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How to Thrive When Your Boss is Never Around

Posted by Charlotte McPherson

4/12/18 8:57 AM


Your boss is out in the field or in meetings all day, everyday. When you do see her, she’s on the phone or busy with no time to talk. Your emails go unanswered and you never know when you’ll see her next. Sound familiar?

Some may think that a boss who is never around is a good thing, but that’s not always the case. An absentee boss means that they’re too busy to answer your questions, provide direction, and give approval, which can put you in a hard spot. Do you proceed and risk doing the wrong thing or do you wait until they are available (days or weeks later) and risk missing a deadline or delaying a project?  Playing this guessing game is neither fun nor efficient. Plus is means that you’re performance is at risk.

Although you can’t control your boss’ schedule, there are some steps you can take to prevent finding yourself in this bind (or at least have it happen less frequently).

setup a process

With some aspects of your job, there’s probably a process in play. You know the drill and just follow each step. In other areas (especially when you have a busy boss), you’re thrown into the wild to “figure it out.” If you find yourself in this scenario, it may be a good opportunity to take the initiative and establish a process yourself. Of course, you’ll want to get your manager’s sign off but telling her that it’s going to save her a lot of time in the future, will likely help her prioritize a reviewing your proposal .

Once the process is established, you can follow the steps without having to make a judgement call each and every time.  Your boss knows what’s going on and has given you approval.

When it comes to protecting your lien rights, a notice policy is a good place to start.  The notice policy outlines when you send notices and other documents. To learn more about notice policies and see three examples of notice policies that work, check out this resource.

how to handle exceptions?

A process or plan is great... at least most of the time. Although to quote Mike Tyson, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

There are going to be exceptions: unusual jobs that can’t follow the same steps. Maybe it’s a new type of work that the business is trying out or the customer is a friend of the owner and it didn’t follow the typical sales process. Maybe you actually do need to talk to someone this time.  

Make sure you know how to handle these types of scenarios.  If something comes up, who do you need to contact, what’s the best way to contact them (email, call, text), and how quickly can you expect to hear back? On top of that, what should you do if you don’t hear back in that amount of time? Do you send a smoke signal or escalate to another team member?

It sounds like a lot of questions, but you can navigate this with a quick conversation with your boss. Remember, a few minutes upfront will save you and your boss time and headache in the future.


The goal here is to 1) save time - your time and your boss’ time - and 2) make sure your job is done right. Developing a plan will help you move toward these goals and as you execute on the plan, you’ll likely come up with some ideas of how to make it better.  Continue to refine the process as you go to make improvements.


Topics: Best Practices, communicate, notice policy