DEAR HARRIETTE: I am an assistant, and my boss is a mess. He always tries to do everything and multitask; meanwhile, he mixes up details and is forgetful. He hired me to help him keep his business in order, but he makes that difficult for me. He will give me tasks to complete, but if there are any approvals I need, he takes a long time to give them. During our meetings, he does not listen to me and always seems to be doing something else. When I come across some information that he has not informed me of, he tells me he will handle it. Then, when there are things that are wrong or he has forgotten to do something, he tells me that it is my fault and that I am not working hard enough. He is not approachable. He can never admit he is wrong, so I get blamed. My boss’s behavior is our biggest challenge in the workday. What can I do? -- Taken for Granted
DEAR TAKEN FOR GRANTED: Your job, if you choose to remain working for this man, is to create a system that he will consider following to make his life easier. Perhaps you can design a schedule that recommends times when you will handle scheduling questions, approvals, research -- whatever the tasks at hand are. Create a checklist that you both can follow, but you actively check things off and send the list to him daily to show him what has been accomplished.
Set alarms for deadlines so that you can remind him (and yourself) far enough in advance so that nobody is late. Tell him what you are doing so that he can grow to expect it, such as a reminder 10 minutes before a meeting or a project deadline.
Request weekly meetings to review progress. Be organized and succinct so that you have a chance of getting him to pay attention.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My co-worker doesn’t work. She talks a lot and does not have any boundaries. We both are receptionists at a car dealership, and at least one of us is required to be at the front desk at all times, which is usually me. She walks around the workplace a lot and will stop at other people’s desks to chat. She will go off to use her phone often, and when she’s at the desk, she is not quick to pick up the ringing phones, which means I answer almost every call that comes in. I don’t mind the work at all -- I can actually handle things all on my own, as I always have -- but I don’t find it fair that she gets a free pass to come in and hang out at work. Should I say something to her or bring the matter up to my supervisor, or should I say nothing at all? -- Does It All
DEAR DOES IT ALL: Start with your co-worker. Tell her that you would appreciate her help in answering the phones and doing all of the necessary requirements of the job. Be blunt. Tell her that you have noticed that she often is not at her desk and that she leaves much of the work to you. Ask her to do her part. If she balks, speak to your manager.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to email@example.com or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)