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I work. A Lot.

Most of my job consists of running quantitative analysis on a variety of financials for a few different companies (I work for a holding company), and as I recently joined the company (3 months), I am still learning the ins and outs. Most of my current tasks revolve around trying to make the company more productive using methods like creating programs to automatically export and reformat documents to user specifications, and finding inefficiencies in the way that data is collected.

My boss knows how to manage people and has experience in the business, but focuses on me as I'm the only analyst in the company (they were using contractors before). One of the ways she likes to keep track of what I'm working on is a to-do list, which is great, but the way she utilizes it is hurting my actual production. Today alone, we've had 3 meetings to go over what's on the to-do list, what to add to it, what I'm working on and so forth. It's taken 3 hours of my day (hourly employee), and she's assigned quite a few things to be done before the week is out. I find that this time could be better spent on the actual projects rather than being pedantic over things on this list. I know also that she's incredibly busy and doesn't really have the time to be taking on these to-do lists.

I want to underscore, to-do lists can be incredibly helpful, but it's come to the point where we're over-complicating this item at the cost of time and therefore the company's money. As the business analyst, it's my job to stop exactly these sorts of practices, but we get to the rub of she's my direct boss. She does not like (from experience) being contradicted, and data has no effect on the matter.

I am from the west coast of the US in a medium sized company in a mid-level non management position. Please note that my time management is fine (and more importantly my boss doesn't have any issue with it), the bigger issue is the trying to save efficiency when the inefficiency is caused by someone with direct control over my job status.

How can I let my boss know that the meetings about my to-do list (and other similar management practices) aren't actually helpful to us?

  • 1
    What exactly are done in the meetings about your to-do list? Assigning task? Reporting progress? Reprioritizing task? – Vylix Aug 23 '17 at 18:16
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    Looks like you are being micromanaged. It's a sign of lack of leadership skill. Question is why? – sdkks Aug 23 '17 at 20:35
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    @Vylix All of the above, plus pedantic changes to make. Things like "Why does this assignment that you completed 3 weeks ago before we were using the newly added date completed not have a date completed?" sort of thing. It feels useless, especially considering it was a one time thing, and has been done for what seems like ages. – Anoplexian Aug 23 '17 at 20:46
  • @sdkks If I knew that I wouldn't really have as big of a problem. – Anoplexian Aug 23 '17 at 20:47
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If I were in your situation, I can see how the most visible concern would be inefficiency, but my deeper issue with the time-consuming meetings would be personal frustration. The overall practice sounds like classic micromanagement, which not only produces poor results, but impacts morale. You say that "data has no effect on the matter," but a combined approach of "this is demonstrably wasting our time" and "I am a person who has a relationship to you, and this impacts me emotionally" may work.

Choose your setting

You work for a medium-sized company with multiple levels of employment. That probably means you have a practice of annual reviews (and if not, you should!). Since your boss seems like someone who is receptive to frequent communication, you may be able to request a semiannual or quarterly check-in along the same lines. Emphasize that you want to set aside an hour or so on this basis to discuss your work and set goals over a span of time that is longer than the immediate to-do lists.

Align yourself with her inertia

If you can schedule this kind of meeting, start by soliciting general feedback about your performance. It sounds like you feel good about your work and your boss has no problems with it, so this should put you on a positive footing. Either allow your boss to turn the question back on you, or try to bring up the reverse yourself--"I actually have some thoughts on how we're working together right now, mind if I talk about that for a minute?"

Emphasize first that you like the specific clarity of the to-do lists, and that you're glad to be doing work that has your supervisor's attention. Then tell her how the frequency and duration of meetings is making you feel: frustrated, ineffective, untrusted. Use I-statements to make it clear that there's a problem without making her feel attacked or contradicted.

Forge a path toward harmony

At this point, give her a chance to react, and gauge the temperature of the meeting. If the tone becomes hostile or if she denies that your feelings are worth acknowledging, thank her for listening and try to get out gracefully; you've revealed a larger personality conflict and you may need to go around or above her to change the situation.

If she's receptive to your thoughts, though, this is your chance to reconfigure the issue with your analyst's skills. Acknowledge that you know she's busy and you want to make sure both of you can focus on your work. Offer a solution that sounds like you're taking on more accountability and labor, but that will actually save you time--for instance, sending a quick email after lunch and at the end of the day that will update her on your to-do list progress and your next priority. Once the idea of less intensive and synchronous communication is in the conversation, offer it back to her: how does it suit her? Does she have ideas or modifications to your proposal?

Plan to benefit either way

If things go well, you should be able to leave the meeting with a plan for better practices, and over time your boss's trust in you will increase. At worst, you'll be able to document bringing up the issue and having your initiative rejected, if this becomes a situation you need to take up the chain or to HR. Good luck.

0

Ask her how she would like for you to communicate some of your thoughts about aspects of your job that you think are important for the company in the future.

Email her some of your thoughts (if she agrees to it) or ask for a meeting with her and prepare yourself well.

Write down your thoughts, suggestions and substantiate your arguments.

When you talk to her about the to-do lists you could tell her that they are useful but add that sometimes for such and such reason you feel they haven't helped you and that you have thought about how to approach this issue many times before deciding to talk to her. Depending on your boss' personality, you could suggest an alternative to those lists as something you could try together for a while and see how that works for both of you and discuss the results in a meeting.

The way you word things is really important. Being diplomatic is a useful skill. Watch for her reactions, body language and take it from there. If the vibe isn't very positive or encouraging don't proceed. Timing is important.

In the end, if she doesn't take your thoughts into consideration at all, then at least you know you tried. You may not achieve the results you want right away since you are still new and more time might be needed for her to earn your trust or for you to feel comfortable talking to her.

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I honestly find it difficult to believe that you're consistently spending 3 hours on the todo list.

Are you ACTUALLY spending it on the todo list itself? Or is most of that time spent discussing details of the individual items? Given your slightly recent start that sounds like it might be valuable? Maybe?

Alternatively... is it really regularly 3 hours a day most days, or has it been 3 hours today, because you've just planned a month of work, and it will be half an hour a day for the rest of the month?


However, assuming that your manager is genuinely spending half your working week doing your todo list ...

Include a line item of "3 hours per day of Todo list review" on your Todo list when you're having that discussion, and ask her how that should be prioritised against the other tasks.

When she says that you shouldn't be doing that, but then comes back 2 hours later, remind her that the two of you had agreed that you wouldn't do that task again today.

If she really does want to prioritise that, then that's her call. :(

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