So the scene is this: you arrive at work and spend the first 10 minutes getting organized and then just as you plunge into your work for the day, the boss pops around and due to an unforeseen absence on the team, you’re duties change for the duration of the day. Two equally important questions for you; what’s your immediate reaction and does it show?
Despite what we may believe or like to believe about authority figures in the workplace, no the boss does not typically spend their commute into work wondering what they can do to sabotage your day. In fact, their probably just as frustrated having to change people’s work assignments for the day because that means work isn’t getting done by someone –in this case you; work that needs to be done or you wouldn’t have planned on doing it.
What a good supervisor does do is first think about what takes priority for the day and then who is most appropriate to change their schedule causing the least overall disruption to the team. Of course on a micro level it’s you being 100% disrupted which is the cause of any initial annoyance you might experience.
So let’s look at those two questions I posed to you; what’s your immediate reaction and does it show? Any supervisor that asks or directs you to change your daily plans and work on something else knows it will come as a surprise. What they are hoping for is that you trust them enough that the decision they have made has been thought out before asking you, and that you’ll make the change in your plans with a positive attitude. The last thing they’ll need or want is for you to dig in your heels and go kicking and screaming throughout your day. Remind yourself that you’re getting paid all through the day whatever the work is and in the bigger picture apparently someone needs to cover the work of the absent person so the faster you shift your focus and attitude, ultimately the better for you.
Now me, I personally have this happen once or twice a month. I’m on a team of 10 Employment Counsellors; 8 at my location and 2 in another. Years ago I admit I’d be flustered whenever we’d have an absence and I’d have to cover some workshop for an absent co-worker. It’s not like you just walk in the class and everything is smooth sailing. It means quickly getting your resources together that you have in various files, finding out if the person had a schedule all planned out on their desk or not and in the case of an ongoing workshop, you try to not disrupt the flow of information with an entirely different style or covering information you’d like to introduce but isn’t on the agenda.
I’ve come to shift quickly actually over time. Now when I am told someone is away, I actually look at the calendar, quickly size up who is most available to cover the absence with the least disruption to those at work, and if it’s me, I actually volunteer to replace the absent person for the day. If it’s not me, I offer a suggestion to the supervisor about how the absence could be covered moving others around. Hey, it’s just a suggestion, and my supervisor has come to listen to those suggestions because her trust in me mirrors my trust in her. She knows I wouldn’t disrupt the day of a colleague just to plow on with my pre-planned day.
The second question has to do with letting your feelings show. So when you’re given news that your planned day is out the window and you’ve got different duties for the day, despite the fact it can be upsetting, do your best not to roll your eyes, sigh heavily and then get all bent out of shape and start arguing. You’re doing something different and the faster you come around to that point of view the better it will be for everyone – most notably yourself. In fact, if you can make the adjustment with an observable positive attitude, that could come back to help you more than hurt you in the future. Supervisors like staff that can roll with change when they are negatively impacted. So you may find their thanks get extended by letting you go early another day, backing you up in a team meeting with more enthusiasm or possibly some kind of work incentive.
Remember too that whenever you are told that your work is changing for the day, from the minute you’ve been informed, you’ve now got precious time to use to get ready for whatever lies ahead. Whether it’s preparing to lead a workshop like me, or going over client accounts so you’re prepared for those face-to-face meetings, the sooner you get going the better for you.
You may lament to a co-worker in private your frustration for the days change; but do it out of the sight of your supervisor. Sure you can say it’s frustrating but say it’s okay too. Explain what you had planned to do if the supervisor was unaware and ask for time at a later day to catch up or for a junior person to do what they can to help you out.
When you adapt to change you increase your worth; solve a supervisor’s problem and you avoid becoming one.