How to Respond to a Pestering Nagging Boss
I always hated people checking up on me. I felt insulted. I thought:
- Leave me alone.
- Get off my back.
- Mind your own business.
- Don’t you trust me?
- Have I disappointed you in the past?
- Do you think I’m incompetent?
- Don’t you have something better to do?
You work for a nagging boss when:
#1. You have let people down in the past.
If you want people to nag you, miss a few deadlines.
Work is stressful enough. Lower your boss’s stress by delivering projects on time or sooner.
#2. Your boss has a nagging boss.
Maybe your boss breathes down your neck because someone is breathing down hers.
#3. Your boss is always reminding you of milestones and deadlines.
“Don’t forget your project is due in six months.” Ugh!!
#4. Your boss asks for work before it’s due.
#5. Your boss offhandedly asks for an update when you’re walking down the hall.
5 tips for dealing with nagging bosses:
#1. Accept them.
You make things worse when you tell a worrier to stop worrying. Your stressed-out boss isn’t going to chill out in the next few weeks.
#2. Thank them.
Use irritation as a trigger to do something useful.
You feel like saying, “Get off my back, jerk!” Instead say, “Thanks for asking.”
(The thanks-for-asking strategy fits many situations.)
#3. Understand their concerns.
Say, “I notice you often ask for progress reports, what are your concerns?” You might learn that they’re trying to show they care.
#4. Beat them to the punch.
Give reports before you’re asked.
If they jump in your business once a week, send a weekly update. If it’s daily, stick your head in their office and say, “I’m working on….”
#5. Involve them.
Tell them what your working on and ask for ideas. (Be sure to use plural so that you can reject some of their suggestions.)
What are your suggestions for dealing with a nagging pestering boss?
With my nagging boss, I set up weekly checkin meetings. That reduced some of the nagging during the week to that time period. It also helped to make sure my boss and I were aligned on priorities (very important). Finally, it allowed me to set expectations for delivery dates on assignments and confirm the dates would meet his needs.
Thanks Marc. Taking initiative made all the difference for you. It’s great that you bring up priorities. Learn to spend energy on the important stuff. One important job of leader ship is setting priorities. There’s always more to do…so choose what you do wisely. Cheers
I don’t comment much, but this topic resonated with me. I often use formal progress reports as a tool to promote to other leaders in the company the work on a topic/project that someone on my team is doing. Traditional updates are covered in our 1×1’s but project updates serve other purposes.
Thanks Mike. Great suggestion. Separating the updates allows you to focus on different topics. Love that idea. Cheers
If I ever have to give up consulting and get an actual job again, I will tattoo this on my forearm. When I was employed, I made myself and several bosses miserable with my defensiveness and obsessive need to be “left alone to do my work.” Today I know that defensiveness is a useless and disempowering reaction. When I can slow down my seemingly automatic defensiveness, I can see the deeper caring underneath that surface reaction. In most cases, I care deeply about whatever I’m getting defensive over; and the “offender” or “nagging boss” also probably cares deeply. May I have the grace and presence of mind to tune into that deep caring instead of reacting from my shallow ego.
Thanks for being open Jim. Knee-jerk reactions may make us look like a jerk, or insecure, or frustrated, or …. you name it.
It so useful to interpret a pestering person as a person who cares, unless they prove otherwise.
Under promise, over deliver and over communicate has always worked for me. In fact make the communication so constant that the “nagging” boss moves on from you to others that do not know how to communicate at all.
Some employees like to set high goals…when that results in over-promising frustration sets in. I suppose part of this is how our boss responds to failure…nagging or learning???
over communicate…! Cheers
I had a boss like that. I found that giving her what she wanted helped. If asked about a project I would advise her I was at 50% completion and expected to be at 80 by the end of the week and provided details. I also used software to show the status of projects. A person like that has trust issues, give them what they need to know its ok. By the way after a while she stopped asking for updates. When I left she was devastated. Don’t spend your time fighting, find out what the person real needs.
Thanks Walt. Adversarial relationships with the boss seldom help. Don’t try to teach your boss, just adapt. If you can’t adapt, move on. Cheers
Nagging Bosses exist everywhere, so as spoken above figure what they need? Be prepared with estimate were we exist today and key milestones can help reduce the stress.
