Last week, my boss asked me to lead our annual business planning cycle. I’ve done it for a few years and, each time, I end up recommending one of my peers take it on next in order to share the responsibility and build more cross-department ownership. And, each year, my boss comes back to me to lead this workstream. Honestly, I cannot think of a more boring work assignment (even more boring than budget management, which you know I hate).
I’m sure many of you can relate to this scenario; everyone is asked to take on undesirable tasks at work. That said, it is often important to take on and excel at these tasks. They are either very difficult, or very important and others cannot be trusted.
Either way, they require your wholehearted devotion, which can be hard if you aren’t excited to do the work. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to write a post on how to handle a boring work assignment.
Mrs. Type A’s tips on handling a boring work assignment
1. Let your feelings flow
If you’re angry, mad, annoyed, or upset, don’t suppress the feelings. Now, I don’t recommend sharing them with your boss in the moment. Alternatively, I recommend taking a walk outside or getting coffee with a friend to express your feelings.
After I was asked to lead our business planning cycle, I walked down the hall to the office of a trusted colleague. I ranted about how I was always taking on what others don’t want, how no one ever thanks me for doing it, etc etc. I had a good 45-minute rant session. Woe is me!
Then, I walked back to my office and started putting the plans together to make this the most successful business planning cycle ever.
My point here is, recognize your feeling and get them out. Otherwise, it will be hard to wholeheartedly complete the assignment (which can be detrimental to your career).
2. Be grateful
I know, weird, right? Please hear me out…..
If you’ve been given this boring task, it’s likely because your boss thinks you will do it well (as a manager, I don’t think I would give someone a task I didn’t think they’d do well; it’s too painful for me).
So, given that, you should be grateful that your boss has a high opinion of you to get this boring work assignment done. Furthermore, you should be proud that you are the “go to” person for this task. It says a lot about your reputation, work ethic and, likely, long-term career prospects at your company.
In the end, it will help your mindset to see it from this perspective. And, with a positive mindset, you can tackle this project much more enthusiastically.
3. Compensate for what you do not like about it
The thing I dislike about our annual business planning cycle the most is the need to coordinate amongst different sub-teams and get them to follow a consistent methodology for their business planning.
So, what do I plan to do?
I’m evaluating high potential employees who are looking for development projects. As a result, once I choose someone and have them focus here, I will be minimizing my time on the absolute most boring work related to this project. AND I will be supporting the development of a great employee.
So, my advice to you is to figure out how to delegate out the most boring aspects of the task.
4. Turn the boring work assignment into an opportunity for your own career growth
Think of where you want to head with your career and how to use this experience as a way to develop or demonstrate the required skills. Many, many years ago, I assigned an undesirable work assignment to someone on my team named Greg (yes, even I assign boring work). Greg was still an individual contributor who wanted to move into management.
Greg told me he was way too busy to take on this assignment. However, he proposed that someone else work on it, with his support and guidance. Over the next few months, someone else worked on this project day-to-day, and checked in with him once a week. In those meetings, Greg provided feedback and other advice.
In the end, the project went well. A few months later, Greg applied for a management position on my team and was successful in obtaining the position. Because of this experience, I saw him as capable managing someone else and promoted him to that position.
If none of this works, then consider how you talk about this boring work assignment. According to this interesting Muse article, the words you use to talk about your work impact your mindset. So, if you change your words, you can change your perspective on the assignment. Interesting and worth a try!
Wait, can’t I just say “no” to this boring work assignment?
In general, I’m going to say “no.” Do not say that you won’t do the work. Feel free to propose other approaches that aren’t a burden to you, but please don’t say “I don’t want to.” It will not serve you to do that; you will be perceived as “difficult.” It’s pretty much a Career Killer. That is a very tough spot and you don’t want to be that person.
In conclusion, you may not have a say in the work you are assigned, but you have control your perspective of that work. You also control the degree to which you can make it support your career objectives.
If you’re able to get this boring work assignment done, you will have demonstrated the most important thing of all: you can lead to a successful outcome, despite your own feelings. This is a hallmark of leadership, and will serve you well in your career advancement.
In addition, it will also be noted that you are a “team player” and can be counted on to deliver. Not a bad thing for people to think about you!
If you like this post, please check out these additional topics:
- How to Overcome the 5 Biggest Career Killers
- How to Give Feedback to Your Boss
- Tips to prepare for an interview for a management position
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I hope you found this post helpful. I’d love to hear how you handle getting a boring work assignmen in the comments!