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Full Time, All the Time

with Britt Reints

Forget the 9 to 5; the demands of a working mom aren’t limited by a time clock. Full Time, All the Time is a blog about balancing the many roles of a modern woman - and maintaining your wellbeing while doing it. I am a writer, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and sometimes volunteer living in Pittsburgh. Oh, and I think you look pretty today.

You can also find Britt on Twitter and at

Following instructions: do you need to know why?

Categories: Uncategorized, office life


I’m having a hard time following the rules at work lately.

In my defense, the rules have changed, and I have yet to figure out exactly why, or what the new rules are.  Come to find out?  Having a good understanding of “the rules” - or what’s expected of me - is closely linked to how well I’m able to comply.

It’s not that I don’t like to be told what to do.  (I mean, OK, I don’t like it, but I can handle it - especially for a paycheck.)  And I don’t expect to agree with every decision my superiors make.

I just want to know why.

I remember, in the past, being told that a new set of paperwork would be required for all employees.  It was a new system from what we were used to, and surely upper management was going through the trouble of training us on a new way of doing things for a reason.  But when my colleagues and I asked what that reason was, we were simply told “because that’s what corporate wants us to do”.

I never did end up getting the hang of that new system, and my questions remained unanswered when I left that company several months later.  I didn’t leave because of paperwork, but feeling like I was expending a lot of energy on meaningless tasks for no good reason certainly didn’t add to my job satisfaction.

In my current situation, I’m finding that I’m just not sure exactly where I should be spending my energy.  Without a clear understanding of my bosses’ goals, it’s difficult to know how to best do my job.  At this point in my career, doing my job involves quite a bit more than simply following a checklist of assigned tasks.  There’s some independent thinking and decision making that I must do in order to perform my duties well - and that’s difficult to do when you don’t have a good sense of the bigger picture.

What I’ve realized is that a good manager doesn’t necessarily have to convince their employees that their vision makes sense or that their decisions are “right”, but it is worth taking the time to make sure everyone knows, at the very least, why.

Do you find it easier to do your job if you understand why certain tasks or procedures have been implemented?

Photo by db photography on Flickr.

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4 comments so far...

  • Yes and no. I can’t abide doing arbitrary work. Usually, I don’t need someone to tell me the reason behind a new rule - I’ve been around long enough to figure that out. But unfortunately, the “reasons” don’t always arise from good management. At some point, in my previous job, I just had to accept that they wanted me to waste time. I quit staying up all night long to do it, and let it cut into my “real” work, like everyone else did.

    SKL  |  February 24th, 2010 at 9:06 am

  • I’m like this, too, which is why I try to explain (and sometimes over-explain) my decisions to people, because there’s nothing worse than a “Just because” as an answer when you question a change in policy or new rules.

    Avitable  |  February 24th, 2010 at 10:15 am

  • i totally agree!! it’s less that i just want to know and more that it helps me understand the priority and I remember to do it when i know how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together. otherwise i am constantly guessing and lose confidence in my ability to make the correct decision - easier to know the structure and work with in it than just memorize rules.

    Kate  |  February 25th, 2010 at 10:25 am

  • One of the guys who’s blogs I followed always tagged off with “Show Up, Suit Up, Shut Up, and Follow Directions” and it always grated on me.
    Now, you don’t have to be contrary all the time, but in this white-collar world they supposedly hired us for our brains not our ability to mindlessly follow.
    One of my best supervisors would listen, actually listen, and might say to go for it or might say, “I see what you’re saying but I want to do it *this* way.” That to me was perfect; I felt heard, and if she disagreed, well that was her decision.

    Mich  |  March 1st, 2010 at 3:26 pm