on your next project.

Three, what kind of information I need to complete this task? Then, explore it with a follow-up question — where can I get the full facts and figures about it? Don’t wait for your boss to volunteer all the information you need. And don’t suspect him of keeping confidential information from you, unless you have sufficient basis. To play it safe, work on the assumption that he’s too busy to spoon-feed you with everything. Who knows? Maybe he’s expecting you to be more resourceful and to do your best in everything.

Four, what is my budget and other limitations about this project? In general, the company resources you need should be based on what was approved by top management. Nothing more than that. Better if you can achieve great results with fewer resources. That alone could give you enough stars so that you can be easily trusted by your boss, if not give you some material things, out of the savings you have realized.

Last, how is it possible for us to agree on a mutually agreed timeline? Your pacing should be based on the deadline given. It depends much on many factors which include the complexity of the job or internal politics in the organization, among other things. Sometimes, a relatively minor task becomes significant and urgent if it has been given a high priority by the boss, for one reason or another. Some bosses tend to delegate a task and then forget about it. Sometimes, to test your trustworthiness.

Working for someone can be a two-edged sword. You can misinterpret the boss’s acts or omissions into something else. Note that he may also be thinking about the same thing against you. Therefore, there’s no better way but to be positively reasonable by asking those five questions.

ELBONOMICS: Employee motivation is a result of one’s interaction with the boss.


Join our May 23, 2018 public workshop on “Lean HR: How to Stop Inefficiency and Win Back Control of Your Work!” at Makati Diamond Residences. For further details, contact Ricky Mendoza at (02) 846-8951 or mobile 0915-406-3039 or e-mail