Waiting vs. Failing


Have you ever told your boss, “I’m waiting on [somebody] to get back to me?” The question is, can the boss tell the difference between you waiting and you failing?

I’ve never had a boss respond positively to that kind of statement. Do you know why?

1. Waiting implies inaction. No…actually waiting says “I’m not taking any action at this time.”
2. When your next action is to wait on someone else, it sounds like you’re passing the buck. Oops…you are passing the buck.
3. Waiting means you have no plan for your own next action, until you get the thing from what’s-his-name.

Once, a long time ago, when I used the “I’m waiting” answer on my boss, I learned fast and quick what a mistake that was. My boss told me, “Rob, when you say ‘waiting‘, I hear ‘failing‘.”

“But, I am waiting!!!”

“Not anymore, Rob. Go do something.”

What do you do?

#1 – Don’t wait, follow up. – “Hey boss, I followed up with Mike this morning and…”

#2 – Don’t assign work without a due date, or expected response time. – “…he said he would have the documents to us by 0800 tomorrow…”

#3 – Have a next step for yourself. – “…once I have them, I’ll have the summary to you by noon.”

#4 – Be ready for “what if…?” – “If I don’t have them by 0800, I’ll be parked at his desk until he’s done!”

Lots of people fall into the “I’m waiting” trap everyday. If you adjust how you handle the wait and how you communicate it, you’ll receive fewer stern looks from the boss, and you’ll avoid that perception…you know, the one where the boss wonders are you waiting, or are you failing?

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