Dealing with a boss who’s MIA

Dealing with a boss who’s MIA

The truth is that sometimes we will have a boss who is invisible.

Perhaps your boss is always busy or never there. You don’t have dedicated time with your manager that is just about you. You don’t have a development plan in place, and you haven’t talked about your career plans in a long time. Or your manager changes regularly.

Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, at least once in our working lives, we will work with a bad boss. We don’t get to pick and choose who our manager will be, and you don’t often find out what they are like until you are actually working for them.

This can impact your professional experience and possible opportunities, as well as affect your personal life too. It can be a stressful and demotivating experience that can be hard to navigate.

So what do you do?

Here are 5 steps you can take to deal with this situation in a professional and positive way:

  • Be proactive. If you don’t have regular 1-on-1 time booked just for you and your development, take steps to get them booked in. Have a conversation with your manager to explain how important this time is for you and find the most appropriate time to book these in regularly. Perhaps they just need a gentle reminder, or you might need to find the best time within their schedule. If they are rescheduled, re-book them in. You are just as important as all of the other meetings being held.
  • Take charge of your own development. If you have tried to get your manager actively involved with your development, but it is still not working – take ownership of it. Reflect on what motivates you and what your career plans are. Look at where you know you need to develop and what you need to do to close the gap. Find ways to continue your learning and development. Break it down into action steps and document your progress. Ultimately you are the only person responsible for your own development. Also, assess your own performance in your role and ask for feedback from your peers and other colleagues, as well as from your own manager.
  • Get support. If your manager is unavailable or unwilling to assist you with your role or development, you may need to seek support. The key is to find trusted support, without compromising responsibility lines. A trusted colleague or HR might be a good place to start. You could also find a coach or mentor. Building your professional network both within and outside the organisation can have a lot of benefits. Also, utilise your personal support outside of work for extra support and encouragement during this time.
  • Be mindful. Avoid complaining about your manager across the office. It might be a frustrating and annoying situation to be in, but whatever you say about it and to who will reflect on your personal brand instead. Stay professional and protect your own personal brand, always. Find healthy ways to channel your frustrations – exercise, hobbies or meditation can help.
  • Move on. If you have tried all of these steps, but you still find the situation unbearable – it might be time to consider moving on to a new role or organisation. It may be better long term for your sanity and happiness to find a new opportunity. A word of caution – be careful about how you explain your reason for leaving the role to potential employers. Blaming it on your old manager in an emotional way is not a great look.

Leaders have a 70% direct influence on employee engagement so your working relationship with your manager matters. Don’t let your frustration affect your role – it’s important to proactively manage this situation so that you continue to progress and develop.


Michelle Robb

Michelle Robb is a Career Coach, writer and speaker who is passionate about empowering corporate women to build a career and life that they LOVE! With an Advanced Diploma in Management, a Certified Life Coach and over 15 years experience in leadership roles, Michelle has coached and mentored hundreds of women in places such as Optus, Telstra, Macquarie Bank and through her own business, Michelle Robb Coaching. When Michelle is not helping women find happiness and success, she can usually be found with her friends and family, eating delicious food and coffee, and then burning it off on the Coogee to Bondi walk!


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