my boss is a slacker – should I tell someone?

A reader writes:

I work in an extremely small office: it’s me, my manager, and two other employees who do not work in the office. We’re managed by a corporate office that does not have a formal HR office.

My boss is… unproductive. She takes personal calls from at least five different people every day. Very rarely are the calls emergencies. I have previously asked her about personal calls at work, and she stated that her boss understands the need for personal calls, and as long as she’s not doing it in front of non-employees, it’s fine. I feel as though she spends so much time talking to her family that she sacrifices attention to work, and I feel as though she’s misinterpreting company policy. I can’t easily check the policy, though, because I’d have to ask her boss directly, and he’s so busy that it’s intimidating.

It’s also a running joke between me and my two coworkers that if you want something done, you come to me, because my boss won’t do anything unless you sit in her office and wait for her to do it. Anything that I ask her to do usually waits until the next time I’m in the office, and I usually end up doing it anyway. I’m part-time, so I’m not here every day. Every time I ask if she’s had a chance to do the managerial task I’ve asked her to do, the response is the same: no, it’s been crazy busy here.

It would be less “crazy busy” if she would tell her family to stop calling her, and if she could learn how to better manage her time. It feels as though every time she says “I need to do x,” she gets distracted by her phone and puts x off for another hour or two. The only things she reliably does are the reports that need to be sent in to corporate.

Her lack of a strong work ethic is driving me nuts, and it’s starting to affect how I work. Normally, I enjoy having things to do. I enjoy being busy at work. I don’t enjoy having to chase someone around for days or weeks so they can make a five-minute phone call to corporate to clear up an issue. As a result, I’ve noticed a distinct decline in my productivity, which is very irritating to me. I know for a fact that the other two employees are also irritated by her inability to resolve issues in a timely manner. If anything gets done, it gets done at the last possible moment.

I guess my question is: when do I go above her? The lack of an HR department means that I have no one to discuss these issues with except her and her boss. We’ve already talked about the personal phone calls, and our discussion didn’t change a thing. I would like to talk to her about these issues, but the lack of change with the phone calls makes me feel as though my other concerns would be dismissed out of hand.

If this is something I should not go over her head about, would you please help me figure out what to say? I’m having a hard time being objective about the whole situation.

It’s usually pretty risky to go over your boss’s head with this kind of thing.

That doesn’t mean that it’s never worth doing, but it depends heavily on what your manager’s own boss is like. Generally, it’s only going to make sense to do if he’s shown that he’s open to listening to concerns, has a track record of fairness and good judgment, and is skilled enough to ensure that your boss won’t retaliate against you if she finds out that you talked to him. If you don’t know for sure that he’s these things, it’s usually not a smart risk to take.

And one sign that’s not in favor of him being this type of boss is that he apparently hasn’t noticed your manager’s extreme lack of productivity. That says that he’s not particularly hands-on or involved, which means that he’s more likely not to want to deal with complaints from two levels below. There’s also a higher risk that he’ll just send to send it back down to your manager to deal with, which is not what you want here. At a minimum, the fact that you went over her head will cause serious tension with her. It could permanently poison your relationship or, worst-case scenario, even get you fired.

The other thing to consider is that your manager’s boss might not think this is a big enough deal to merit bringing it to him. Your manager’s behavior seems egregious to you because it’s right in your face every day, but from her boss’s perspective, if the department is meeting its goals, he might be perfectly satisfied with her performance. He should care — he should want the managers he oversees to be competent — but plenty of bosses in this situation will figure that if things are getting done, they don’t need to get involved, especially if doing so would risk undermining a manager who works for them.

Given all of this, unless you have a really good rapport with him and a strong sense that he’d want to hear it, this probably doesn’t rise to the level of a problem that makes sense to go over your boss’s head about.

So where does that leave you? Well, it leaves you with a lazy boss who spends much of her day on personal calls. I get that that’s frustrating — infuriating, even — but I think you’re discounting how much this is not your problem to solve. You’re not responsible for how she spends her time, you’re not responsible for getting her to realize that she should stop taking all those personal calls (whether it’s against company policy or not), and you’re not responsible for getting her to do the work she keeps delaying. That stuff isn’t yours to fix. It’s her boss’s to fix, and for whatever reason, he’s not doing it.

