my manager is never at work

A reader writes:

My manager has become increasingly absent. She rarely works a full day in the office, typically coming in late and/or leaving early, or is out for a full day. While there is some flexibility in our schedules and time off, working from home is not an option in our company so I don’t think she’s working remotely. I truly cannot remember a recent week when she has worked eight hours per day for five days.

Not only is this problematic for our department, in that we can’t find time to meet with her about issues that arise, but it is also incredibly draining on our morale. We’ve been receiving increasing pressure to meet revenue goals, etc., with some emails from our boss even mentioning that staff should be here for their scheduled hours and not be leaving 10 minutes early! I realize her absences could be the result of a serious personal matter she is attending to and doesn’t want to (or need to) share, but it seems like it would be wise for her to at least generally address her absenteeism with us, rather than letting the gossip and resentment fly. Her absence goes unnoticed by her supervisor (the director), due to the previously mentioned responsibilities and lack of his physical presence in our department. Is there any way to constructively address this without overstepping boundaries?

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • My coworker led a colleague to think I’m upset at work
  • I can’t afford to travel for interviews
  • Should I tell my employee that I can’t promote her because of her poor interpersonal skills?
  • Can I ask an interviewer if I would have my own office?

{ 91 comments… read them below }

  1. ballpitwitch

    Management at my company comes and goes as they please. They sent emails from their cozy homes telling us we were all expected to come in during inclement weather – but then “worked remotely” themselves. Never around to deal with pressing issues and when they are in the office, they are in closed-door meetings all day. Any issue you bring to them is treated as petty and below their notice. Can’t wait to get the hell out of here!

    But I digress – this is pretty normal for people in upper management, right?

    1. Jar

      Um, no this isn’t normal for upper management. Upper management is looked upon for leadership and your team doesn’t seem to be providing it.

      1. ballpitwitch

        Guess it’s just the 2 or 3 companies I’ve worked for – it’s been like this at most them.

        1. Lil Fidget

          I’d say it’s not uncommon, in the same sense that bad management in general is not uncommon. But there are good places out there where this kind of thing doesn’t happen.

          1. Hellanon

            I work for a bunch of dedicated workaholics – it’s actually great, as they all still believe in the people who work for them going to lunch & taking vacations!

          2. Julia the Survivor

            It can take longer to get a job where there’s good management because people don’t leave, but it’s worth the time and effort!

      2. Specialk9

        Not normal in my experience either. But my friend’s husband’s old job was like that. Are you a forester by any chance?

    2. Sabine the Very Mean

      I once did this as a manager. I hired an assistant manager after YEARS of doing the work and then also coming back to do my real job of managing the work. So when I finally hired and trained my assistant, I could do nothing but recover from serious burn-out. Looking back, I should have just been honest with him but it didn’t feel very managerial to admit it.

    3. Lynca

      No. That is not normal. My managers have a set schedule, they’re upfront about changes to that schedule, and want to work with us to get work done.

      Not everything is perfect. They are incredibly busy and it can take a while to get a response from them, but don’t “check out” so to speak.

    4. Kittyfish 76

      Depends on the dynamic. My previous job to this one sounds just like the one you described.

    5. Artemesia

      My brother was the CEO of a fortune 500 company. I remember family Thanksgivings when he was up at 4 am the Friday after to begin visiting stores owned by the company on their busiest day. Managers who are lazy are just bad managers; there are plenty of them.

    6. Koko

      Some of that is normal for senior staff (having more scheduling/work location flexibility than junior staff, being in meetings all day when they’re in the office) and some isn’t (not accessible, treating employee issues as too petty to bother with).

      Even senior staff who are frequently working out of the office or in meetings all day should still have a mechanism for being responsive to their teams; e.g. standing check-ins, prompt replies to emails, etc.

    7. AnotherHRPro

      I don’t think it is unusual for upper management to be in frequent closed-door meetings. That is part of their job. But otherwise, no that is not normal.

