I have a really awesome boss. He is super knowledgeable about what we do, having worked on the team for almost his entire career. He puts people first and doesn’t expect anyone to work nights or weekends unless there’s an extreme situation, even though he’s the first to check his e-mails on his days off. And as he nears closer and closer to retirement, he doesn’t give a damn about office politics. If he doesn’t agree with someone’s plan, he’ll be the first to say it. Because of this, not everyone loves my boss as much as I do, but almost everyone respects him.
For a little over a week at the end of September, my boss was on a well-deserved vacation at the beach. It’s rare for him to take more than a day or two off, and he certainly hasn’t done it since we grew from a team of two to a team of four earlier this year. For the week plus that he was away, I became our pseudo team leader. Don’t get me wrong, I had no extra authority. But I was the go-to person on the team, and my manager (my boss’ boss, who is thankfully also great to work for) was not shy to seek me out. On my boss’ first day of vacation, I arrived at my cubicle to find the ever ominous “come see me,” note signed by my manager. Two hours later I sat down at my desk and turned on my computer. (And no, I wasn’t in trouble – just helping to put out other people’s fires!)
Naturally, I’ve often wondered what it would be like to have my boss’ job, especially since he’s planning to retire in 2 years and won’t let anyone forget it! The week he was gone gave me a bit more of an idea as to what it can be like. Not surprisingly, it’s more stressful. I was interrupted a lot more when trying to do work (and when avoiding it!), I felt guiltier for taking time off for Jewish holidays and doctor’s appointments, and I juggled even more tasks than usual.
The experience wasn’t all bad though. I liked the increased sense of purpose while at work. I also liked delegating work to my teammates. I didn’t unload all of our work on them, but after meeting with our manager, I decided which projects needed to take priority, which required acceleration and meetings and which to let sit longer. It’s not like I’ve never delegated work or set priorities for teams before, in work and outside, but it felt a little different this time because I was expected to step up and do it. Not just because I’m well-organized and on top of our projects. Our office was asked to speak at an upcoming training conference; I spoke with the manager planning the event to identify topics of interest. I quickly realized another teammate of mine was best equipped to prepare the presentation. She set to work on the presentation, happy to have an interesting project. I was happy to know it was in good hands and there was one less thing I needed to do.
Perhaps the best part of my boss’ vacation was when he called to check in on us. I had just left the manager’s office when and my mind was filled with tasks to be done. When my boss called, he could sense there were work issues on my mind, that it was “one of those days.” So he asked what was happening and I calmly replied, “Nothing we can’t handle. Enjoy the rest of your vacation. And if nothing too difficult comes up, I’ll fill you in when you return.”
Playing boss had its ups and downs. There are difficult days and tough decisions to be made – I’m often grateful that my boss is around to take change. But it’s also good to know that if he’s not, I’m able to keep things running smoothly. And someday, I’ll be ready to be someone’s boss too.