Two Bosses and Nothing to Do

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about a boss’ wife who fails to delegate: I keep looking for more projects which she seems to take over too. What should I do?

I have two bosses in a way. One is my direct boss and the other is his wife. They have treated me very well as an employee but very often his wife will take on my work leaving me with little to do. My boss calls me and says why is she doing all this work? That’s why I hired you. I explain that I try very hard but she does it before I even have a chance to look at it. She says she wants to help out so things are done even faster. I have no problem with this but I don’t know what to do when well she is almost my boss as well. He didn’t say anything and he said, “Well just keep doing what you’re doing.” I don’t know what to do. His wife will always win this battle and literally he is paying me to do nothing. I keep looking for more projects which she seems to take over too. What should I do?

Signed, Forced to Pretend to Work

DearĀ Forced to Pretend to Work:

We’ve gotten thousands of questions, but only rarely have we had one complaining about nothing to do. It is uncomfortable to feel you are marking time rather than adding value to your workplace. I know you have said that you looked for more projects and that the wife takes them over too. You have not said what you’ve said to your boss’ wife, if anything. Nor have you described the kind of work you do.

Therefore, my thoughts are quite general.

1. Continue to look for ways to improve the quality and quantity of services and goods, whatever that is. See yourself as a waste cutter: wasted supplies, wasted energy, wasted time, and wasted money. Almost every workplace has fat that can be cut. Lean is a good four-letter word. Moreover, think outside the box. By that dream of ways your workplace might house a company within a company, just as Martha Steward has sought to have her brand as a store within Macy and now is in trouble with Macy’s CEO because he thinks her agreement to also place her wares within Penney’s is out of bounds. Are there ways your pop and mom workplace might house another operations, such as selling something different on the Internet?

Think of ways to engage customers, such as by creating a newsletter that promotes your business and solicits their ideas. Take photos of those of you at work and write up bios. Solicit and personalize stories of your suppliers and customers. Provide laughs for your readers. Possibly you might get out of the office to build goodwill with other merchants, helping with charity events, and promoting causes for your community in the name of your firm.

2. Think team. My signature sentence suggests that your goal as an employee is to think interdependently and to do what it takes to make that an enriching experience for all concerned: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. This is to say, that real and psychological ownership comes from real and psychological feelings of ownership. Team-mindedness doesn’t just happen. It is both an attitude, a contagious attitude, plus a process of collaboration. So while you are feeling bypassed, hopefully you are frustrated enough to be a cheerleader, who prompts your boss and wife to do more than what is usual.

You have the time and the desire to add value in small and larger ways. One of those is to make your time valuable in some of the ways I suggest or to find some that are workplace specific; such a finding ways to make your workplace more attractive. Have you ever thought of ways to make your walls speak by inviting local artists to take turns displaying their paintings for a month or a florist to do the say with displays of their arrangements? Might some of these thoughts make sense? Do let us know what you decide and how you feel about your job in a couple of weeks.

William Gorden