Why your boss gives you terrible assignments…

Posted by on July 21, 2008 in Misc.

With another class of college graduates entering the work force and people changing jobs, I wanted to address one particular aspect of working bosses really don’t  like tell you explicitly (see my previous post on what the boss looks for in good employees). There’s a lot of generational angst about how work should be meaningful and job assignments are not fulfilling enough.

But, here’s the hard truth about working. To quote a columnist in this Saturday’s Globe and Mail, you get paid for the grief and not for the work.  Bosses need to see you can do the crap work before the fulfilling assignments since you really get paid to do the dirty work and the fulfilling assignments are not “work” per se but what you probably would do for free anyway (assuming you actually wanted the job not for purely money but because it interests you). More importantly, the crap work are really building blocks for the more exciting work.

Want to know how to be a good accountant? You have to review the ledgers to see the relationship between debits and credits and learn revenue recognition. This is the building block of conducting an audit. Want to become a good project manager? Do every nitty-gritty assignment to learn what everyone on the team is doing and how it all fits together. Want to work for a charitable organization? Learn to fund-raise to see how the money is spent and every member of a chartiable organization has to be a fund-raiser in one manner or another.

The non-fulfilling work is terrible. That is why it is called work. In some cases, the bosses give you this work for political reasons but, in other cases, it is the only way for them to assess your abilities in a scale that is not damaging if you screw up . If you do it well, then you work your way up.  If not, then the employer’s error in judgment of an employee is not fatal decision. This is really a good tip for new bosses as well; as my boss says, I’ll give you enough rope to hang yourself but not to hang me.

The key for the employee is to do this work with a stiff upper lip and, more importantly, show you are getting an understanding of the entire picture by asking questions or raising points that could help the entire assignment. For example, if you have to fund-raise, point out discernable patterns in your efforts (are you having success with older people? In the west-side of the city? College grads?). It shows you can see the business on a conceptual level which makes you management material (I hate that term but it is what it is), allowing you to do the fulfilling work. But how can you run when you haven’t shown you can walk with confidence?

3 Comments on Why your boss gives you terrible assignments…

By Kuwaiti Woman on July 21, 2008 at 7:06 am

Those are some great words. A lot of my friends jump into how work should be meaningful and joyful, etc. and lose track of why it’s called work to begin with. In an ideal world we would all love our jobs, but in reality we do the best we can.

By Riscario Insider on July 23, 2008 at 12:44 am

Years ago in the days of Eatons and Simpsons, a muffler company with fast service had a commercial with this nugget for a new recruit: “First you get good. Then you get fast.”

Getting good, takes practice. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a musician, an athlete, a soldier or an employee. What’s “boring” can also be seen as learning, an investment for the future. Schools give terrible assignments too :)

By A Lap Of The Blogs : WhereDoesAllMyMoneyGo.com on July 25, 2008 at 4:01 am

[...] My Wallet explains why the boss may give you all the terrible assignments. Good to know if you are looking to learn more about the corporate [...]

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