Q. Lately it seems my manager has one foot in and one foot out the door. Her instructions are all over the place and she’s rarely focused. I feel she’s ‘over’ the company. What can I do to make sure her attitude doesn’t negatively affect how my work is perceived?
A. Managers are people too and often face the challenge of finding work-life balance. Your manager may be facing personal issues, work issues you aren’t aware of or an assortment of other areas needing attention, and is most likely not aware of how this affects you and your work. Regardless of what your manager is going through, she owes you direction and guidance. To get the direction you’re looking for, you may need to take matters into your own hands.
Offer to help. You may say, “You seem to have a lot more than normal going on, and I wonder if there is anything I can do to help out.” This comments isn’t accusatory, and opens the door to a conversation if she wants to make that happen. If not, she has been made aware that you recognize that something is going on that is out of her ordinary pattern of behavior. You also put yourself on the good guy side of asking first when you see an issue. Many mangers and employees move straight into accusatory mode – not a good first step.
Be self-directed. Set up regular meetings with your manager to review what you are working on, and let her know you have bandwidth to take on more. Whatever is distracting your manager may lead to larger and more interesting projects landing in your lap. Ensure that these communications happen, whether face to face, skype, email or IM. Make her aware that you are capable of and looking for greater responsibility. Seek out and solve problems.
Be visible . Make sure other managers know you and see your work. Your manager may be too distracted to support your career growth, and getting on cross organizational teams or working with others on projects offers more job security .
You don’t want your manager’s inability to focus affect you and your career and it doesn’t have to. Take charge of your career and own your work. Stay focused and engaged with your team and the company. Try not to focus on your manager’s change in attitude, as it won’t get you anywhere. Focus on you and what you can control and you will be much happier and more successful in your career.