    8. Jennifer

      Sounds like managerial privilege to me. My office isn’t that bad but most managers don’t show up until 8:15. Most of us can’t work remotely either (to be fair, that’s the nature of the job though).

      We had one manager here who was forever ill and absolutely never made it through a 5 day workweek. If she went on vacation, she’d need to take just as many sick weeks as she was off on vacation. Nice lady, but never there and if she was that sick all the time, clearly she wasn’t up to to working. It took a long time for her to figure out that she wasn’t really up to working, I guess.

      1. Specialk9

        You sound weirdly judgmental. 8:15 is slacking? You know that people can be sick frequently, say chronic illness, and still be valuable employees? For instance, I have chronic illness but do the work of several people because I’m efficient and knowledgeable. But I’d do a lot better with shorter hours because I’m done being useful before the day is fine. If people had less of butts-at-work mentality and more of work-output mentality, people like me wouldn’t be dismissed as utterly worthless, and not really up to working, by people like you.

        1. BananaPants

          And you know that there are plenty of jobs where prompt attendance is required, and where showing up 15 minutes late would indeed be viewed as slacking, if not a reason to terminate employment?

          If you’d be better off with working shorter hours, I’d suggest seeking a part time work schedule as a reasonable accommodation for your disability under the ADA (assuming you’re in the US).

          1. Former Employee

            I’ve never heard of a job where showing up at 8:15 is slacking if you are a manager. Of course, I’ve always worked in offices, so I suppose it could be different in other types of work situations. Also, many managers will come in later in the morning because they stay after hours for meetings and special projects (working on the budget, doing performance reviews, etc.).

            1. TardyTardis

              I used to work at a place where you *had* to be there at 7:30 am, and a bunch of the early morning crowd were there at 7 am (I was ecstatic to draw a special 9 to 6 shift to accommodate a manager who often stayed light and needed me due to some Sarbanes-Oxley issues in re who could post stuff to the system). Anyone who came in at 8:15 am had better have a Reason at that plce.

    9. Turquoisecow

      The last few managers I’ve had worked more hours than I did. By a lot. One of the reasons why I am happy not to advance in this industry is that I like to have my personal time and not be in the office for twelve hours everyday.

      That said, I’ve also had managers who were uncommunicative about their schedules, or who didn’t hold themselves to the standards they held their subordinates to. I had a boss who skipped out early on a snow day, without telling us he was leaving or indicating we could also leave. My previous company was also “no working from home,” but a boss of mine would work from home when it snowed.

      OP, is it possible your boss is in the office, but just not at her desk all day? Some of my managers with long hours also spent 3/4 of the working day in meetings, so it was hard to tell if they were even in the office at all some days. (If you’ve actually seen her put on a coat, grab bags, and leave, then obviously disregard this).

      1. Anonymoose

        I think a lot of folks assume upper leadership takes off at 3pm on a Friday and they stop working until Monday at 8am. Nope. High level execs frequently have to network to secure new business/contracts during weekend society/local events and/or work on their laptops at home while their spouse takes the kids to birthday parties on the weekends. I think it sucks that folks are assuming that they don’t work when they leave, because I know it’s not the case from my own experience.

        And can LW #1 be absolutely sure that her leader isn’t actually working when she leaves? Further has anybody just reached out to her and said ‘hey, is everything okay? You’ve seemed a little distant lately and I just wanted to make sure that things were okay outside of the office’, and allow her leader respond with ‘my mother is ill/my dog died/my kid ____, but I’ll try to be more present going forward’. I have to assume nobody has actually talked to the boss yet, so I’m not a fan of Alison’s second suggestion of going to the director first.

        1. Anonymoose

          ps. My staff once did this – asking why I was absent over a three month period – and it really helped us get back on track together. And I was super touched that they had even noticed my behavior was different and had the gumption to speak up about their needs.

        2. turquoisecow

          Yeah, my husband works in a fairly high-level role in tech, and I’m quite familiar with the thing where you’re not in the office, but something breaks and that has to get fixed, even if we had some other personal thing planned.

