What to do when your boss scoffs at your time off request.

Throwing the Elephant, by Stanley Bing

Managing Up: An essential business skill.

What do you do when you work like crazy, put in all sorts of overtime, work weekends to get special events organized, yet your boss still wants to see you back at your desk at 9:00 on a Monday morning? All that extra work, all the stress – don’t you deserve a little time off? This scenario was described to me by a recent workshop attendee. She’s burning out. She feels unappreciated, and her health is starting to suffer. Yet attempts to win back a little time off – just even half a day – after a strenuous project that included the entire weekend, are met with, “if you can’t handle this job, there are plenty of others who will.”

This is a situation that a great deal of people find themselves in – whether through fear of job loss, or simply a strong nurturing instinct, the pressure to stay on-the-job with no time for balance is enormous. To these people, I say, “learn to manage up.” Managing up is a professional skill as important as any other. More-so, perhaps, because without adequate protection against the intentional and unintentional scourges of your boss, the pressure has to go somewhere, and it will go inside you – it will manifest itself as illness, short-term, long-term or both.

Many people like their jobs. they like the challenges, and they certainly like the relative security of a regular paycheck. And there is certainly nothing wrong with hard work. There is nothing wrong with working overtime, occasionally, either. But all things need balance. It’s pure physics. “To every action there is an opposite and equal reaction.” That’s Newton’s third law. If the sacrifice and effort of overtime is not countered by an equal force, in the form of acknowledgment and monetary or time compensation, the energy imbalance must find resolution somewhere, and it does so by attacking the fundamentals of your physical and mental health.

There is no better time than now to learn the skills of managing up, such as speaking to your boss; proactively planning meetings between the two of you; communicating what you are planning to do; asking what he/she needs or expects; understanding the pressures he/she is under and proactively delineating a plan of mutual cooperation, in which trust and respect form the key pillars; guiding and managing his/her expectations. There are many courses and great books on the subject. My favorite is called “Throwing the Elephant,” by Stanley Bing.

Managing Up. It is not a career limiting move. But bearing the weight of passive overload certainly is.


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