Is my boss BU, or am I?(39 Posts)
Long time lurker, but have been around a while, not a bridge dweller etc.
I started a new job about two months ago. Same industry I've always worked in, but a significant promotion from my previous role.
The issue I have is with my boss, and his form for asking me to sort things out which are impossible (it's all very Devil Wears Prada). One of the things involves arranging formal meetings in an organisation which never has free meeting rooms to book (there aren't any), and involving people who have packed schedules/are on leave.
If I point out that this is proving impossible to sort, he cuts me off and says "you sort it".
I can't sort it. This is the fifth morning in a row I've woken up with extreme anxiety about it. He seems to think I can, for whatever reason, magic rooms, and free schedules, out of now where.
The actual detail of my work, which isn't booking rooms, is fine and I have the experience to complete it. It's just this.
Additional details: we don't have a union rep, I'm not part of a union, haven't passed my probation.
I'm planning to meet with him tomorrow and say I've tried but what he wants is impossible, what would HE do so I know what to do next time?
Can I be sacked for failing at this? Although not an actual failure, it is in his eyes.
The anxiety and stress is starting to make me really ill (I have an anxiety disorder anyway)
Is this normal boss behaviour or is he BU?
Previous bosses have expected the same but did at least accept "i can't force someone to cancel everything in their schedule" with good grace...
You can join a union as an indvidual, you don't need a rep. You would then have access to their advice. If you are in a public service area, try Unison, otherwise Usdaw.
Sounds tough. Is it possible to bring him a solution rather than a problem? Instead of starting "I can't... ", how about saying what you can do? Who can you get to a meeting (a list of who is available when?) and where could you make it happen (off-site? Hiring a room?). I don't know what your job is, but it's generally better to present some constructive alternatives that show your initiative rather than passing the problem back to him as impossible. "You sort it," sounds to me like he's stressed to and needs you to take this on. Not a lovely working environment, but not uncommon and I can think of those people who thrive in them by seeming to do the impossible, not by making magic happen, but by looking at the problem another way and troubleshooting so that things work better in future. Hope you can do this.
Ask him if there is budget to hire an external meeting venue, bring a printout of the room booking system/spreadsheet (whatever you use) to prove there are no internal rooms available in that time frame.
Re:availability of participants. Ask him who is the most important attendee, explain that you can set up the meeting, but not with everyone due to their availability, ask who he would think is most crucial and set up a meeting around them.
If he continues to be obtuse, and insists it can be done, tell him that you're sorry but these are the best options. You won't be fired for this if you present him with the situation as it is. You need to present alternative solutions instead of just a blanket no.
he sounds like a cock.
PS: Is Skyping an option for some of the people?
You just have to calmly reiterate what you did to fulfil his request and the (good) reasons it didn't work. He can't fire you for failure to do the impossible. Make sure, however, that you really have done everything possible; if there is no meeting room available for an important meeting, is there somewhere suitable outside the office? Would your boss hire meeting space? Would someone else swap for the time you need? Nothing more annoying than someone saying 'I tried my best' when you, the boss, can think of ten things they didn't try!
Does your employer have an HR team? If he continues to be difficult it might be worth asking one of them for an informal chat about it.
Is physically meeting a necessity? Could a conference call work instead? That sounds horrendously stressful for you, and he sounds unreasonable.
I think there are companies out there which just hire office space to others. You could try that, or using Skype, video or telephone conferencing, meeting in a coffee shop, meeting in a restaurant, etc. Like others have said, try to think of alternatives. I think going in with a "i can't" will just sound defeatist. Also, make sure you have a list of everyone who's saying they're not free, maybe see if you can wrangle dates out of some of them.
Thank you, everyone. To answer some questions.
HR: We have a very small HR dept but the people who work there are understanding and accommodating which makes me feel a bit "safer".
Skype: Yes, this is an option and we utilise it often. However the people who are unavailable are so because they are on leave or on an assignment elsewhere. Boss expects leave to be cancelled, hes insane. (And not the boss of the people who are on leave either so not his call or mine to make!)
Re: external venues- this is what I am going to suggest and ask him very clearly what our budget is. Last time I asked he just told me to "find out". Didn't say who from (him, as it turned out).
Part of all the problems here are because I am so new and don't know people/the organisation at all well. I expect a lot of my issues will become none issues once I have been there for a while longer.
From speaking to others in the organisation, it seems he has form for expecting everything to be done now, his way, without thinking about the logistics of everything.
Thanks again, everyone.
Yes, physical meeting necessary. It's a formal committee/governance structure.
Is it really your responsibility to make sure people can come to the meetings? Surely it's up to those invited to move their work around.
If he moans about the number of apologies from invitees then set a date further in the future so people have more notice to juggle.
Good on you for considering an outside venue.
If it's a formal governance meeting, are there timescales for when it needs to be done by and maybe asking all the people for availability to do this important thing and see if you can line up a meeting/conference call for however many you need (to be quorate) to attend.
Sometimes physical meetings impossible and so a conference call for urgent single agenda business item might be best approach to keep things moving.
If these people are involved in governance they should understand importance/urgency of your request.
