Afraid to Tell My Boss I Can't Finish the Work at My Job

You screwed up -- now clean it up.

You screwed up -- now clean it up.

Oops, you did it again -- slacked off so much that you haven't finished the job you said you were going to finish. While it's certainly not an ideal situation, the worst thing you can do now is put off talking with your boss. By talking to her as soon as possible, you may be able to get the help you need to finish the project. Additionally, you can show your boss that you want to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Ask for Help

First off, ask your boss for a private meeting right away. In the meeting, tell her the situation, providing any facts that will help your case. If you're having trouble at home or dealing with other personal issues, now's the time to come clean. You don't need to share all the details about the problem, but letting your boss know you're having a hard time may soften her up a bit. If you don't have any real excuse for your underperformance, say so. Being honest about the problem may show your boss you're humble enough to ask for help. After stating the facts, ask her to help you come up with a solution for finishing the project, be it collaborating with other employees, getting more time to finish, or another solution you come up with together. If you're leaving your job soon and the work in question is your last hurrah, the only solution may be to get another employee to start taking on the tasks.

Setting Goals

You've gotten through the difficult part of owning up to the problem. As you work on fixing it, also let your boss know you don't want it to happen again. Talk to her about setting new goals for the future, using the "SMART" system to set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Work through the "attainable" part carefully -- you got yourself into this mess because you set goals that weren't attainable -- or you weren't realistic about their attainability within your time frame.

Getting Feedback

Keep your boss or other mentors close as you work on meeting the new goals you set for yourself. Something went wrong the last time, and one way to see that it doesn't happen again is to get guidance and assistance as you move forward. Ask your boss to assign you a mentor, or find one on your own. Then, meet with that person often to get feedback on your performance.

Training Opportunities

It may be you weren't able to finish your project because you lacked certain skills or didn't have the training necessary to do it right. If that's the case, talk to your boss about attending training that will help you in the future. If your boss is invested enough to let you stay on the job even after your underperformance issue, there's a chance she'll invest in you even more and help you get the training you need. Do some investigation on your own before you approach her -- find out what tuition matching or training opportunities your company regularly offers, and then approach her with a specific program or opportunity in mind.

 

About the Author

Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.

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