Editor’s Note: This article was written in collaboration with Post-it® Brand.
Picture this: your desk is spotless, organized, and the very definition of pristine. Clear spaces equal clear minds—but when you step into your boss’s office, you see nothing but disarray and clutter. Even worse, it’s displayed for all the company to see.
Think a messy desk is just a messy desk? It’s not.
According to research by the Post-it® Brand, disorganization is more than just an eyesore. It can lead to decreased morale and productivity—plus, 3 out of 4 office workers believe disorganization is the result of deeper company issues. Yikes.
Though empathy, decisiveness, confidence, and optimism are all signs that you’re working for a great leader, a few other qualities affect that person’s reputation. Most (like 96 percent) office workers also believe that a clean and organized desk is also symbolic of great leadership.
If you’re laboring under a disorganized exec, chances are you’re all too familiar with multitasking overload—and performing your fair share of fire drills. Prioritizing is second nature to you of course, but handling conflicting priorities is challenging for anyone. To make office life better for you and your team test out these seven office-tested hacks for coping with a disorganized boss.
Be a Problem Solver
Reflect on how your boss’s disorganization impacts you the most. Then, create solutions to improve that particular aspect of your job.
Problem: The only kind of clockwork your boss commits to is telling you she needs a report first thing in the morning—just as you’re grabbing your keys to head home.
Solution: Schedule a reminder to check in with your boss 30 minutes before closing time. Creating a daily habit will get your boss used to thinking of all the last minute things needed from you. Congratulations! This will secretly train your boss to be more organized, especially toward the end of the day.
Ninja Tip: Once the habit is fully formed, designate a certain colored Post-it® Notes for jotting things down throughout the day. Then, all you have to do at 4:30 PM is swing by and grab the green stickies.
Get Everything in Writing
Sometimes you get assignments thrown at you as the boss is running to his next meeting—or worse, through vague voicemails. Help your boss organize his thoughts by sending an email confirmation promptly after the fly-by task. Make sure it’s clearly written and restates exactly what he said.
Sum Up the Small Efforts
It’s easy for anyone to get overwhelmed with excessive emails or notes. Embrace the office digest format and propose sending one summary email at the end of the day. By minimizing the disruptions, you minimize the chaos of dealing with a disorganized boss.
Ninja Tip: Create your own Kanban system with Post-it® Super Sticky Notes by writing each assignment or task at the start of your work day. Stick them on a whiteboard that you and the boss can both see. As you move through your work and complete tasks, remove the corresponding note so you can see how small efforts contribute to the success of your day.
Help Them Delegate
Why wait for your boss to reach crisis mode? Be proactive and stay one step ahead of disaster by asking what you can take off the head honcho’s plate. They’re often overwhelmed by too many 10-minute tasks, or they have trouble delegating. If writing email templates will save the boss an hour a day, do it—then help fill the time slot with something that keeps the productivity momentum going.
Stack & Sort
One of the must-have desk items on any organized Ninja’s workspace is stacking inbox trays. Set some up for your boss so she has one for action items, pending items, and one for items that are ready to leave her desk. It’s simple, low-key, and easy to maintain—which means she can keep the clutter to a minimum and make a physical pipeline.
Plan for Emergencies
The best Office Ninjas are always thinking a few steps ahead. If your boss is notorious for last-minute emergencies or regularly asks you to find misplaced items, plan for this surprise. By adding a 30-minute buffer in the morning or in the afternoon, you’ll avoid derailing your schedule when a crisis pops up.
Bonus: If it’s a good day and there are no crises to be had, you’ve got a well-deserved breather. Leave the work behind for a few minutes and try a fika for an added boost of happiness and productivity. There’s a reason the Swedish are the happiest workers on the planet!
Set the Example
Let’s face it, your boss probably isn’t trying to be jumbled. A great way to help them be more organized is by being organized yourself. Act as a pillar of support and lead by example. After all, you are the average sum of those you spend the most time with.
“The best thing I did was to remove coffee cups and food containers. Nothing is worse than spilling a drink or food that you’re not even enjoying anymore. I always leave my desk clean when I leave, even though it can get slightly messy during the day. I definitely use my Post-it® Notes to keep piles of paper in order. This also lets people know where to drop things on my desk. I make sure to keep extra Post-it® Notes handy for others to use to leave me a message if I step away, too!” – Melissa
At The End of the Day
Start small when trying to handle your disorganized boss—let him adapt to little changes gradually until you can ease them into a more consistent organizational system.
Remember that you can’t change your boss’s personality, so if you find yourself getting frustrated by the disarray, focus on strengths. If your reorg attempts are futile, try the weekly “dig out” method. On Friday afternoon, spend 15 minutes with your boss sorting through any piles to set you both up for a fresh start on Monday morning.
Off to you now, Ninjas! What are your tricks for dealing with a disorganized boss?
For additional information on Post-it® Products, including where to purchase, visit post-it.com/officeorg. You can also connect via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Be sure to check out the infographic and key findings below from the Post-it® Brand Office Organization research study.
*The Post-it® Brand Office Organization survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (www.wakefieldresearch.com) among 1,000 full-time U.S. office workers in 2015, using an email invitation and an online survey.