          I don’t know that I’d feel comfortable taking it directly to the boss – depending on her personality, she might get offended that I dared to question her or something. If I could come up with a way to say that I’ve noticed her absence without sounding accusing, then maybe?

        3. SarahU

          I was pretty shocked that a first step suggestion was going over the manager’s head to the director. I would think that could have bad ramifications for the letter writer and should be a nuclear option.

    10. Anon for this

      Lots of people know this story IRL, so I’m not using my regular handle for this.

      When I had been at my job maybe 5-10 years, and still somewhat junior, the whole DC area shut down because of a really heavy ice storm. Our company had announced that we were closing, and everyone should get home as safely as possible ASAP, and while I was walking out past the reception desk the CEO/President saw me and asked if I needed a ride home. She knew my name and where I lived, and that I commuted on the bus to work. I might have taken her up on it, but I had parked my car in a covered garage near the bus stop, and wanted to get it home rather than have to get to it the next work day.

      But the tl;dr version is, some upper management go beyond recognizing that morale really can affect productivity, and genuinely do care about their employees as people.

    11. RabbitRabbit

      Not in my office. There are a couple managers who coast in late and tend to be hard to find, but they’re criticized behind their backs for their unprofessionalism. Our big boss is usually in before 7 am and stays until at least 5 generally. Meetings happen but generally their office doors are open and I can pop in to see anyone on my management chain (manager and two levels up) without an appointment or anything.

    12. Alienor

      It’s somewhat true at my company, in that people in upper management come and go as they please, aren’t around very much, and tend to be in closed-door meetings all day. But, they wouldn’t expect anyone to come in during inclement weather if they weren’t coming in themselves, and when you can actually get hold of them, they’re willing to help with issues or at least tell you how they want them handled. I think the meetings part, at least, is just the nature of the job–even my own manager, who is just one step up from being an individual contributor, is in meetings nearly all day long.

    13. SS Express

      Everywhere I’ve worked, it’s been common for upper management to be out of the office or unavailable at times when the rest of us were expected to be around. Of course there are often good reasons for this – those kinds of roles usually have more flexibility and autonomy, business needs are different, it’s a perk offered to managers in exchange for their labour, etc etc etc – but in my experience it’s always been at least a little bit of a double standard too. Most senior managers I’ve worked under have occasionally “worked from home” because they had a sick kid or wanted to drop off a birthday cake at their child’s school or had to leave at 4.30 for a (non-work-related) flight, yet had strict rules that anyone else who worked from home needed to be available to work all day and if you were doing other things you needed to take the day off.

      It’s a downer, and the managers who don’t do this are the ones I’ve most respected and worked hardest for, but yeah, it’s kind of just the way it is. However if it’s really extreme, like you’re chained to your desk but your manager is NEVER around, and you never get the help/feedback/approval you need in time yet you’re under pressure to magically meet your deadlines, I wouldn’t say that’s normal.

      In any case, good luck getting out of there!

    14. Aliecat

      Not in my experience. I’m a supervisor and typically work 9 hours per day and my Manager is the same. We don’t allow remote work for regular staff, and we don’t allow it for management. If management chooses to work from home, it’s in addition to the 8 hours they’re putting in at the office. If the weather is bad (I live in MN, so that’s a lot), I will do everything in my power to make it in, because I know there are a lot of people on my team who will brave the roads (I’m also understanding of those team members who choose to take a day off). Plus I live pretty close, so there would have to be some kind of epic nastiness just sort of “The Day After Tomorrow” that would make it impossible for me to get to work. Managers who are MIA are mocked behind their back and usually dealt with by their superiors.

    15. Dulynoted

      It was pretty normal for my family owned company @oldjob. The managers were made up of the oldest son and his wife who would be come in for 3 hours and leave in the afternoon then proceed to update her fb that she’s at the gym (she added me on fb). My co-workers would give me the ‘that’s just how it is’ lecture when I mentioned it.

