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How to Shine When Your Boss Can’t See You: 5 Try-Not- to-Let-Slip Career Tips

Here are 5 really important basics that you just should try not to let slip, especially while you’re working from home, with more limited visibility to your manager.

What To Do (Bites)

  1. Continue 1:1 meetings with your manager.

    For some, 1:1s are painful, and you may be thrilled when they slip off the calendar. But we can’t stress enough, they’re more essential than ever to your career, your sanity, your relationship with your manager and your impact. What you accomplish can become less visible with more limited and fewer spontaneous interactions.

    Own the insistence that you connect weekly, share where you have made progress, reinforce your accomplishments and check that what you’re focused on is aligned with what are likely changing priorities in a rapidly changing environment.

  2. And, communicate often – including speaking to your manager.

    Texts, messaging and emails can be efficient; however, they can be clunky forms of communication. The person, the tone, the emotion behind the words can get lost, and messages without physical cues can be easily misunderstood. This is particularly risky when there’s a three ring circus (i.e. your kids) in the next room and your nerves (and theirs) are frayed. Connecting with some regularity by voice puts the human back into the text and is an opportunity for clarification that can be more helpful than a digital back and forth.

    And, it’s a reminder to them that there’s a human (you) behind the text.

  3. Edit your to-do’s to align with what matters now.

    There are lots of reasons to strip down your to-do’s: limited think time (kid interruptions), suboptimal work environments and of course, we’re juggling more than what’s imaginable. Keeping pantries and refrigerators stocked feels like another full-time job. From a work standpoint, the future, even today, does not resemble the past. So it’s important to consider: does your to-do list align with what matters now? Look at what you’re focusing your time on and determine what’s still a priority. In your 1:1s with your manager (see point 1) check that what you’re doing still aligns with the current priorities. Ask yourself if your work is responding to change – rather than following the old plan.

  4. Clarify and say ‘no, but’ when appropriate.

    Let’s face it, there’s a lot of pivoting going on. Make sure you have the capacity to deliver before adding another priority to your list. Clarify what is being asked of you, then assess if you are really in a position to deliver. Maybe you have too many priorities, or too much on your plate. It’s ok to ask for help, just be specific and suggest solutions. For instance, if you require additional resources to accomplish a project, suggest what you think those resources are so it doesn’t become your boss’s problem to solve.  If you need extra time on a deliverable, ask for a specific revised date and express why you believe that timing should still be ok.

    And finally, you may find yourself doing some additional work that feels below your pay-grade. That’s expected right now, but ask yourself: am I being a team player like everyone else or is this ask crossing the line? Protect yourself from a deluge of time sucks with a respectful ‘I’m focused on ‘x’, which we’ve agreed is the priority and therefore I can’t get to ‘y’ right now. If it’s a priority, can (provide a suggestion) help on this one, or is there anyone you would suggest?”

  5. Show a little empathy – for them.

    Yes, you’re working from home with kids – brutal and now well documented (IG, Twitter, YouTube, even TikTok).  Your boss may be in the same boat, possibly with older children (which is no picnic either) and most likely with pressure raining down on them. It could be ‘good’ pressure (i.e. a business that’s on fire) or ‘bad’ pressure (a business fighting to stay alive). Either way, the challenges are intense, so your boss may seem distracted, anxious and maybe a little short. Familiar? They’re humans, too. While no one should accept nasty, make a little room for understanding. Remember empathy isn’t feeling sorry for them, it’s understanding the world from their perspective – like you hope they’ll do with you. Ask how they’re doing. If you have capacity, see if you can help or take something off their plate. At a minimum, lead the agenda in your 1:1 meeting – it’s good for you and them.


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