I had an interesting exchange with one of my subscribers on a previous blog I wrote about passion as a path to burnout. She pointed out that sometimes burnout can be caused by your managers’ passion for new projects (rather than your own), and she is right (thank-you MA)!
Let’s explore a common workplace challenge: dealing with a boss who has shiny object syndrome (SOS). You know, the type of boss who is easily distracted by new ideas, constantly shifting priorities, and committing to shiny new projects that you (and your team) have to deliver. It can be a tough circumstance to work in, so I'll share practical tips to help you navigate this situation (and keep your job), helping you to neutralize shiny object syndrome.
Understand Their Perspective:
First things first, it's important to understand where your boss is coming from. Shiny object syndrome often stems from a creative and entrepreneurial spirit, fueled by a desire for growth and innovation. Recognize that their enthusiasm for new ideas may stem from a genuine belief in their potential (and yours). Even if your boss is constantly putting their hand up and committing you and your colleagues to things as a way to feed their ego, you’re still going to be better able to cope (wellness intact) if you have a plan.
Clarify Goals and Priorities:
When your boss constantly switches gears, it's crucial to clarify your goals and priorities. Engage in open and honest communication with your boss to understand their expectations and align them with the priorities already in process (because in the rush of a shiny new object they may have forgotten about those). Collaboratively discuss the impact of changing priorities and how that supports, or sabotages, meeting strategic corporate objectives and the needs of your bosses’ boss, or other important stakeholders. When discussing priorities and expectations, be sure to do this in a neutral and non-judgemental tone to get, and keep, their attention.
Having a boss with shiny object syndrome means you'll need to become a master of managing commitments and planning. To do this, clearly communicate your workload, highlighting the time and resources required for each task. If you don’t know what those are, indicate you’ll look at your managers’ request and get back to them with what will be needed to completed it; doing this gives you time and the opportunity to bring up key concerns for discussion, so you can re-set expectations or discuss re-prioritization of on-going work. Educate your boss on the consequences of constant shifts in direction, including potential delays, decreased quality, and reduced overall productivity. Provide suggestions for alternative approaches that could help balance their desire for new projects while maintaining focus on ongoing priorities.
Maintain Your Focus:
To stay on track amidst the chaos, develop strategies to maintain your focus. Break down your tasks into manageable chunks, set clear deadlines, and create a to-do list that helps you stay organized amidst the chaos of shiny object syndrome. Use trusted time management techniques to enhance your productivity (but don’t expect time management to be a “magic bullet” for productivity – there are only so many hours in a day you can be productive before you need rest).
Dealing with a boss who has shiny object syndrome can be challenging, but it's not impossible. By understanding their perspective (even when it’s ego-driven), clarifying priorities, managing expectations, and maintaining your focus, you can navigate this situation successfully (with your wellbeing intact). Remember, adaptability and effective communication are key to thriving in any work environment. So, the next time you find yourself in a situation where your boss is chasing shiny objects, stay calm, stay focused, and keep working towards your goals.