  2. LisaB

    #1, I might take this in a different approach if you were going to go to the director… Alison’s scripts in the past have focused on how grandboss wants you to handle X or Y in light of the boss’s absence, not coming right out and asking if something’s going on with the boss. “Would it be all right if we go straight to you if we need a fast approval on a teapot order and Jane’s out of the office? The clients have been commenting that we’re not getting back as quickly as we used to since she’s been out more often than normal.”

    1. Artemesia

      I like this approach. Always when complaining you want to frame it as delivering to clients or being productive not as a personal annoyance. You are not reporting on the lazy manager but looking out for the interests of the business and the clients. And if the manager is out for a serious medical situation or family situation, it has not put you in the role of sourpuss complaining about the poor poor manager, but as someone looking for solutions to meet business goals.

    2. MLB

      Exactly this. Also, it sounds as if LW is a little bitter that her boss is MIA a lot, and as Alison said, it’s really none of her business. If her team can’t get their work done properly because they need boss input, that’s a legit issue. But if she’s just unhappy because it seems that boss isn’t putting in her time, she needs to let that go. I work in IT, and our managers are expected to get up at 3am when the system crashes, and work weekends if there’s a big deployment that can’t disrupt the normal working hours. Sometimes it seems that managers are taking way to much time during the day, but they may be putting in those hours outside of a typical business day.

  3. Jar

    I worked for one of these ghosts and I came to realize that how she was perceived (absent, not delivering value, un-necessary since she was never around) had the potential to influence how her team was perceived. I realized that she had the potential to negatively influence my future in the organization. I left the company.

    1. Mike C.

      This is really, really true. Bad managers aren’t going to get good projects for their teams to work on, and those team members get screwed over in the process.

      1. Specialk9

        I disagree. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate that you can step up and be trusted with that role. It’s how I jumped from admin to PM (which in that field was jumping a bunch of steps) from one job to the next. Your boss isn’t around or getting work done? Find a way to make things work. That’s usually the bottom line.

    2. alana

      I’d hesitate to always equate “absent” with “not delivering value.” One of the best managers I’ve ever had was frequently AWOL in a profession with a lot of minute-to-minute decision-making. It could be annoying. But at the end of the day, our team was one of the best in the company. While she wasn’t the best at being present 100% of the time, she was a great strategic thinker, fantastic at motivating her people, ferocious about getting resources, respected by her superiors… and the people who worked for her were resourceful and empowered, in part because we had to learn to solve our own problems if she wasn’t available.

      This doesn’t mean that’s the case here. But I don’t think successful management is always a matter of butts in seats, and we don’t have enough information to tell.

      1. Mediamaven

        I totally agree with this Alana. Some people have different styles and frankly, when you move up the chain, often the rules changes as long as you are delivering. Incentive to work hard to move up and have the same perks!

      2. shep

        My current manager has tons of meetings and travel engagements and is VERY hard to pin down in person, but she’s still excellent. She’s also aware that she’s gone a lot so she tries to make herself pretty readily available via email. Lower priority items sometimes slip past her, but I can always send a reminder to her and she’s good about following up.

        But I suppose the optics of what she does are very different than y’all have described above; she’s not AWOL so much as just prohibitively busy. She’s hard to find around the office, but I can look on her shared calendar and see that she’s either in a meeting or on a business trip.

      3. Not So NewReader

        Bingo. Productive bosses who are seen as doing their jobs are a different story. I remember one boss who had the people skills of a kid. HOWEVER, he did his job and we could clearly see that. He was out of the office more than in the office, but we saw the results of what he had been working on. Of all the complaints about him none of the complaints had to do with him not performing his work.

        Honestly, I think management hired him for his productivity and realized that they would have to sit on him every so often for his lack of people skills.

  4. Elizabeth West

    #3–I wonder if this could be one reason I’m not getting bites in cities only three hours’ drive away. I could so easily go over and interview. Relocation would take a little time, but not that much. I guess it’s easier to dismiss me on that basis. Well, one place did email me, but the job turned out to be even further away in a city I really don’t want to live in. :(

    #5–Everywhere I’ve worked, mostly managers had offices, though at Exjob, people who traveled a lot were generous with sharing their space. Our sales guy had an office but he let anyone use it whenever they needed it if he wasn’t there and if huddle rooms were busy.

