Should You Tell Your Manager You Don't Have Enough Work to Do?

The last person who held your job must have been a slacker because you can easily finish a day’s work by lunchtime. Should you tell your boss you don’t have enough to do?  Yes, but tread carefully. It’s critical to pick the right time—and the right way—to send your message.

not enough work to do

First, Excel At Your Current Tasks

Before you decide for certain you don’t have enough work to do, make sure you’re exceeding the boss’s expectations on all your assigned tasks. You should be completing current assignments on time or even early. Don’t rush through your work just because you’re bored and ready to get it all done. In addition to being early, your finished work should be excellent and beyond question. If your boss asks for revisions or do-overs, you’re not ready for additional work. Even if you think your tasks are beneath you, do them, and do them well.

Even If You’re Excelling, Wait A Minute

If you’ve just started a new job, now is not the time to tell your boss you need more work—even if you think you’re already surpassing expectations. Next week isn’t the time either. Sure, you were a top gun at your former company, but you’re the new kid here. You may believe you have a good handle on how everything works and you’ve already thought of a dozen ways to make process run more smoothly. But take a moment to think about how you would feel if someone showed up and immediately started pointing out your inefficiencies and shortcomings. Put suggestions on pause until you’re not quite so new—wait until you’ve been on the job for at least three months and have scored a positive performance review before you ask for more to do (or make those productivity recommendations).

Find Small Tasks You Can Begin On Your Own

Although you shouldn’t launch into a big discussion about needing more work prematurely, keep your eyes open for those no-brainer chores no one wants to do. Do them, and do them without resentment, without discussion, and without calling attention to yourself. If the copier is out of paper, put more in. If the kitchen or break room is a mess, take a few minutes to tidy it up after you’re done with lunch or morning coffee—and if you drink the last of the coffee, make more.

Make A List And A Plan

When the time comes for you to talk to your boss, approach the conversation with a plan—not just a statement that you don’t have enough work to do. In that scenario, you’ve handed your manager a problem with no solution—always a bad idea. Prepare for the discussion by keeping your eyes open, looking for tasks that need to be done and are easily within your capabilities. Start making a list of those projects, and when you meet, focus on the ones that will help you build your skills and advance in the company.

Execute The Strategy You’ve Created And Shine

Finally, when you step up to do the new tasks you worked out with your boss, do them well. Schedule a follow-up meeting with your manager to discuss your progress. And don’t forget to thank your boss for trusting you and giving you the opportunity to soar.

Search for your next job now:


Back to listing

The Washington Post Jobs Newsletter

Subscribe to the latest news about DC's jobs market