Training >> Browse Articles >> Organization

Training >> Browse Articles >> Office Management


Handling a Disorganized Boss

Handling a Disorganized Boss

By Margot Carmichael Lester Monster Contributing Writer

You’re excited about your new job. The pay is good, the office setting is comfortable and the commute is easy. But as you start the actual work, you confront an unsettling truth: Your new boss is an organizational train wreck

He hasn’t mapped out a plan for your first few days or weeks. He doesn’t give you any guidance on the projects you’ll need to tackle. He can’t find the papers he needs you to fax or sign. He hasn’t introduced you to potential key allies in the company. It doesn’t take long to wonder how you’ll survive without (A) going nuts or (B) going completely nuts.

Have no fear. We found organization and communication experts to offer some tips to help you keep your cool, get up to speed and make the most of this trying situation.

Start Slow

“Most disorganized bosses know they are disorganized and scattered,” says Santa Barbara business coach Clay Nelson. “Do not walk into this and start changing things or channeling everything through you. You need to find out how to keep the flow going, what the possibility is inside the thinking of your boss. Then, slowly start shifting how things are working in very small increments, and make sure you have your boss’s approval.”

Do Your Due Diligence

Philadelphia-based organization consultant Liz Bywater advocates doing some research before you begin the full-court press to reform your boss. “Get a lay of the land from those who already work there,” she says. Speak to the person who formerly held your position if you can, as well as your existing coworkers, to gain their insight into your boss’s MO.

Listen Up

“Listen to verbal cues when your boss is in a panic and looking for that report,” says Laura Leist, coauthor of the book Eliminate Chaos and president and founder of a Seattle company by the same name.

Leist also suggests offering to organize your boss’s files for him and to ask plenty of questions along the way. This will ensure the filing system you help to create is actually useful and meaningful to your boss.

Work the Network

Jeanne Hurlbert, a sociology professor at Louisiana State University and president of Optinet Resources in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, suggests establishing a support network. “New employees need to build relationships with coworkers anyway,” Hurlbert says. Working with a disorganized boss, “however, exacerbates the need for that.”

What a new employee shouldn’t do is “start off making negative comments about the boss or thinking that shared antipathy toward the boss provides good common ground on which to build relationships,” she says. “That’s dangerous.”

Lead by Example

Earn Your Administrative Degree!

Campus or Online Programs
Featured Opportunity

An administrative degree can help you develop skills and help you pursue your dreams, so why not get started? Our degree finder can help you find programs online and in your area.

Get more information

The best defense is a good offense, so Studio City, California-based Bill Bliesath, also known as the Organizing Guy, suggests making sure you are as organized as possible. “When you have questions about your responsibilities or projects, present them by topic in an order that flows smoothly and requires the minimal amount of input – i.e., yes or no answers,” Bliesath says. “Disorganized people tend to lose focus easily if there are no clear parameters or expectations. So you want to stay on the subject, and if the conversation strays, keep steering it back on track – with a smile of course.”

One final thought from Nelson: “The boss wouldn’t be the boss – unorganized or not – if he/she weren’t successful at what he/she does. So you don’t want to mess with how that success gets done. You do want to be the person that makes that success come about easier.”

This article originally appeared on

More in Organization:
Organize Your Piles of Paperwork
Handling a Disorganized Boss
Calendar in Chief: Schedule like the President
How I Got a Grip on My Workweek
…and more in our Organization section!

AdminSecret School Finder

Save time in your search for a degree program. Use AdminSecret's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.

Recent Activity

romanico received the quiz result of "21-50% correct: Good effort", almost 2 years ago.
tmiller received the quiz result of "Satisfactory", about 2 years ago.
new2admin gave a thumbs down to The Article "6 Ways Finding a Dream Job Is Like Finding Your Soul Mate", about 2 years ago.
kinsh1987 received the quiz result of "Legal Secretary ", about 2 years ago.
LoraJ commented on: "Lora Coats", about 2 years ago.