Sophie, from Singapore (honest!), wrote in with this question:
“I really like my boss, but she is always making promises and not keeping them. It’s been two years now that she’s been promising me an assistant to help with my workload, but still there’s no one. When I ask her about it, she keeps saying, “Hopefully soon…” What can I do?”
It can be quite frustrating when you have a boss who doesn’t keep her (his) word.
Cut your boss a bit of slack
To be fair to bosses everywhere, we really have to first look at the reasons for the broken promises. A lot of times their good intentions can be thwarted by things outside of their control, or by unexpected situations. A lot of times, bosses truly want to do something, but simply can’t – for financial or other reasons. Sometimes, being human, they just forget.
Although making and breaking promises can sometimes appear as manipulative or deceptive behavior, it’s usually nothing quite so nefarious. (It could even be that what you’ve asked for isn’t really such a good idea, and your boss just doesn’t want to hurt your feelings).
Come at it from a different angle
When it looks like something your boss has promised you is not going to come to pass, it doesn’t hurt to gently remind them once, or even twice. By the third time, you can be fairly direct with something like: “So, is it fair to assume that I’m guessing I’m not getting that assistant anytime soon?”
The best strategy for revisiting the promise, however, is by coming at it from a different angle. You could put together a simple cost-benefit analysis as to why it’s a good idea. You could ask your boss if there is anything that you might be able to do to help the matter along a little bit. You might even want to find out what the roadblock is, and think of an alternative which might work. The easier you make it for your boss to get things done, the more likely they will happen.