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My boss is asking me to do something related to an event I have no control over. For example, imagine being required to film a thunderstorm. I cannot cause a thunderstorm to happen. I have to wait until this action happens before I can do what I need to do.

I've been monitoring it for a week and a half and it hasn't happened yet.

Unfortunately, my boss is getting antsy about and wants it done. He insists I missed the event (even though I have not). I am very confident I am not going to miss the event based on what I have setup to monitor it.

He has also told me that I am shirking my duties and not following instruction and that disciplinary actions such as termination will ensue.

My problem is, I cannot do what he is requesting without this event happening.

How can I communicate to my boss I have no control over the situation and what is being expected of me? It feels like my boss is expecting an impossible thing I cannot control and holding me accountable for it.

closed as unclear what you're asking by The Wandering Dev Manager, gnat, keshlam, Garrison Neely, Jan Doggen Nov 11 '14 at 18:40

Please clarify your specific problem or add additional details to highlight exactly what you need. As it's currently written, it’s hard to tell exactly what you're asking. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Sorry, I have no idea of what this is asking, voting to close – The Wandering Dev Manager Nov 11 '14 at 16:49
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    Without details, there is absolutely nothing we can tell you. Obviously your boss thinks it's possible. Ask him for suggestions on how. Ask your co-workers for suggestions on how. Or set up the camera and appropriate sensors so that when the drought finally breaks you get the tape you need; that's what our industry does with intermittent bugs. – keshlam Nov 11 '14 at 16:55
  • the OP is being poetic, he is not actually taping a thunderstorm. – bharal Nov 11 '14 at 17:14
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    Hi Sidney, I made a pretty significant edit to your question to clarify as I think it's a good question but was not clear initially. Feel free to edit if needed to clarify if I changed your intent too much. – enderland Nov 11 '14 at 17:30
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    Don't expect us to say anything useful about "an event I have no control over" or "it". We need facts. – Jan Doggen Nov 11 '14 at 18:40
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Can you show your boss your actual monitoring kit? I have no idea what you are possibly monitoring, but whatever it is you must have something... video footage, log files, witness accounts, seismic readings, whatever it is you are using to monitor.

If you can somehow "automate" this process, so that the storing of data happens without you needing to be there, you can even show that to your boss, and maybe get out of the tedium of whatever you're doing.

With an automated - either a camera in front of the screen, or a list of seismic activity - whatever - when your boss comes and says "i cannot believe it hasn't happened" you can tell him :

"here is the report for the last week, i can go through it with you. i didn't see any trace, but i can be wrong and i'd be happy to go over it with you to make doubly sure."

or words to that effect.

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If you get fired, say at your next interview that you were fired and say the reason why with a straight face "I was hired to videotape a thunderstorm and because there was no thunderstorm to videotape, I was fired for failing to meet expectations on being able to control the weather and produce a thunderstorm to videotape" I have, said on occasion, things with deadpan seriousness that caused the other party to break out into peals of uncontrollable laughter :)

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All I can say is to show him how you are monitoriing so he realizes you are doing what it is possible to do.

  • And show him how you're looking for other alternatives, or ways to provoke the thunderstorm, or ways to analyze what a thunderstorm would do even if you can't provoke one ... As I said in my comment, all of that is common practice for most engineering disciplines. Cue Monty Python: "There just aren't enough [traffic] accidents. It's unethical, and time consuming, to go out and cause them, so..." – keshlam Nov 11 '14 at 17:22
  • To add, you should show the boss (in a test environment) how & when the random events happens your monitoring will catch/document it. – Chris L Nov 11 '14 at 17:33
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It feels like my boss is expecting an impossible thing I cannot control and holding me accountable for it.

Well, what did you do to set expectations?

Setting the proper expectations with people making requests is one of the most important skills that professionals need to develop. "You want me to film a thunderstorm? Okay, a big one? Focus on the lightning or the thunder or the ominousness or what? When do you want it by?" "Okay, it might be difficult to find exactly what you want by the time you want it, what is most important?"

Stuff like that will go a long way towards not just giving people what they want, but put you into a better light since you care about what they want - and delivered on it.

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