    1. Artemesia

      I’d be inclined to put your interest in re-locating to that location in your cover letter and see if that helps.

      1. puzzld

        Yes. This. When we get an ap from someone who’s not local, especially for one of our hourly/entry level positions, it really helps to see something in the cover letter like “relocating to [city] would be a homecoming for us as [reason].

        We have some really horrible weather, are 6 hours from the nearest city, have lousy & expensive air service… People who get stationed at the nearby air base either HATE it here, or fall in love and want to stay/retire here. No in betweens. So it gives distant candidates a real leg up when they tell me that the know the area and think it could be home.

      2. RabbitRabbit

        Absolutely. We’ve been hiring and wouldn’t consider anyone who hadn’t made it explicitly clear that they were intending on making the move anyway (or extremely likely to do so and wanted to leave their current location).

    2. Sam.

      My last serious job hunt was exclusively long distance (and I mean seriously long – I was looking to move between coasts, and I didn’t have contacts in the potential new cities) but it didn’t seem to impact my candidacy much. I got a bunch of phone interviews and accepted a couple second-round skype interviews that led to offers. It definitely helped that some of the applications were for lateral moves, not stretch positions, but I did explicitly address wanting to move in my cover letter. It’s definitely worth including – it didn’t even take a full sentence, but it was enough for them to feel comfortable doing a phone screen, at which point they generally asked about it, if it didn’t come up in the natural course of the interview.

  5. Ama

    I worked at a job once where the department joke was that if it was raining the director (Jane) wouldn’t be in that day. (That employer had sick time that never expired or any cap on accrual so once you’d been there a few years you had nearly unlimited sick days.) Jane was also a micromanager who insisted on even the tiniest of decisions being approved by her, so a lot of things ground to a halt when she wasn’t in. However, the 2nd in command (Penelope) in the department figured out that if we didn’t tell Jane we needed to make a particularly minor decision, she wouldn’t follow up and ask how the decision was made, so Penelope made it clear to the rest of us that we could come ask her if we could make particular decisions or needed to wait for Jane, and she was willing to take the fall if Jane ever noticed that we had not looped her in on something.

    As long as I was there, Jane never noticed, the department became a LOT more productive, and Jane gave Penelope a promotion to Assistant Director.

    1. nonymous

      Chiming in to add maybe OP1 can work around this in the moment by sending emails that don’t require feedback? For example: “The design team has identified cerulean blue as the main teapot color for 2018. I’m going to process the PO for 10,000 gallons unless I hear differently by COB today.” Basically structure the email as 1. Business case 2. Proposed action 3. veto deadline. Obviously, this doesn’t work for micromanagers, but it’s pretty useful for management who is leading a “self-directed team”.

      Also, it might be worth it to examine internal processes with a goal of automating (even if that only means apply a flow chart) routine tasks and identifying better metrics. That sort of change will reduce the check-ins to supervisor, is a good CV builder, and is a neutral way of identifying roadblocks to upper management.

  6. CitiGirl

    We have a manager that COMES IN EVERY DAY and still manages to avoid the responsibility of effectively managing our department.

  7. Drama Mama

    I worked for someone like this once. She even learned how to call the office voice mail directly so she could leave messages without talking to anyone so she wouldn’t have to answer questions about how to handle her duties while she was gone. She would miss meetings, even meetings with external clients, and then complain that no one reminded her about them when she called off. “If only someone had reminded me of that meeting, I would have come in!” (EYE ROLL)
    Once she told me I should have taken the meeting and pretended to be her! I was a part time work-study student, she was 3 steps higher up the ladder, no way could I have managed an external meeting and passed off being her.
    It took about 5 years, but eventually she was fired.

  8. Wendy Ann

    Our manager lives in the adjoining apartment building to our office. It is literally a 30 elevator ride for him to get to the office. He’s in the office so little that at our Christmas party, some of the newer employees asked who he was.

