How do I manage my boss's expectations?
June 23, 2008 6:40 PM   Subscribe

InOverMyHeadFilter: I'm in a job where I have unrealistic performance goals that I didn't get to see until after I had been working for a week or so. I don't think they're obtainable and my job/bonus (hah, bonus, funny) depends on it. The kicker is that I actually like the job more or less (not a dream job though) and I'm moving at the end of the week so I can't really quit...How can I manage the expectations of my boss and management without looking like I can't do my job?

Prior to this I was at my last job for a little less than a year before being let go and if I left this place after only a couple months it would look REALLY bad on my resume.

The goals are sales-related goals and when you look at where they are month by month they skyrocket at the time I started working there, going from reasonable to ridiculous. Of course these goals are based on what is needed to hit our numbers for the year so if we don't hit them we're screwed but that doesn't make them any more reasonable.

I'd like to stay there I think but I need help managing expectations with my boss and management when the pressure starts increasing like it has been recently.

I'm happy to answer more questions if clarification is needed on anything.
posted by Elminster24 to Work & Money (5 answers total)
I would ask your co-workers about the goals. You might find out that this is something that management does "all the time," and you might not be as sunk as you think if you don't make them. You also might find that as you get more experience, your goals might become more obtainable.

If you like your job, that's half the battle. Work hard, try your best, but hold off right now in talking with your boss. You want to make a good impression in your first few weeks, not come across as a potential problem. Get to know your boss, figure out his/her quirks, and if your goals still seem unobtainable, you'll know when you can approach him/her about it.
posted by producerpod at 7:01 PM on June 23, 2008

Your best strategy here is to be as specific as possible and come up with, well, a strategy.

If you say to your boss a general statement like these are unrealistic performance goals you are going to look like a big whiner.

However, if you do things like document how you're spending your time, prioritize the most important parts of the job, and present it to your boss in a logical organized way, you come out looking great.

You can say "I can do A B and C which seems to be the most profitable to me but that means I can't do D or E. Which is most important to you?"

The last thing your boss wants to do is come up with a solution for you. and you're probably not gonna like the solution. So save him the hassle and come up with the best solution you can.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 7:05 PM on June 23, 2008

Your boss hired you? Then your boss is on the hook for your performance too. Let your boss know right up front that you think the goals are very high and will need his or her help to achieve them. You are a team. This helps you in getting what you need to succeed and potentially also in getting the goals reset if they truly are too high. Of course, they may just consider you cannon fodder in which case nothing really will help. Since you are already quite committed it seems worth a go to see if you can meet or perhaps even recalibrate these very lofty goals.
posted by caddis at 8:13 PM on June 23, 2008

For each goal that seems and/or is unrealistic, you need to compile some specifics:
  • Things that make it impossible for the goal to be completed as specified or on time as things stand
  • Concrete things that would help or support you need to make it possible to complete the goal closer to spec or in the given time frame
  • Concrete parts of the process that could be improved to make things go more smoothly in the future
  • Documentation of every action you've taken in the service of meeting the goal
  • Documentation (in as objective and tactful a fashion as you can muster) of every obstacle you've encountered while attempting to meet the goal
Such lists and bits of evidence are things you can then present to your supervisor or boss when you ask for help in meeting your goals and improving the process you're part of. You don't want to throw these down as a gauntlet or a challenge to your boss, but rather employ them in a selective manner, bringing them out as necessary to demonstrate that you've got your shit together as much as is humanly possible. You need to demonstrate that you're controlling the parts of the process you can control, but you need their help to get the other parts of the process strapped down, both immediately and for the future.

It's likely that your boss faced a similar situation when s/he started there, and can help smooth the process for you (or at least give you tips to make the whole thing less stressful). It may well be that the goals you were given are more aspirational than realistic; the only way to find out is to talk to your boss and/or ask those around you who seem receptive, if you catch them in the break room at some point or in the elevator at the end of a particularly grueling week. Misery loves company, especially in sales, as long as you keep things fairly light.
posted by limeonaire at 8:33 PM on June 23, 2008 [2 favorites]

Get your boss to sit down with you to work out priorities "now that I understand the job better". Towards the end add in "...and if I have to skip some things, which do I skip?"
posted by Idcoytco at 4:50 AM on June 24, 2008

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