When you don’t have very much authority in the workplace, it can be tricky to have difficult conversations.
If you’re in a position where you think you don’t have much control, it’s easy to think you can’t do anything about it.
What we forget is that we have way more power and influence than we think we do. It may just require some creativity.
Sure, you’re not “the boss” but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the power to influence things. We all have a sphere of influence, which is essentially the ability to impact change even though you may not have any formal authority.
Check this out:
Someone Else’s Emergency Doesn’t Have to Be Yours
I hear all the time from people about constantly being put in a position where they get urgent requests at the last minute and they go into panic mode.
When you get the request, you drop everything, work crazy hours and basically move heaven and earth to meet the deadline that was dropped on you at the last minute.
You finally get it done and there’s a huge sense of relief. Then a few days later you follow up with the person and they haven’t looked at it yet. Then it’s a week later and they STILL haven’t looked at it. And here you were, breaking your back to get this done because it was supposedly SO urgent, yet now that it’s done it’s sitting on someone’s desk or in their email indefinitely.
How to Make It Better
The first thing that needs to happen is for you to get the courage together to actually SAY something about it. Because nothing changes if you change nothing!
Approach your boss and ask to speak with them about how they assign projects. You can explain to them that you’ve seen a pattern of these urgent project cropping up at the last minute, but once the project is completed on your end it doesn’t get worked on any further for weeks.
Share with them that you’re looking for a solution. This part is important. No boss wants you to come complain, complain, complain. They want to see their employees being proactive and offering solutions. So be that person!
Talk about how you can manage these projects moving forward so that their needs are met (getting the project by a certain date) and the team’s needs are also met (not scrambling at the last minute to throw something together). Focus on the quality of work you want to produce and how a better process can enable that to happen.
Devise a Backup Plan
Now, in a perfect world, things would get better and you’d never deal with this issue again. But that’s not life, right?
This is where you need a backup plan.
Instead of throwing your hands up and deciding that you’re out of options, you need to have a backup plan.
While the first meeting with the boss was focused on solutions, it’s time to have a talk about impact. You need to address the impact these broken processes have on you and your teammates, and how that translates for the business.
You have the influence to let that person know just how frustrated you are, and that you’re concerned if things continue this way then you and your colleagues are going to get burnt out. You WANT to be able to keep the pace up long term, and fielding these constant last minute requests will jeopardize that.
The key here is to think about the why. Why does this matter to the other person? Why is this important to them? Why should your concerns be theirs?
The idea is that when it comes to using your influence, you need to think a bit outside the box. You have power, so it more about figuring out the best way to use it for change.
Remember, you DO have influence, you just need to use it.