Tips for Dealing with an Absentee Boss

Have you ever wanted to put out a “missing persons” alert for your boss?  Does he or she sometimes feel like a figment of your imagination?

You know the type—never in the office, never at his/her desk, never answers the phone, never replies to email.  Yet somehow, the missing-in-action boss always expects you to provide brilliant results.  Sometimes it’s the boss you inherit, and other times it’s a new boss.

You could get mad—but all that will do is damage your own career.  You could sink into apathy, but again, you’ll pay the price, not your boss.  Or you could give yourself a promotion –and begin to manage yourself (Hint: Even if your boss isn’t “absentee”, these are great ways to position yourself for success.)

Step #1—Stay positive.  Imagine that you’re locked in a chess game or some other type of strategy contest.  Try to imagine your opponent’s next move (or lack thereof).  Assume inaction, and strategize around the obstacle.  Here are some “chess moves” to get action out of the absentee boss:

·      Send an email, and follow it up with a concise voice mail summary of the email.

·      In the email and voice mail, don’t ask for advice; rather, suggest a course of action so all the boss has to do is give a simple yes/no.

·      Let the boss know that “give the urgency of the situation” you’ll be taking that course of action unless you hear back before the meeting/appointment/deadline.

·      Have a “plan b” in your pocket for the absentee control freak who is likely to say “no” just for the feeling of control.  If he or she has a favorite response, assume they’ll follow pattern and have it ready.

Step #2: Show them what’s in it for them to respond, and demonstrate your paper trail.

Build in a strong benefit in the boss’s self interest to get back to you.  For example, if you’re preparing a presentation for the absentee boss, say you need to clarify one of his/her greatest accomplishments.  When you get the call back about that issue, squeeze in a few of your other questions.

Step #3: Keep an email trail of the communication (or lack thereof) between you and your boss, showing the sequence of un-answered emails.  You can do this by using “forward” and then just addressing the string of your own unanswered emails to your boss.  (You can’t “reply” if they never email back.)

Step #4: Appear in person for the really crucial stuff.  Just show up if it’s urgent, or make an appointment if it can wait.  Emphasize how much you want to do a good job to reflect well on your boss, and you’re likely to be forgiven the interruption.

Instead of following the rules to the letter, keeping your head down and hoping for the best, empower yourself and promote yourself to create results!



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