Know your project inside and out to show you have a grasp on the event. If they like to knit pick perhaps have a one on one and state your point and ask for theirs.
Good communication with clarity will help resolve nagging Bosses.
Right on. Communicate, easy to say hard to do.
So true Walt.
Thanks Tim. Demonstrate competence by delivering the goods. Do what you says you’re going to do.
There are nagging bosses. Then there are micromanaging bosses. I can deal with a supervisor or manager as long as they are being reasonable. If the supervisor or manager is concerned about the work in and of itself it wouldn’t bother me at all. If, I, personally became the center of the nagging then I would request a meeting with human resources along with my supervisor or manager that I am having an issue with.
I actually had an issue in the workplace with a director in the past. I worked for a government contractor and my director wouldn’t provide subordinates with all of the information needed to complete a task. Once the task was completed and I submitted it to her, she (director) would complain that the task was incomplete and point out what was incorrect. Basically, we would get accused of not paying attention or listening to management. However, initially she never would go into great detail or bother to inform subordinates what was expected or fully explain all of the instructions. Finally, I just got frustrated to the point that I sent her an email and copied in our human resources manager. I felt as though I was doing double work and not being as effective and efficient as I could.
One day I was called into the office and the director told me that she didn’t think I was doing a good job. Well to be perfectly honest her exact words were, “You’re not cut out for this job.” Therefore, I told her she was an ineffective leader because I can’t do a job that I’m not told how to do in the first place.” I’m straightforward and admitted that it probably would be best to terminate my employment with the organization because I could not work under discombobulated conditions. Working in that department had become a game. I don’t play games with anyone on a job and that includes authority figures. Most of the subordinates would go along with her wishy-washy attitude and apologize for messing up the task.
Eventually, I was terminated. Life goes on. I am still breathing and stronger than ever.
Thanks ZK. You probably should have moved on sooner. 🙂 Cheers
It would be nice to up and quit a job. But, the reality of the situation is I did need a paycheck. Employed or unemployed the bills must still be paid. Even though I was terminated I was able to collect unemployment while I searched for new job.
Nagging is a sign to remove an unpleasant stimulus. Example when a parent wants a child to do their homework, they nag until its done. Maybe nagging is beneficial as a way to motivate employees. I could use it as a sign post to get on with it and deliver the project asap.
Thanks Gerry. See the good side. I could use your attitude. When I get nagging, I slow down. 🙂 Cheers
For me, I found that #5 was one of the better moves to make. I’ve had the same supervisor for a few years now and they just want to be involved with my daily/weekly interactions. Going to them for feedback or support really slowed down the nagging or micromanaging. It took me a while to figure out a happy medium, but once I did, I was able keep them off my back and along side me in my projects.
I know my case isn’t a one size fits all situation, but I feel that if you give more than enough information or updates, then that generally keeps the nagging supervisor at a distance. For myself as a supervisor, I enjoyed those who keep me in the loop or fed me information, no matter how small it may have been. Those individuals rarely had a call from me. But for the ones who reported little, I had to keep nagging them for information or to stay on task. I also know that the persistent nagging drives away employees, so I had to take different approaches to keep them on task.
Thanks Tim. While reading your comment I remembered how I took offense, instead of adapting. Taking offense at something is about me. I have to own my reactions to others. Over-communicate to the boss. He/she will let you know when they’ve had enough. Cheers
I really like #4 about beating them to the punch. You know your boss. If your boss is going to bother you every day or every week, update them accordingly. To expand on that you don’t even have to go out of your way to update them. Instead have a formalized update (e-mail, rehearsed phone conversation, etc.) so that you are prepared when they asked. Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to just send them that update whether they ask or not. We are not just leaders to those who work under our direction, but we are also leaders to those above us. The concept of followership (less studied that leadership) really expounds on the idea that followers serve a purpose in essentially leading up the chain of command by setting their expectations through the culture they help develop and maintain. Dealing with a nagging boss is small part of that culture, and although as leaders we may sometimes assume the role of follower, we need to remember how to apply our leadership techniques in those situations too.
Interesting topic and conversation. Trying to think what I do that could be construed as ‘nagging’. I tend to send out reminders about deadlines because I have a select few who seem to benefit from it. In an effort to not single them out, I send deadline reminders to the entire team. Might be an interesting topic for a group discussion at our next meeting.