Boss insists everything must be done in writing

In The Workplace
Rey Elbo

Posted on September 23, 2016

I’m a department manager in one medium-size organization. My problem is with my lawyer-boss who demands a lot of paper work from me resulting in my low productivity. How do you manage a boss like him who insists that every discussion and agreements must be formalized and recorded in writing, short of the documents being notarized? -- Can’t Take It

Do you know the reason why lawyers use legal-size paper to write their mumbo-jumbo, unlike us ordinary mortals who can make do with ordinary paper size? Precisely, they need more paper to write on their brief statements.

But, sure does. It’s a good thing there are lawyers or there would be no one to explain to the rest of the world why it’s important for us to have lawyers, in the first place. The trouble is that some lawyers are exaggerating it, simply to justify their existence.

You’re not alone. A common complaint against lawyers is the amount of paper work they demand from people, even if they are not necessary. What often makes this troublesome is that some lawyer-bosses make it appear imperative, even in the presence of other options and regardless of the nature of transactions and its amount.

In this day and age, computers give us enough printouts and digital copy. Even e-mails can contribute to improving our office productivity. In my case, I would transact with clients and business partners using Facebook or LinkedIn as our media platform. There’s no need for us to spell out everything in a legal document. Or else, we’ll be bogged down with so many unnecessary words.

It’s not easy, but it is doable. In fact, I use the same approach to test the sincerity of people in a verbal transaction. No risk, no gain. The moment someone reneges on a verbal or digital promise, he would surely be banished from my circle. And no questions will be asked or explanation will be given.

Believe it as a test of faith and friendship. If you can’t do the same thing with your lawyer-boss, then I suggest you consider the following options:

First, agree with your boss on matters that must be subjected to a written protocol. Classify things according to low, medium, and high importance. The authority can be in monetary form like pegging it at P5,000 and above, for instance for a formal, handwritten document. If the transaction is lower than P5,000, then you may opt to do a handwritten intervention instead.

Second, save time by writing marginal notes on the document itself. That’s assuming your boss would agree to it. Whenever possible, save time by writing your comments, questions, or other ideas in the same document or letter. Do the same thing with your fellow workers and subordinates. In time, your boss may finally see the light.

Third, write clearly and direct to the point. Avoid wasting time explaining the context or nature of the discussion as much as possible. KISS (keep it short and simple) every document that comes your way. If it’s clear to everyone what you’re talking about, there’s no need to preface your ideas with kilometric statements. Just the same, protect your planks so that your approval or disapproval is limited only to the issue at hand.

Fourth, delegate the writing task to your subordinates to save time. Choose someone who can be trusted with sensitive information. This way, you can lighten your load and at the same time, you’ve given someone the chance to tackle other challenges. This also allows you to take it from a distance and give a document a fresh eye for your review.

Fifth, avoid the office in-basket purgatory. Reduce paperwork by handling each hard or soft document only once. Avoid procrastination by delaying your reply to a written material. It may not be possible at all times, but at least, if you adhere to the one-touch mind-set, there will be a big chance for you not to be inundated with an overflowing in-tray at all times.

As a manager, one of the best ways to increase your personal efficiency is to, first and foremost, to explain your predicament with your lawyer-boss. If you can do it correctly, you can reduce your work stress, since your writing tasks can be reduced, if not eliminated.

ELBONOMICS: Writing can be easy if you’re not writing like a lawyer.