I manage a team of people and we have to arrange stuff like this - it is hard but I'd expect whoever was doing it to come up with ideas to try to figure out how to make it work (eg with ideas similar to how others have suggested above) and then bring those ideas to me to see what I would be ok with - show you have looked at ideas and pass it back to him to choose an option.
Agree with people like this you give them solutions, not problems, or you make it clear you are on top of it, so Monday, you ask to see your boss, explain you are finding it hard to get the group together with short notice, so how regularly do these meetings need to be booked in, every X number of weeks? You will start coordinating January/February/march meetings now, as it'll be easier to cancel the time in their schedules/meeting rooms closer to the date than fit stuff in. Make it look like you have acknowledged the problem and are finding a long term solution, in the short term you are "paying" for your predecessor's failure to do this, but from 2017 onwards this will be fine....
Your boss might wait until they need the meeting to schedule it, no reason for you to.
Agree in the meantime, give them options like "I can get x,y, and z at a meeting on Wednesday or a,b and z on Thursday, which would you prefer? I don't have the authority to cancel leave, it will have to come from you if that's happening."
Ask him to prioritise attendees.
I do a bit of project management in my role but my secretary handles my diary. If I ever ask her to set up a meeting of more than 3-4 people, I tell her who is essential, who is nice to have & who can be substituted in (e.g. deputy rather than head of department) to make it clear who to prioritise.
If you are setting up governance meetings surely these are planned 6-12 months in advance?
Ugh, people like this are just ludicrous. Where a situation is actually impossible, like when someone is going to be on holiday, explain the reality calmly and ask him who would be a good alternate for that person. Stay very calm and don't let him push your buttons. Have a reasoned answer and explanation. Stand your ground if he is really being awful; bullies look for people to back down as evidence of their unfitness to live. If you keep a good front he will at least have to respect that.
If this work isn't part of your actual job can you ask HR why he doesn't have an assistant to handle his logistical work?
I'd be taking notes already, I'm afraid, and looking for something else if it is already making you ill. I've been there more than once so
Also agree you need to offer a range of solutions. If they are governance meetings why aren't they set a year in advance?
Ask him if you can set dates for regular meetings to avoid this happening in the future. Better to cancel a meeting nearer the time if it's not needed than try and find dates and a venue at short notice.
Start exploring external venues now!!!! Don't wait for him to give you a budget. If you've already sussed venues out, next time he asks you you can quickly ring them to see which are available. Just tell him what the cost will be and ask him if he'll authorise it.
Don't worry about getting everyone there. Find a date most people can do and set it. Work out who the most important people are - external members and the most senior staff?
I think you have already had some good advice here.
As your boss has already told you to look into hiring rooms I think you should do that (just some quick email investigations and a couple of phone calls) and present him with the costs. If you go back to him asking for a budget it looks a bit lame, like you should have asked him when he suggested it.
I agree that you need to set up a schedule, up to a year in advance, asking people to prioritise these meetings. Can subs be sent? Ask boss if that is an option so that the meetings are quorate and meet governance issues.
If you have an email trail of what you have done then he will have to accept that it isn't working. Maybe the people you are asking to attend would be more likely to acquiesce if the invitation came from his email address rather than yours?
I am sure it's not you - don't let this affect your anxiety, it's honestly not worth it. You may even find that he accepts what you say, so don't lose sleep over it.
Trying not to out myself here.
It's a new governance structure which has not previously been in place. Myself (and my three direct reports, none of this relates to their job though so falls on me) were recruited to oversee and implement a formal structure in the organisation.
We knew these meetings would be coming up but my manager only finalised the dates maybe ten days ago? The next three we have set in stone at various points in the future.
No predecessor unfortunately, role was specifically created for me. The previous secretary to events like this would very often put their foot down, say it couldn't be done and leave it to my boss to sort. They're still in the company as they occupy a role outside of my department. Boss has said the attitude of "there's no room, it can't be done" is not good enough.
Apologies for drip feeding and is confusing. Shit like this takes up so much of my time at work that I can't get on with my actual job, which I was trained to do and which I am good at!!! We both need assistants but I don't think this will happen for another year or so.
I was going to suggest a call too. My old boss used to keep saying "speak to other PAs - they must have a special way to book rooms". There wasn't. There was one system, no secret clubs.
Isn't it annoying that you have present people like this with solutions just to pander to their inflexibility. Maybe they just need to learn to be less of an arse!
Weird thing is...in other respects, my boss is lovely to me. We have to deal with a lot of sensitive issues, some I find very triggering due to my personal circumstances, and he is extremely accommodating and understanding. he knows I have very bad anxiety and that it's particularly bad at the moment, as I have disclosed my anxiety disorder to him; for information rather than for concession and he couldn't have handled it better. It makes stuff like this even worse as I know he's not an arse all the time!
Yes albatross; so frustrating that I could scream.
If it was me, I would do everything via email. Just in case you need to have proof of anything....
How are you looking for dates? Do you have access to staff diaries? If not, ask their PAs to give you this. Then when looking for dates you can see if an existing appointment looks like something that could be rearranged.
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