CAREERS: Pandora's Problem Page

Q: I work for a small agency that has a staff of 10 full-time people, including our president. The firm has done very well in the past year, scoring some major account wins beyond the New York tri-state borders for the first time in our history. One of the reasons for the new business was our president's deep involvement in the client accounts. As a result of all that success, he is traveling a lot more than he used to on client business.

Q: I work for a small agency that has a staff of 10 full-time people, including our president. The firm has done very well in the past year, scoring some major account wins beyond the New York tri-state borders for the first time in our history. One of the reasons for the new business was our president's deep involvement in the client accounts. As a result of all that success, he is traveling a lot more than he used to on client business.

Normally, he is really hands-on and dynamic, constantly talking to everyone on the team, holding impromptu brainstorming sessions in his office, calling last-minute meetings to discuss a campaign or whatever.

But now, with his added responsibility and travel, we are finding it very hard to work with him. He expects to be involved in all the decision making, like he used to be, but is less accessible. This means project execution is getting delayed far more often.

As his executive assistant, people expect me to solve this problem. I can see that we are headed for trouble if we carry on this way. What should I do?

Ms. D, Buffalo, NY

A: Managing success can be tricky. I gather your boss truly enjoyed the spirit of teamwork that he worked hard to cultivate. No doubt he is missing that part of his day-to-day job and is trying to retain what he can of that atmosphere.

There is little you can do to influence him into delegating more of the decision-making to another senior person. But what you can do is help set up procedures that will make the system run more smoothly.

Suggest to your boss that you and he schedule phone calls to the office as part of his daily routine when he is on the road. Try and establish a fixed time every day when he will call and work through issues with the office. Alert the staff that they need to be available at a certain time each day. Perhaps a conference call might be the most efficient use of everyone's time.

Obviously there must be room for some flexibility. But you must create a more predictable culture to accommodate everyone during this transition.

Q: I work in PR for a large law firm. Every day I get into the office at 7:30am and stay until 7pm at least. I'm often here well past 8pm. Long hours are fine, but I don't feel like I am ever getting ahead of the game. I mean, how much more can I do?

Mr. A, Washington

A: Some people work late because their corporate culture dictates it.

Others work late because they work inefficiently. And, of course, some people work long hours because of a heavy workload, which, I might add, is only to be expected right now. We all have to give a little more during the tough times.

Do you know which camp you fall into? There is a simple way to find out.

First, look around you at 8pm - are your coworkers still at their desks?

If they are, you have a culture issue that you'll just have to live with.

If not, you must examine your own work habits. Pick one week during which you will stick to an eight-hour workday. Set specific targets each day, based on real expectations. Keep a record of the time it takes you to do everything, including lunch, chatting, surfing the net, meetings, and each work-related task.

At the end of the week, take a look at how much time you have actually spent "working.

You may find that you are wasting time that would be better spent at home with your family.

Or you may find that you are facing a wall of work so formidable that no amount of time management can solve the problem. If that is the case, you should talk to your manager and ask for help bringing it under control.

Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@prweek.com.

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