What to do when your boss doesn’t provide clear guidelines?

What to do when your boss doesn’t provide clear guidelines?

I’ve been hearing about some of the interesting challenges that my clients have been grappling with lately, and in particular, how to gain clarity from a supervisor or leader when the goalposts shift on a particular project. We’ve all been there, when suddenly the targets or timescales we were happily working to are changed without warning, throwing all manner of panic and fear into teams who are now struggling to meet deadlines or cope with additional, unexpected workload. This kind of pressure can result in elevated stress levels, office conflict and can cause resentment to build between employees and their managers. If your manager is continually shifting the goalposts, here’s how to tackle the problem head on. 

Don’t take it personally

You’ve just received the bad news, so the first step is to take a deep breath! Try not to take the situation personally as it is not a reflection of yourself or your work (unless told otherwise!). In most cases, the business itself isn’t quite sure of the end goal. Sometimes, these things just happen and there is no point wasting valuable time and energy feeling angry, deflated or frustrated. Instead, focus on what needs to be done to achieve the revised outcome. Your resilience and positivity in times of change will be duly noted by both your manager and your colleagues! 

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and be brave about this! If the timelines or requirements have changed then it is important to understand how and why this has come about so that you can take steps to avoid it happening again in the future. What is the big picture, goal or result that the business wants? How does your work and project contribute to this goal? How will your project measure against that? If you are just hearing vague responses, keep pushing for clarity. Such questions will help to paint a clearer picture of what is expected and whether in fact, these new expectations are reasonable! 

Give your input

Often, when the goalposts are changed, it is because there is some uncertainty over the outcomes or objectives. It is rarely due to managers just wanting to be difficult by making your life more stressful! Remember that managers don’t always have all of the answers, so use this as an opportunity to provide your thoughts and suggestions to help influence the outcome; this could be your chance to shape the project and goal. Demonstrating your problem solving capabilities will certainly be noticed by your manager and could lead to exciting new roles and responsibilities for you in the future.

Give your manager the benefit of the doubt

Before you rush in accusing your manager of sabotaging your efforts, bear in mind that things can often get lost in translation. Miscommunication is one of the most common issues faced in the workplace and often, the solution boils down to simply understanding each other’s work and communication styles. Use this as an opportunity to work on improving the processes for communication, project, briefs and deliverables, and put guidelines in place to avoid the same problems occurring in the future. 


Unexpected changes to projects can be extremely frustrating and can lead to elevated levels of workplace stress and worry. In most cases, these changes are due to the business being uncertain of their end goals and is rarely a reflection on the individuals involved. Demonstrating resilience, positivity and problem-solving during such times alongside direct communications with managers to gain clarity will help to navigate the future path of the project, whilst also showcasing your valuable skills for future roles and possible promotions! 

Are you ready to uplevel your career with a fresh dose of resilience? Get in touch today for a complimentary consultation and start making a change for the better!