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Pause Readers Weigh In On Risky Business

A large number of readers replied to last week’s Pause message titled, Risky Business. There were many thoughtful comments on how to handle the situation between the ‘reluctant to speak up’ employee and the procrastinating boss. Read on for a sampling of the replies, and feel free to add your own comments in response.


D writes: I wish more people would speak up! Working in HR, I see that so many situations could be made better if the person with a concern/issue/problem would put away the fears (often unnecessary fears) and talk to the ‘offender’. I am outspoken about being outspoken – it has served me well!


J writes:  I believe there may be another issue here. It sounds as though the boss is a bully and deliberately leaves things until the last minute and because the employee is too fearful of losing her job, says nothing and does the work.

I too work with an individual who has “bully-like” qualities. I have found that standing up to that person and saying that I am not taking it any more has worked. This individual is far from being the boss, but because no one wants to do her job and previous bosses have let her get away with things she has turned into to a bully whom most co-workers tiptoe around so as not to arouse her ire.

Perhaps this is what is happening to this lady. Her boss was coddled and sheltered from the brute realities of life and the pattern has set in. Her boss will always get his way because no one has told him to stop, cease and desist. She could also just leave at quitting time and let the cards fall where they may. Do not cover for the boss. Be honest if someone calls to complain. Explain that the work arrived on her desk at quitting time and she had a previous commitment. Because she has persisted in “cleaning up his messes” she has enabled him. It is time for her to leave him to deal with his own mess.


G writes: I had a similar boss who drove me crazy to the point of having major health problems.  Finally, I was fortunate enough to be able to be in view of retirement.  I marched into my boss’s office and told him that I knew that downsizing was in the sights, and if he didn’t consider me to be “cut”, I would simply retire.  For once, he listened to me (of course, I helped make his job easier, as 3 people had to go), and I got the best package, ever!  I retired at 51 and haven’t looked back in 5 years – happy as a lark.  Incidentally, my blood pressure went from a dangerous 170/110 to a wonderful 120/80. For a “big guy”, my doctor keeps saying that I’m “amazing”!  And, retirement couldn’t be sweeter!


D writes: I found your article on Speaking Up so interesting, and very representative of many situations I have seen in my life, especially at work.  I wondered why the most obvious (at least to me) solutions and risks were not considered. Solution – find more suitable job (and be choosy about the potential supervisor). Risk – being fired! 

We say we live in a democracy, however, the work place is most certainly not democratic.  When the person exploiting you is in charge of your income, Speaking Up is in a totally different context.  Some fears are real and you must be prepared for the possible outcome of being without a job, an income, a means of supporting your family, losing your home, and so on. 

The real solution for the procrastinator’s employee is to become prepared for a change, (i.e. job search, taking night classes, applying for openings within the corporation) empowering herself in a relationship in which she has less power than the boss.


C writes: I guess she needs to decide when “drive-by delegation” is no longer acceptable.  Just like “drive-by shootings”, we can be pro-active about being out of harm’s way.

I was probably one of those last minute delegating bosses, until my assistant had a courageous and enlightening conversation with me where she pointed out the “emotional wake” of my actions.   I had not realized how I was impacting her, I was simply “clearing the deck” before the weekend so that I could have a “work free” couple of days.  

After our honest conversation, we decided to spend five minutes each Friday afternoon discussing what we had accomplished for the week and agreed on what our focus would be the following week.  We went from “I” and “you” to “we” and “us”……a team.   


I writes: The other consequence you have not mentioned is the negative impact ongoing frustration and fear will have on a person’s health.


L writes: Good leadership is about enabling/supporting emergence – be it ideas, innovation or leadership actions and aspirations of staff. True leaders are not threatened by it but embrace and leverage it for the benefit of the organization and employees.


B writes: This reminds me of a sign that I used to have above my desk when I worked for a similar but more understanding boss. He was the person who brought me the sign as we had discussed his bad habits. “Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine.”


C writes:  My advice to the person doing the work is open communication with her employer about a better process or arrangement. If she is too scared, then that is not good because that’s similar to living in an abusive relationship. There are plenty of good appreciative employers out there who want to work with a team that gives input, even when it means that the boss has to alter behavior. They tuck their egos in their back pockets for the betterment of the team. Sometimes it means they just have a bad habit and have no problem changing it once someone brings it to their attention.

Life Balance, Overload & Overwhelm

No Responses to “Pause Readers Weigh In On Risky Business”

  1. Jo Anne

    I once worked under similar conditions, but on a daily basis…. the supervisor would bring me last-minute work just before it was time to have that day’s work put in the mail, then stand over me, and watch, as I did it. Finally, one day, in the interest of self-preservation, I told him that would no longer be acceptable… that I would expect the work to be on my desk by noon or it could wait until the following day to be mailed out. It worked like a charm. I have found that people such as these can often “see the light” once they are exposed to it. I pray she honors herself by keeping her personal commitments.

  2. les handford

    I guess we all have been in or have witnessed similar situations and we all have our own story to tell. The story then is the catalyst for us to share our perspective. It causes us to contemplate similar situations, articulate what is behind it, why the certain behaviours and what was or could be the solution. The dialogue that results lends itself well to learning….

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