September 2007  Issue 1.5

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How do I get my boss to join the rest of us on planet Earth?

As with most event professionals, every minute of my workday is accounted for and overtime has become the norm. Yet my boss keeps asking me to help on projects that have nothing to do with my job. And if that's not enough, he often asks me to take his place in marketing department meetings, making my planned workday an even bigger disaster.

How can I get my boss to be more realistic in his demands? What do your readers think?

-- Brian, Events Manager


Beam him on board, Brian

Brian, welcome to the reality of exhibiting in the year 2007. All across America, more and more exhibit professionals are expected to take on increased responsibilities, even though they're busy enough with their own jobs. Often, downsizing is the culprit.

That being said, you can only do so much, and if you feel like you're being pushed to your breaking point, it's time to take action. Our readers suggest that you:

  • Document your work

  • Ask your boss for help with your schedule

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Document your work

Maybe your boss isn't really the unreasonable taskmaster he appears to be. Perhaps he just has a lot of things on his mind and he forgets what he's asked you to do. If so, keeping a record of your assignments could help solve your problem.

Terrie Holahan, tradeshow/event planner with AtriCure, Inc., offers an opinion on how you should proceed.

"If you're overloaded with too many projects, especially those not within your official job range, make a list of everything you have in the hopper. Prioritize your assignments and projects by specific goal and then the overall goal for the month/quarter/year."

An exhibits coordinator provides another approach for documenting your work.

"First, document your time for at least a week, but make it for longer if possible. Account for everything. Note especially how much overtime you're accruing and why it's there."

Ask your boss for help with your schedule

After you get your projects, deadlines and hours down on paper, meet with your boss to discuss how best to manage them.

An associate marketing director speaks from experience with a similar situation.

"Your boss may not understand exactly what you do day to day. At one of my department meetings, I distributed a short list of the items I'm responsible for and the meetings I attend. I found it helped, and it cut down on the number of requests that don't pertain to my job."

Terrie Holahan has a suggestion for this as well.

"Schedule a meeting with your boss and review your list of projects. Put your conversation in the context of 'I'd love to work on it, but how does this help accomplish the overall goal of X?' Your boss should see how the side projects don't allow you to focus on what you need to do."

The exhibits coordinator who provided a documentation approach also has advice on how to present your case.

"Schedule a meeting with your boss to talk about your work/life balance. Point out everything you do for your job and how these extra 'requests' push you into more and more overtime. Tell him you're happy to help the rest of the department, but you can only do your best with your own area if you're allowed to focus on it. And if you managed to get some sparkling achievements under your belt before your boss started making extra demands of you, use these as examples of the shining job you could be doing.

"If your boss isn't receptive to some kind of compromise -- and your work culture allows it -- take the issue 'up the line.' This could mean going to your boss's boss or HR. Explain the situation using your charted time. What you want them to say is, 'Brian does an excellent job in his role as event manager. We need him to be able to focus on that role.' Think about what would make them say that."

Brian, you can't continue to be put upon this way. Either you'll burn out or leave your job. Keep track of your commitments and share them with your boss. Unless he really is from another planet, he'll do something to make your workload more reasonable.

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