Is Your Boss a Hoarder?
You may be the picture of organization and time management, but a boss who is akin to an episode of the show Hoarders can throw your whole system of structure into a tailspin. While you may not be able to transform your boss’s haphazard habits entirely, there are ways you can try to manage the mess—and minimize the disruption it causes. Here’s how:
1. Don’t make it personal. Disorganized bosses have a way of unknowingly affecting the rest of the team, especially when the clutter leaves staff feeling resentful of the chaotic, unpredictable environment that ensues. It could be controlled by a simple organizational system. Instead of blaming your boss, complaining to co-workers and getting angry and frustrated, accept your boss’s clutter for what it is: a shortcoming. Erin Doland, editor of Unclutterer.com, says, “Every employee brings something different to a business. The more diverse the employees at a company, the better the company is at responding to its needs. What your colleague lacks in organizing skills, she might make up for in people or management skills.” Chances are, your boss does bring unique skills you appreciate to the job; organization just isn’t one of them. When you can mentally diffuse the situation, you’ll find more productive and creative ways to overcome the clutter obstacles.
1 Be a solutions provider. Generally, there are two types of messy people: those who simply don’t care, and those who realize their disorganization is a problem but don’t have the skills or time to improve. If you pride yourself on your own organizational skills, present your business case to your boss with facts and empathy. Let your boss know that you would like to contribute your organizational talents to make his or her (not your) life better, just as you would offer other workplace skills, like travel planning or report preparation. Present your argument in a way that focuses on the business value. According to Liz Davenport, founder of Order from Chaos, the average businessperson receives up to 300 pieces of new information each day and wastes more than 150 hours a year searching for job-related “stuff.” That’s an entire month of your boss’s life that you could give back to him or her!
2. Offer a seamless solution. Most messes flourish because they’re overwhelming. Assure your boss that steps toward cleaning up the chaos will take no more than a few minutes a day or less, as things become more organized. Instead of forcing your boss into a complex filing system or your preferred method, use a simple one like creating “keep,” “toss” and “move” folders to eliminate mounds of desktop paperwork. Integrate the system into your existing weekly or morning meetings, if possible. The more your boss sees results with little disruption or time requirements, the more appreciative and receptive he or she will become to organization.
4. Accept “managing up.” Despite your best efforts, some bosses will have no desire to change. If the situation is so severe that you’re actively considering new employment as a result, approach your boss about the frustration the disorganization has created—but be prepared for backlash. After all, you probably do things that your boss would improve upon if given the opportunity, too. Though you may live by the adage “cluttered desk, cluttered mind,” your boss doesn’t, and ultimately, disorganization is simply a workplace obstacle to overcome. Put your own organizational skills on overload so you’ll be less sidelined when you have to pick up the slack for your boss’s clutter. And if you really can’t deal with the disorganization, it may be time to find a boss whose work style better fits your own.