Usually, when a work gets assigned to you, you would assess it (please tell me you do) and consider all your other tasks that have been assigned to it. You give your boss a timeline or a due date if not given one then he would give you a vibe that it’s too much time and he needs it urgently.

Having a boss who makes everything urgent (or asks for stuff quickly or tells you to rush it) is not rare. I don’t have statistics so I would just site mine here, for ten years since I started working, I have worked for 6 different companies including my current one and 4 of my bosses including the one I  have now have the U-R-Q attitude. Statistically speaking that’s 67%.

I’ve always imagined of putting my boss into an awkward position of asking him what makes the work “urgent” and why it’s so important that I have to stop everything I’m doing only to change one measly label because there’s a better term than what is currently published. The client’s been using it with that label for months now. What’s another day or two? I’ve written about about flow and momentum on this article:  Music While Coding (Working) – How and Why It Helps

Having a boss like that is frustrating because it feels like you’re in a constant state of urgency. My previous boss has a term for that, it’s called “firefighting”. You go where the fire is.
The term “urgent” loses its meaning when it’s being used in almost every work that is being assigned. When everything is urgent then nothing really is urgent.
Here are some ideas that could help:

Fireboat splashing water

Set Your Boss Straight

Man pointing

If your boss is just starting to have this attitude, stop it dead in its tracks. Before it gets worse, manage him (in a respectful way of course). Act accordingly. Respond urgently only if it really is urgent. If not, ask him if the work is open to being acted upon after you do what you’ve set your primary priorities of work. Proceed with caution.

Setting Expectations

Always set the expectations as accurate as possible. When you’re asked to do something urgently, do not just shush and think at the back of your head cursing him and think that he doesn’t really get the consequences or what effect it will have to your other work. Of course, he has no clue, it is part of your job to tell him. Let him be aware of what will happen to “this” if you do “that”.

Urgent Does Not Necessarily Mean Immediately

Streamline the priority scale and analyze the importance of the task assigned. Sometimes bosses just say urgent because they do not see that there are alternatives.
Any experienced programmer knows that some of the clients’ requests are already in the system but it’s just not being utilized right for reasons like:

  • Insufficient system training
  • Users did not pay attention to the training
  • Users refuse to use the system and blaming it for being too complicated and more

Save yourself time and effort by always thinking not all urgent is needed to be acted upon immediately.

Urgent Sign

Open Communication

Don’t just report when you’ve met a deadline. Regardless of the progress, be it slow or you have not done a lot of code commits or you need more time than your proposed timeline of the project, report it to your boss. Unless you’re consistently not meeting your deadlines or deliverables, he would understand. This builds a relationship with him and he can evaluate and assess better especially on the workload if you regularly update him.

Identify Your Own Priorities

As a programmer, we know what really is urgent and what is not when it comes to developing a project. We’d know whether it’s just a matter of time before a bug comes out because again of the urgency, we just patch the issue before.
Identify the urgent issues yourself. Your boss might tell you what urgent is but if you know there are way more urgent than what’s given, work on that first and tell your boss later on why. Open communication, right?

Don’t be a Negatron (See what I did there?)

Man smiling in office

For as much as you can, stay positive. Be calm know that no matter how big or urgent the tasks are, you can do it. I mean there’s a reason why it was assigned to you, right? Your commitment to work and writing the best of codes every time are a reflection of you.

Most of the managers or bosses think on a macro level (as they should) so more often than not, they lose the sense of what really is urgent or should be prioritized. Most of what they do is just make everything urgent and have it fixed already so they have one less thing to worry about (speaking from experience). Remember to analyze the urgency, communicate whenever possible and stay positive.

That’s about it. How about you? How do you deal with your boss? Tell us in the comments below.

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