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How to get your boss off your back

by | 11 Dec, 2018 | People

It was about five years’ ago when I was working for a growing SME in the IT sector. We had a great team, an interesting proposition to take to the market, and I was told I had been given the freedom to just get on and get things done. I sat down with my boss (who was also the managing director of the company) every Tuesday morning for a catch-up. By lunchtime I wanted to cry from frustration.

“So, how many leads did we generate last week?

And what happened with the storage campaign?

We seem to be making good traction in the education sector but why aren’t you doing anything for housing associations?

I want us to do something with Dell so we become its ‘go-to’ partner.

Actually, I’ve just watched this great TED talk so I want to change our entire vision and strategy.

And could you re-brand us in time for the company kick-off next month, where I’d also like to give everyone a special gift after presenting my 100-slide PowerPoint deck…that I’ll need you to draft.”

Every. Week. Without. Fail.

Status: it’s complicated

I don’t need to tell you that working for an SME is tough. You don’t have one job. At a small company, you’re just expected to do whatever needs doing when you spot it – like buying stationery, taking the letters to the post box, buying the milk…etc.

And you don’t have the luxury of huge teams and massive budgets to do with as you please, so you’re always looking for new innovative ways to get things done.

For anyone joining an SME, it’s a steep learning curve. Overnight you’re expected to know everything there is to know about everything. In my first role after graduating I was the whole marketing department so I had to maintain the website, run events, execute PR campaigns, organise exhibitions, write content and source merchandise.

You also don’t have the freedom to get on and get things done. Your boss is always there, lurking over your shoulder, keeping an eye on what you’re doing. And then, just as Paul Hollywood does on The Great British Bake Off, they make a useful comment like, “Oh, you’re doing it that way?” Which then makes you doubt yourself and start thinking of other ways you could achieve the result they were looking for.

Let me try

Born in 1984, I am technically a millennial. As my colleagues will attest, I’m constantly saying I’m too old for touch-screen technology, social platforms like Instagram, and thought gravy was something you put on a roast dinner. But despite feeling old, I do have a millennial mindset:

  • For me, business is about more than making profit. In order to do the best job I possibly can, I need to care and I want to be involved in changing things for the better.
  • I want to work with a company that wants me as much as I want them.
  • I want the perfect work-life balance, which definitely doesn’t involve 9-5 hours, five days a week with time off for good behaviour.
  • And I don’t ever want to hear the expressions ‘you can’t do that’, or, ‘we’ve always done it that way’.

Also (and this is in no way due to me being a millennial) I’m not stupid. I have a lot of experience in my back pocket, and at times I actually have some pretty great ideas, so please don’t treat me like an idiot. I don’t need a boss teaching me how to suck eggs, and I definitely don’t need micromanaging.

I just want to be allowed to try.

Empower me to do my job in the best way I know how and see what I can do. I’m not perfect, so I’m not going to get it right every time – the 1,000 brochures I had printed with a typo, forgetting to take a sample product to an exhibition, and promising people a £100 Amazon gift voucher for every survey completed is testament to that. But not getting it right is a risk your boss needs to take.


What about the times I have got it right – running an awesome PR campaign that generated £250k in pipeline over 6 months, writing award-winning submissions for a credentials boost, or creating a user group that helped develop the product and take it to a next level.

Empowerment gives you the freedom to find another way – potentially a better way.

De-risking empowerment

You need to remember, your boss is heavily invested in this business – both financially and emotionally. You might be having sleepless nights over your Tuesday morning catch-up, but they’re having sleepless nights about the lack of pipeline coverage, and how they can only afford to pay people for another six months before making redundancies.

You want to be empowered to just get on and do your job without your boss on your back.

Your boss actually doesn’t want to be on your back in the first place, they’re just afraid of what could happen if they’re not controlling everything.

So help them to trust you.

Process Bliss is a free platform that helps you to be more productive and just get on. It is designed to manage processes, such as running events, executing PR campaigns, managing meeting agendas – even putting in the stationery order. You just start writing down the way you do things in your organisation, and then tick things off as you go along.

Immediately you have a better understanding of all the tasks you need to perform each week and you can reassure them that because you have a system, nothing will ever get missed again. You could even use it as the basis for your Tuesday morning catch-up so your boss can see what they’ve asked you to do, and help prioritise things.

By capturing the way your boss wants you to do things, they feel reassured; they don’t need to keep spot checking trivial things because they know they could just login and see where you are. For extra reassurance, you could assign them a step in each task, asking them to read everything you’ve produced before it’s published.

Furthermore, as you’re running these tasks you may find a better/more efficient way of doing something, and you can update the task for the future. Now your boss is really happy because you’re helping them to improve the business and they have full visibility of everything that’s going on.


  1. Daniel Janes

    Love the copywriting here – really comes through as genuine – I can definitely see a lot of myself in the 1984 millennial example – having been on the side of running an agency and also been employed in companies I too share those values of wanting meaningful work, but having good ideas to share as well. It’s a hard balance to strike between supporting a colleague and getting in their way. Some things people need coaching on, and others they need to do it themselves, mistakes and all as you said. Like the way you’re working here – looking forward to trying out the product / processes.


    • Rachel Woodford

      Thanks for your comments Daniel. We think it will resonate with quite a few people, as the balance can be difficult to achieve. We’ve conducted some research into this and other workplace frustrations which we’ll launch the results for in January, so watch this space! Be glad to help you with the product if you have any questions. Wishing you a prosperous 2019.


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