Bosses Who Don’t Manage

If you are accustomed to a micromanaging boss, it might seem like a dream to have a boss that leaves you alone. But too much of that can also be a bad thing.

Dealing with a manager who doesn’t manage

If your current boss is overly controlling or micromanages you, having a boss who leaves you alone and lets you do what you want might sound heavenly. But professional experience coaching senior leaders with absentee bosses (and research on the topic) says otherwise. An absentee boss can lead to feelings of alienation, job dissatisfaction, and stress.

Why is it important to have an engaged boss?

Available leverage in getting your work done

Provides a testament to your annual accomplishments

Can be a significant factor in advancing your career

Plays a partner role in setting goals and objectives

Assists in managing barriers to accomplish work


Talk with peers to see what their experience has been with your manager. You may find that they feel the same way you do. Is it possible that there are extenuating circumstances that have contributed to their behaviors? It doesn’t solve the problem of a missing boss, but it can help make a challenging situation feel easier if you see that it’s not personal.—And if you do discover it’s just you, this is good information.


Despite the situation, be a communicator!  Keep the boss informed.  If you need concurrence on work, send an email with “RESPONSE REQUIRED” in all caps in the subject line. Make an explicit time-bound request for the support if needed.  Here’s an example: “I need you to review and approve this contract/presentation by Friday or we will not meet the client’s deadline.” 

Persistent follow-up counts. One email may not do it. Be opportunistic about stating the case for what you need when you happen to see your boss. This may seem extremely frustrating, but it beats the alternative of having their absenteeism impede your ability to make progress and deliver results.


Nature hates a vacuum, so see how you can use this opportunity to step into a higher level of responsibility and hone your leadership skills. As you step up to lead, keep your boss informed so that you can make decisions to keep moving ahead. Email is your friend here. For example, “I will be moving forward with this decision on Monday unless I hear from you that you prefer another course of action.” Or: “I saw that this was a problem and I am planning on addressing it with a sub-team later this week. Let me know if you have any concerns and/or thoughts you would like us to consider.”


Work on your internal relationships. When you have mentors or sponsors at the company, you’re much more likely to hear about other potential opportunities (and have advocates when the time comes).  Developed strategies to develop and deepen your network. Create a large circle of allies—cultivate a mentor and sponsors. This will help connect you to additional opportunities and build strong support to lobby for career advancement.


Quitting when you have a bad boss can be hard for many reasons. But if you’ve done what you can to salvage the situation, it may be time to look for opportunities elsewhere.  Two questions to ask: “Am I working at a place that supports career growth? Am I working at a place that will help me learn?” Use these questions as a litmus test: If you can’t check both those boxes in your current situation, you may be best served by working for another boss or company.

If you find yourself with an absentee boss, the unfortunate truth is that it will be on you to make the situation better for yourself. In the corporate world, those who get promoted to leadership positions aren’t always suited to managing people. Hoping your boss will change will likely be a waste of time.

Accept your feelings about the situation, and drum up the energy to employ the above strategies to succeed in your current role. And if that doesn’t work, put your energy toward looking for a position that will give you the opportunity to thrive.

Reference: Dina Smith, Executive Coach and Leadership Consultant. Summarized from:

***** S&E *****

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