Jul 14, 2008

My Boss Checked Out

Are you wondering what to do when your boss checks out?

Have you been working steady in your job, realized progress, and then, one day, out of the blue, your boss just stops showing up to work? Or, when they do show up, they seem only half-interested in what's happening? Maybe they take long lunches. They leave early. They come in late. Worse-yet, maybe they come to work with a hang-over or other problem. If this is your situation, your boss has checked out. For whatever reason: laziness, drugs, alcohol, other jobs, side-interests, or an emotional/mental problem, a boss might not be "all there" when we need them. If this is happening regularly, you may have a problem.

There are four strategies I can recommend to you if your boss is checked out:

1. Stick it out.

First of all, your boss may be straightened out for you. Just keep your eyes forward, ears back, and insulate yourself from the problems and do your job anyway. Believe me, if YOU notice your boss blowing it, other people notice, too. And, surely, one of them is likely to complain to your boss's boss and get your boss transferred, promoted, or fired. It might as well be them, right?

This is the strategy I recommend if you think (a) your boss is just going through a rough time and history shows they are loyal, committed, and hard-working in the past and (b) you have reason to believe they'll get it together.

The exception: your boss' performance directly impacts your ability to earn money. If this is your situation, I'm going to recommend you consider even stronger the second strategy.

2. Find another place to work.

Second, if your boss MIGHT NOT get it together; or worse, your boss NEVER HAD had his/her act together, then you might strongly consider looking for another place to work. This is especially good advice if your boss flaking out causes you to lose money. I've seen commission salespeople completely tank when the boss is gone or out of the building. If you're losing money due to the poor performance of a manager, then you might want to save yourself (and your pocketbook) the pain and look for something better now.

3. Take action with your boss's boss.

Now, if you're someone who likes to battle problems at work, then you could consider being the one to blow the whistle on your boss. I suppose the question is: "Do you like your boss?" If the answer is "yes," then don't do this at any cost! If the answer is "no", then first consider if it is likely that someone else is having issues with the boss, too. If you can maneuver them to blow the whistle, that would be preferred. Otherwise, you could consider taking action. In my history, I've never been the one to blow the whistle on a boss. Why? Because I don't want people blowing the whistle on me if I ever have a tough time. I once went through a rough time at a good company, in a good job, after my divorce. My work suffered. I wasn't able to focus or commit very well. And, I'm pretty sure somebody blew the whistle, because my boss started treating me differently. It was hard and I finally moved on to a different job, but it took two jobs later to get back in a good position again. So, having been there at the belly of suffering and still needing work, I wouldn't blow the whistle on someone struggling with an injury or emotion problem. If that's your bag, so be it, I just don't want the karma.

4. Start your own company.

Of course, there is one other course of action: start a company or open a private consulting practice. If this is your situation, where you've already had cash-flow coming in from a moonlighting job, then you could consider this option at this time. Otherwise, I'd suggest you get something more stable going first. Once your side-project makes enough to pay your bills and demands too much time to do everything well, THEN make the switch to your private practice.

Evaluate your situation carefully. If you find that you need to find a new job, well, at least you've got good reason to do so. Find a way to go after something more challenging so you can make that your reason for leaving and make sure you leave on good terms with the boss and team you're leaving behind. You'll be happier if you leave good "karma" behind and focus on positive change for the future. If you're sticking it out, just remember that loose lips sink ships and keep your lips sealed about your boss. Your boss won't think it was you that fingered them if you give them no reason to think so.

Having our boss check out and lose interest or simply just stop caring makes it harder to work, but it isn't impossible. Stay focused. Get your work done. Make sure you don't blame your boss and do the best you can to get through this time. One thing is for sure: change is likely on the way! Rise above it and you'll be better for the effort.

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