    TBH we function better when he’s not around because he tries to take over and “fix” things that we’ve been handling without his help for the last 2 years and he usually gets it wrong.

      1. rldk

        If the work is getting done and their absence doesn’t cost the company money, the higher-ups probably don’t want to have to expend the effort to do something about it.

  9. LouiseM

    #2, it sounds like your friend and coworker is a bit of a drama llama! She blew your innocent comment WAY out of proportion by taking it to the leadership board. I agree with Allison’s advice but I would also suggest that you be careful of what you share with your friend (that’s related to work, of course, it’s fine for you to continue your close friendship otherwise). I once had a good work friend who badmouthed me to our boss, and I eventually realized it was because she was jealous of my success and wanted my position. Her plot didn’t work and we are actually still friends, but I’m glad we no longer work together and am more careful about what I say to coworkers.

    1. Artemesia

      Drama llama exactly and it made her important to ‘share’. I’d not share ANYTHING important to you personal or certainly not professional with this ‘friend’. She can louse up your personal life and reputation too. I never raised my voice to a subordinate ever. I remember one employee nattering on about how I was ‘furious’ about some mistake someone had made. I literally had taken the piece to them and asked them to make some changes. The mistakes were not stupid and horrifying, just routine stuff and I was neither mad nor concerned and certainly not furious, but the drama llama needed drama. People like this can help make for a toxic workplace.

    2. Roja

      Seriously though. Who hasn’t said, “It’s been a long week, TGIF” at some point in their lives? To get from that to “This person must hate her job and I should tell people about it” is really quite the leap.

        1. Specialk9

          Yeah, I don’t know how one could even open one’s mouth at all and say *any* words, with someone like this. The OP is a million times blameless here. ‘TGIF, long week!’ is so blandly innocuous small talk as to be invisible social lubrication. It’s basically talking about the weather. Which I’m sure the co-worker would manage to drama llama too. Seriously OP, don’t take even a micrometer of the blame in this situation. Not on you at all.

    3. Not So NewReader

      Eh, I have to go the opposite way on this one. It could just be the luck of the draw but most people I know would take those remarks seriously.
      However, it does not really matter which way we go with this because the answer is the same. Watch what you say and to whom you say it. Some people can filter a comment like that and some people can’t. One thing I have found helpful is to take specific problems to well chosen people. This seems to help to lessen the random exclamations of frustration.

  10. Absentee Manager Too

    Oh gosh, I almost thought a coworker had written #1. Only our boss is out a lot due to frequent illnesses. She has migraines triggered by allergies and I’m pretty sure she’s allergic to our building. I’ve actually been thinking of writing in and asking if there was a way to tell your boss they should look in to ADA accommodations like working from home or getting some sort of air filter. She’s actually a very good boss when she’s here, but in the last month we maybe saw her four or five days total. I feel awful for her but I also am frustrated that I can’t get some of my projects done.

  11. My drag name would be Sir Francis Vegan

    The three managers for our team of ten people total took last summer off; they were “working remotely” most days. Two are gone (one approved the other’s time sheet and it didn’t stand up to scrutiny), and an expensive outside consultant has been brought in, probably to facilitate getting rid of the third. All staff took a survey followed by one on one meetings. The remaining one is the worst of the bunch. Things are actually probably going to improve (I hope), and are moving quickly for a federal employer, but I’m job hunting still. In August I talked to HR and said the remaining manager actually scares me, in Nov. they made her my manager. The consultant is here in part to see why so many people keep quitting what should be a good, federal job. I told her, she’ll present a report, we’ll see what happens.

  12. Cedrus Libani

    About negotiating for an office – my current boss actually did that. He was hired as an individual contributor, but made it known that he wanted to be on track to become management. As part of that, he asked for a private office, and got it in writing as part of his offer.

    It took a couple years for him to be promoted to team lead, but he told me that having an office really did help speed that along. It’s true that “dressing for the job you want” actually works, and having a manager’s office counts as “dressing” like a manager.

