Pinhead bosses, perhaps intelligent in other aspects of their of their lives, become cripplingly stupid in the workplace. I theorize it is because the greed and power centers of their brain become so enlarged and aroused that they squeeze the thinking part right out.
Even the most mundane tasks, ones that you and I take for granted, can loom like a Death Star in that wide open galaxy of space they call a brain.
Boss: (whining) We’re not sell any of the THX-1138 widgets!
Employee: That’s because you never listed them for sale on the website.
It’s not their fault, really. They’re too busy doing important stuff like telling you what to do, like micromanaging how many rubber bands or pieces of tape you use. They’re only human and can only do so much!
That’s where I come in. I’ve decided to do the mature thing. I’m going to take the high road and forgive their foibles. I’m going to try to help.
Let’s look at a typical real-world example. A boss wants something done. Something so irrelevant to the performance of the company that it must, by definition, be given the highest prioritization. (Bosses love this word. It makes them feeling like they are managing when they use it a lot.)
The boss then estimates the best case scenario (BCS) time it would take Superman to complete the task. The BCS time estimate ignores all distractions like your normal duties, phone dodging, and the additional verbal tasks he issues every three minutes.
Let’s say the boss thinks his task will take 15 minutes. He’s only off by a factor of eight. He’ll then say something like this, “So that will done by the end of the day?”
My thoughtful answer has been gained through decades of painful experience.
“Are you going to take me off phones?”
“Do orders still have to be processed?”
“Is there the slightest most miniscule responsibility you will alleviate and lift from my shoulders in the pursuit of seeing this task done?”
“Um, what’s the word mean? And NO!”
“Well then. I can’t guarantee your task will be done today. Sorry. What I can promise is that the task will be done when I have been given enough time to work on it.”
“So tomorrow then?”
Back to my effort to be helpful, I have decided to create the Task Completion Estimator Tool for bosses everywhere. Here’s an example to demonstrate how it works:
- Task duration: Two hours (120 minutes)
- Time per day allowed on task: 1 minute
- Days per week on task: 5
- Estimated completion date: 24 weeks
The structure of my day is simple. When the boss hired me he promptly made me in charge of tasks that he hated the most. The bulk of my day consists of this task. (Which, by the way, he never bothered to mention when he was interviewing me. More about this distressing form of bait and switch later.) This task takes about six hours a day.
The boss then gives me an additional four hours of work every single day.
Not too make this into advanced calculus or anything, but that math doesn’t quite work out.
“What do you mean you can’t get it all done? I better prioritize your day. You know what we need? Another time study! What a good boss am I? Whew, time for a break.”
It was much like this with my last boss, too. His logic was this: I am the boss. I say things. Because I’m the boss whatever I say is the most important thing, no matter what.
Every morning the boss would give me a new top priority task. This task preempts everything else, including the top priority task I just gave you yesterday. And that simple formula is how nothing ever got done. Oh yes, the boss is just that brilliant.
The example I like to use is building cars. Let’s say it takes us two days to build a car. That means in one day we can build half a car.
Each morning, no matter what, the all-knowing boss tells the crew to start on a new car. The employees say, “But boss! We have a half-finished car we’re working on here.”
“Shut up! I’m the boss. Only I know best. Get on that new car.”
And that’s how, at the end of the year, we had 200 half-finished cars and had never sold a single one. “What the fuck do you care? You get paid by the hour!” Indeed.
I can only hope that my Task Completion Estimator Tool will be helpful to bosses everywhere. But I know that it won’t.