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How Your Boss Wastes Your Time

Boss Wastes Your Time
September 2018

What’s worse? Your boss wasting your time or the fact they probably don’t realize that they are doing so?

Stanford professor Dr. Robert Sutton explores this potentially morale-crushing behavior.

“Leaders don’t mean to waste their employees’ time,” Sutton writes in The Wall Street Journal.

“Unfortunately, many of them heap unnecessary work on the people below them in the pecking order—and are downright clueless that they’re doing it.

“They give orders without realizing how much work those directives entail. They make offhand comments and don’t consider that their employees may interpret them as commands. And they solicit opinions without realizing that people will bend over backward to tell them what they want to hear—rather than the whole truth—warts and all.”

In his book “Scaling Up Excellence” Sutton and his colleague Huggy Rao analyze why organizations make the right things too difficult to do and the wrong things too easy to do—and what leaders can do to avoid the problem.

Do Rock the Boat.

Harvard Business School research shows that “the best employees for promoting in the company are often those who never leave well enough alone, pointing out mistakes and flawed practices. However, those who management rates as top performers are often those who silently do what they’re told and what has always been done—and who don’t annoy their superiors with complaints and questions about flawed practices.”

Superstar Employees.

Leaders should reconsider who the real office superstars are. Consider that employees who introduce new programs often are celebrated, whereas those who remove programs that generate destructive workplace friction or that reduce waste are not recognized.

Piling On.

When introducing new initiatives, consider previous initiatives, the added work time they placed on staff and whether they are still worthwhile.

Speaking Off-Hand. One boss once commented “Why are there no blueberry muffins?” at a staff meeting. Afterward, their report issued a dictum to all company hosts to include them. Sutton says that savvy executives realize that when they speak anything that could be misconstrued as a command or desire for change, it helps to add, “Please don’t do anything, I am just thinking out loud.”

‘Executive Magnification.’

Employees who realize how self-absorbed an executive can be, and then who do anything or say anything that the executive tells them to please them will struggle to manage (or reduce) their workload.