  13. Frustrating

    I recently gave notice for leaving a job due to my boss rarely coming in. Her reason was always that she is a mother (even though she has full-time childcare). She insisted that we could communicate fine via text and email, but in reality it lead to her delegating nearly all of her responsibility onto me, but with little to no decision-making authority because she still wanted the final say on everything. The result is a very inefficient workflow in an environment where the employees are expected to meet high performance standards (aka, I’m still accountable for results and can’t get answers from her). I actually worked for two other women with the same issue. As a woman I sympathize with the working mom situation, but I’m not sure how tons of working mothers manage to show up to work consistently and this one just can’t get.it.together. No thanks.

    1. The New Wanderer

      It’s a personality thing. If that boss didn’t have kids, it’d be some other flimsy excuse to avoid working – pets, sick parent, mysterious ailment. Annoying that she blames not doing her job properly on being a mother, since it plays to all the worst stereotypes of working moms/parents. Glad you’re getting out!

      1. soon 2be former fed

        A sick parent is not a flimsy excuse. My mom just died and was in and out of the hospital a lot in the months preceding, had to be there. Not flimsy at all.

      2. Julia the Survivor

        No, I understand what New Wanderer means. My boss is like this too. The real reason is he’s a workaholic. He never admits it, it’s always something else. His father became ill and died of old age and of course he had to be there, and all the other times he wasn’t there or didn’t do his work were not because of his father. It’s always something.

  14. Melissa Davies

    #4 I’m getting strong overtones of gender-based expectations. Women aren’t inherently better at soft skills, they’ve just been socialized to perform them a lot more, because society judges women on how “nice” they are. OP herself might be expecting her employee to pick up on subtle messages and guidance, and avoiding the direct approach, because she feels the need to be that flavor of non-confrontational-nice herself.

    1. Madame X

      I’m not reading that at all. It sounds like her soft skills are less advanced than her work colleagues and her peers.

  15. Arjay

    #5, it’s really going to depend on the office setup. Where I work, offices are only available for senior directors and VPs. Managers and directors are in the cube farm with the rest of us, though they do have slightly higher walls. There’s no harm in asking, but there might not be any flexibility on the issue.

    1. Paquita

      Same here. Managers and supervisors have a larger cube with some locking storage for confidential stuff. Our director has an office, it looks more like a giant cubicle with a sliding door.

    2. Rachel

      I wish op luck when he asks, but all in all I don’t think “I work better in a quiet, private space” is going to be a good enough reason because it applies to 90% of the population.

  16. Quickbeam

    I have an amazing manager, she does the work of 4 people. No envy here.
    Re: the own office thing, in my line no one gets an office with a door anymore unless they are execs. If you even asked or were trying to nudge it in that direction it would be a huge red flag. I make six figures, work in a cube. It’s a living.

    1. Specialk9

      I have an office. I have not had an office more than I’ve had one, but maybe 1/3 office, 2/3 not. I don’t think there can be a universal rule about not asking if one gets an office. It would be weird for someone to get upset that something as normal as an office was asked about by an outsider, even if that office had a no-office policy.

      1. Quickbeam

        I can see it as situational. It’s such a touchy subject in my company….I’ve been on interview teams where any focus by a candidate for private workspace was a substantial demerit. This company prides itself on a team culture. I personally wish I had a time machine and could go back to my first professional job with a real office and a door. But I have found it to be a hill too many people chose to die on. I want to retire in 3 years, it’s not a battle I can win.

      2. Grapey

        I have an office shared with 2 other quiet people. A friendly introvert’s dream. I love it in comparison to the cube farms that don’t even have walls.

  17. Dust Bunny

    I know that *why* somebody is not in the office is not anyone else’s business, but I still think it’s bad practice to not let people know that so-and-so will be working an altered schedule for reasons that nobody else needs to know, so that at the very least lower-level employees know that their boss’s bosses know what is going on. Feeling resentful of a supervisor who appears to work short hours and come and go at will, and is not as available as might be wished, is pretty human and knowing that everything is above-board goes a long way toward defusing that.

