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My ‘old’ Boss still expects me to do work for him!

Dear Office-Politics,

I work for an investment firm and, until recently, I had been an administrative assistant for two investment advisors. Now, I am an administrative assistant exclusively for one advisor.

When I accepted the offer to work for my now boss, I was under the impression that I would be released from my duties for my two old bosses once I started working for my new boss. However, it turns out not to be so. The management has allocated another assistant to work for one advisor, but not for the other. A new person has to be hired.

My new boss thought that I would help out one of my old bosses for two weeks maximum. Now, it has been more than a month, and the new person will not start for another two weeks. My new boss has talked to the management and they agree that, for the time being, I should allocate three hours per week of my time working on my old boss’s tasks. However, it drives me nuts that my old boss would call or e-mail me almost every day just to ask for an update of his tasks. Besides, most of my old boss’s tasks can be accomplished by spending a few minutes of my mine. My new boss has given me enough work to stay in the office for 40+ hours per week. I feel that I have enough pressure for being in a new position. I do not need my old boss’s constant phone calls and e-mails.

Help before I would say something to the management that I would regret!

Thanks and regards,

Ready to Blow

timothy johnson

Dear Ready to Blow,

I’ve always appreciated the scripture that says, “No man can serve two masters for either he will love the one and other….” You get the point.

Unfortunately, welcome to the understaffed world of matrix management. It sounds like your old boss has violated the agreement of three hours per week. For one week, just keep quiet and track your time that you are working for both bosses. Track every email and phone call request. Then go to your new boss and show him or her how much more than three hours that your former boss is taking up. It’s easy to argue with complaints (“I’m overworked” or “He’s interrupting me”). It’s very hard to argue with data (“Last week I put in 62 hours, of which my former boss took up 17 of those with 28 phone calls, 112 emails, and 15 visits to my desk”). When your new boss can see that the deal is not being maintained, then s/he has the power to do something about it.

Another possibility is to let your former boss know exactly what you can and cannot do (ideally with the blessing of your new boss and his commitment that he will support you). Examples:

“I cannot take phone calls from you throughout the day; however, I can place your schedule on your desk each morning with your critical tasks included. At the end of the day, please bring the sheet back to me to let me know what new schedule and task commitments you have made so I can enter them into the system and continue to track them for you.”

“I cannot answer your emails immediately when you send them. I can provide you with a half-business-day turnaround to either give you a response or commit to a date when I can respond.”

I hope these suggestions help.

Thank you for writing to Office Politics.

Best of luck,

Timothy Johnson, Author

Timothy Johnson is the author of the newly released Gust: The “Tale” Wind of Office Politics (Lexicon, 2007) as well as Race Through The Forest – A Project Management Fable (Tiberius, 2006). As Chief Accomplishment Officer for his company, Carpe Factum, Inc. (Latin for “Seize The Accomplishment”), he also is a dynamic speaker, providing keynotes and workshops on the accomplishment-oriented topics of project management, creativity, process improvement, systems thinking, and (of course) office politics. His consulting clients have crossed multiple industries and have included Wells Fargo, Harley-Davidson, ING, Teva NeuroScience, and Principal Financial Group. In addition to writing, consulting, speaking, and coaching, he is also an adjunct instructor for Drake University’s MBA program in Des Moines Iowa, teaching classes in Project Management, Creativity for Business, and Managing Office Politics.

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