Career advice: Setting limits with a boss

Premier 100 IT Leader Stephen Gold also answers questions on job interviews with nontechnical people and making a move into mobile.

By Stephen J. Gold
April 21, 2016

Ask a Premier 100 IT Leader

Stephen J. Gold

Title: Executive vice president and CIO

Company: CVS Health

stephen gold
CVS Health CIO Stephen J. Gold

My boss fosters a constant crisis mode, with everyone putting in long hours until the latest emergency is behind us. My wife thinks I should set clear limits on my time at work, but all the other guys on the team (we’re all male) just go along with it. I don’t see how I can do otherwise. Any advice? Creating boundaries at work can sometimes get tricky because of the perceived potential implications to your career. Yet with better planning and clear communications, all of these concerns can be addressed. The most impactful thing that can be done is to take a step back, with your team and your leader, and look at what is really going on with the flow of work. Suggest performing a formal study to determine the true root cause for the constant crises. Experience has taught me that many crises can be avoided with improved planning and organizing around the work being done. After all, crisis is really just a risk that has germinated. Getting out ahead of these situations with a good risk management strategy is key to a more normal and predictable workflow. Lastly, once you are on the path to stabilization, you will be in a position to create some reasonable work/life balance processes. Again, suggest meeting with your team and your leader to define these processes and implement them. The net result will be a happier, more productive workforce.

I've been to a few interviews lately where I was just blown away by the interviewers’ complete lack of technical knowledge. It threw me off balance every time. How should I talk to people like that? I’m afraid my responses might as well have been in Mandarin for all they were understanding. Job candidates should always keep in mind, prior to any interview, the possibility of being interviewed by an inexperienced or nontechnical person. Although, you may feel you have wasted their time and effort in preparing for the interview, it is important to remain positive and polite, while at the same time adjusting to the style and interest of the person interviewing you. Candidates need to remember that first impressions stick, and it is the interviewer who has the power to take the candidate to the next stage of the company’s recruitment process. Therefore, the candidate needs to put the interviewer at ease, to understand the interviewer’s perspective and respond to any questions in a way that will be valuable to the interviewer. This is actually great practice for career advancement, since there will be many business leaders that don’t understand the deep technical aspects of an IT leader’s job and we need to speak their language in order to be a more valuable partner.

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