    1. Not So NewReader

      Sing it loud.
      I totally agree, it’s part of keeping a group on the same page. If a person is not available then the group needs to know who to go to instead.

      And I’d go one step further on the reasons. It’s human nature to care if another person is okay or not. If the reasons are private then fine, but don’t say that in such a manner that blame the person who is asking. Curt, “It’s none of your business” type responses set the foundation for other problems down the road.

    2. Specialk9

      I dunno, I thought a sorta-manager co-worker was pulling some tricks with how often he showed up to work. Then somebody (improperly) let slip that he was a way veteran who was struggling with PTSD. Which made me feel like a heel for my assumptions.

      1. rldk

        Doesn’t that reinforce DustBunny’s point? If you’d known that co-worker had health issues that caused frequent absences, you wouldn’t had any suspicions and no specifics would have been improperly shared

  18. Gayle Davidson-Durst

    It annoys me a little when people say, “Richmond is amazing at his job, except that he can’t form useful relationships and makes everyone despise him.” Except for the very rare cases when you can truly just leave someone alone in a room and occasionally throw in Doritos and Mountain Dew in return for sterling product, getting along with people is a huge PART OF THE JOB. If you suck at it, you’re not actually excellent at your job.

    1. Someone else

      More jobs than you seem to acknowledge actually involve very little interaction with others. There are plenty of positions where someone works fairly autonomously and only spends <10% of their time interacting with others. And some of those interactions are so streamlined and brief it'd be difficult to piss someone off.

    2. Diluted_Tortoiseshell

      Yes – just like it would be inappropriate to claim – everyone needs to know how to code to excel at their job! It’s equally inappropriate to claim being a “people person” is just as vital. There are many many roles where you don’t have a lot of interactions so if they are not stellar it doesn’t really matter. System administrators, financial analysts, a lot of those roles can be structured very independent with the manager being the only one communicating with others outside the team. Of course if you are abrasive and hard to get a long with you will never be a manager in that role – but that doesn’t mean you can’t climb the individual contributor tree up to SME.

      1. Parenthetically

        I don’t think you have to be a “people person” but you have to be professional and cordial with people you work with.

  19. Leah

    I had a team leader who was constantly absent too. When I got the job, our team leader was Jane, who was always at work on time, always made herself available if we had questions, and every morning she e-mailed everyone our daily statistics from the previous work day. When she was promoted, Fergus was promoted into her spot, and although everyone loved him in his previous role, he absolutely sucked as a team leader. He never arrived at the office on time (he was always several hours late, and it got to the point where I had to explain to higher ups why he wasn’t in if they’d scheduled an 8am meeting with him), he took several smoke breaks during the day, meaning people usually couldn’t find him on his desk when they needed his help, and eventually he also stopped sending us our daily statistics e-mail. I ended up having a 1×1 with him, where I relayed these issues to him as a feedback on how he was doing at is new role, and his excuse was that he always stayed late at work everyday, doing tasks that shouldn’t be his responsibility but were being given to him by our boss, meaning he compensated by arriving later in the morning the next day since he couldn’t work overtime. Translation: he didn’t know how to say “no” to tasks that weren’t directly related to the team he had to lead – a cultural thing in my old company, where people felt like they couldn’t refuse ANY jobs that higher ups gave them, out of fear of looking bad – so he ended up overtasked with things that weren’t on his job description, and his actual job description was little by little neglected until his team learned not to rely on their own leader. He figured doing this was ok because our team was a 24 hours one, meaning he ended up being available for the 2nd and sometimes 3rd shift team when he stayed after 1st shift had already left, but the 2nd and 3rd shifts had a much smaller workload than the 1st shift, which was why they never really needed a team leader present during their shifts in the first place.

    About a year after I left the company, a colleague I kept in touch with told me that a new boss took over, and after she realized how bad Fergus was as a team leader and how obsolete the role became after he took over, she demoted him back to the role he had before he was promoted. Good riddance.

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