Working caregivers tell me balancing work and caregiving is one of their greatest challenges. Of course it is. We need to show up, engage, and be productive when we get to work – and those things can be incredibly difficult when we are caring for, and worrying about, our aging parents.
As caregivers, so much is out of our control – the health and happiness of the person we are caring for, a doctor’s availability, the progression of an illness. So the more we can manage other parts of our life, the better we feel about our situations.
But when you work for someone else, just how in control can you be? You may not set the work hours or the policies, but you can learn to be a better manager – of your boss. The reality is, it’s on us, the caregivers, to make it work at work, as best we can.
Follow these tips to manage up at work, so you’re in a better position to balance your career and your caregiving.
- Package your work. Make every day Christmas at the office. If your manager asks for sales projections, don’t send them an email with your sales target. Send them a spreadsheet! If your manager wants you to compare costs of materials, don’t send the information piecemeal. Present the data in a way she can evaluate and compare it. Think about each project as a gift you are delivering and make sure to put a bow on it.
- Anticipate follow on requests. When you have an assignment at work, don’t just complete it – complete it, and then some. Think about what’s behind the request and then figure out what follow on requests may be asked of you and do them. For example, if your manager asks you to write a press release, they will probably also need to figure out a way to distribute the release, as well as names and numbers of media they plan to contact about the release. Don’t just write the release. Ask your manager if the other pieces are handled. That way you won’t be surprised by a last minute assignment, and you’ll demonstrate your interest and commitment to delivering results, not just work.
- Alleviate concerns – in advance. Are you taking time off? It’s not enough to make sure things at work are under control before you go – tell your manager. Send them an email 24-48 hours before you leave giving them a status update on your work, as well as the plan for coverage while you are away.
- Get inside your boss’ brain. Did your boss take time off? Welcome him back to work with a comprehensive update. Don’t make him ask how things are going or what’s been done. Let him know. Send the update the day before his return in case he wants to get caught up before he gets back to his desk.
- Clue in on style. Speaking of status updates, learn your manager’s style and then cater to it. Some people like memos, some prefer in person updates. Some managers want all of the details, others just the highlights. Communicate using your manager’s style, not yours.
- Avoid surprises. Aim to never, ever surprise the boss. Is your parent very ill? Let the boss know you are on call. Suggest ways the work can be covered if you need to leave. Are you expecting an important call from the doctor? Let your manager know you may take a call during a meeting. If and when the call comes in, do what you need to do with little disruption and no drama.
- Think about your boss’ boss. The best way to manage up at work is to put yourself in your manager’s mindset. Who is she reporting to? Another manager? Shareholders? Clients? Think about what she needs to manage up, and help her do that.
The more trust equity you earn at work, the better able you are to integrate your life and your job.