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Is Your Boss the Reason You're Not Productive at Work?

By Maurie Backman – May 9, 2019 at 10:36AM

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If so, here's what to do about it.

As an employee, you probably know that the more productive you are with your days, the less stress you'll experience in meeting deadlines and expectations. So if you've been less than efficient in recent months, it pays to get to the bottom of the matter.

Now, when we think about the things that tend to impede productivity, it's easy to point to chatty colleagues, social media, and other such hard-to-avoid distractions. But maybe, just maybe, your boss is equally to blame for the fact that you're less productive than you should be. Here are three signs that this is the case.

Man in suit sitting next to woman and across from man at table

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Your boss doesn't communicate well

It's hard to work efficiently when you don't get clear instructions about new assignments or complex tasks. If your boss is a poor communicator, you might struggle to understand what's being asked of you, and that might create a series of scenarios where you're forced to repeat the same tasks over again until you get them right.

If you can't trust your boss to communicate well on his or her own, be sure to ask plenty of questions when you're first given new projects -- that way you're able to get clarity on gray areas from the start. At the same time, you may need to be resourceful and seek pertinent information elsewhere. For example, if your boss really can't manage to explain things well, you may need to enlist the help of a senior colleague who's willing to sit down with you and show you the ropes.

2. Your boss micromanages

It's one thing to be a hands-on boss, but it's another thing to cross the line into being a micromanager. If your boss is guilty of the latter, it could explain why you're not as productive as you'd like to be. After all, it's hard to get work done when you're constantly stopping to provide updates, answer questions, or sit there and listen as your boss explains how he or she would tackle your workload differently.

If your boss is a micromanager, propose a communication schedule that allows you to update your manager on your progress on your own terms. You might agree that you'll send a detailed daily update before leaving for the evening, or that you'll send an update once certain project milestones are hit. That way you'll be able to carve out time for those updates rather than constantly have to stop what you're doing and risk losing your train of thought in the process.

3. Your boss flip-flops on you constantly

It's not unusual for a manager to change his or her mind about what you ought to prioritize. But if your boss constantly changes direction on you, it could easily explain why you're not as productive at work as you'd like to be.

If that's the case, sit down with your manager and have an open discussion where you express your concerns about your output. It may be the case that your boss is aware of his or her tendencies and is pleased with your productivity in light of that fact. And if not, you may need to reset some expectations -- namely, by articulating that you can only get so much done when your directions change midassignment all the time.

In many cases we're our own worst enemies on the productivity front. But if your boss is the reason you're not working efficiently, try getting ahead of the problem before it escalates. The last thing you want is to get dinged on your performance and potentially lose out on promotions because your boss -- whether intentionally or not -- is dragging you down.

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