It would be different if her behavior were leading to truly unacceptable impacts on you, like causing you to have to work well into the evening to make up for her deficiencies, or ruining your reputation with clients. But that doesn’t sound like the case here.

It sounds like the impact is that it’s really irritating to watch the way she operates.

And being constantly irritated matters; I don’t mean to imply otherwise. But I think your best bet here is to accept that this is how your boss is and likely will be for the foreseeable future, and that you don’t have the authority over her that you’d need in order to intervene and fix things. From there, you can figure out if there’s a way for you live with the situation reasonably happily, or if it’s driving you so mad that you’d be better off going somewhere else. If you’re thinking it would be unfair to have to leave a job you like just because your boss sucks, you’re right — but that’s also one of the most common reasons that people do leave jobs, and if you’re miserable, that might be the logical solution.

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 165 comments… read them below }

  1. Ramona Flowers*

    Been there. OP, I know it’s hard but you might have to stop covering for her. Do your job but don’t do hers for her, as far as possible.

    1. MuseumChick*

      This. Sometimes you have to let people fall on their face for things to change. Do your job, do it well, document everything, but don’t pick up her slack. If someone needs something from her, stop being the easy go to person.

      1. Geneva*

        Agree! My former director’s way of managing was to pass everything to me (but hold on to the higher salary of course). It gave me so much satisfaction to see her stumble when a client asked her what her role would be on an account. “Um…I…well…I’m involved.”

    2. Amanda Coder*

      This is what I was going to input as well. Stop doing the tasks that she just doesn’t do. Those are hers to do or not to do. You doing the stuff she isn’t getting around to also makes it look like the office is functioning well. Let her fail and higher ups will take notice.

  2. Jill of All Trades*

    Honestly, in this case I would just say that you need to be willing to let her fail. If stuff goes to her, gets dropped or missed, and it results in deliverables being late, let things be late. If her reports to corporate keep showing that things are going well, that means they won’t have any incentive to look into the situation.

    1. Amber T*

      Agreed. Since you have a good rapport with your coworkers, I think it’s time for you to agree to stop pushing your boss to get stuff done. Ask her once, follow up with an email, and then that’s it. As Alison says, grandboss probably doesn’t care as long as your office is doing fine, and it sounds like you’re carrying far more weight than you should be. So give it back to her, where it belongs. Unfortunately, I think it’ll end up being a game of chicken – will grandboss crack first and start managing, or will you get sick of it first? Either way, I’d start brushing up your resume just to be prepared.

    2. The OG Anonsie*

      I don’t know, does it sound like anything would drop? It sounds like the LW is annoyed they have to prod for things they need and how she does things last minute, but I don’t get the impression that the LW is doing anything outside of normal work time / effort to cover or make up for anything.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        The OP wrote, ” Anything that I ask her to do usually waits until the next time I’m in the office, and I usually end up doing it anyway.”

        Another vote for stop doing her work. Let the problem become visible to her boss.

        1. Sketchee*

          This was my thought. I know it’s common and a lot of people don’t like to be around failure. If you ask someone to do something, and they know you will do it… Then they won’t believe you are really asking. The only person we can change is ourself

        2. The OG Anonsie*

          But what kind of thing is this, you know? Probably something that’s not high on the overall priority list or something that the boss’s boss would care about. They’re things the LW is asking her boss to do for her, not things that have come down the boss’s own management chain. Not taking on tasks that are likely in her domain and that she is fully capable of completing is going to make her look bad, not her boss, even if they should technically be in the boss’s territory.

      2. OhBehave*

        My one concern is that her boss might throw her under the bus. “I assigned Sheila the teapot report because it’s been so crazy busy here.” If this does happen, OP needs to stick to her guns and say that she was never given that task.

    3. E*

      What if your boss’ problems are causing your own work to be delayed? And calls, emails, etc. aren’t getting you the info you need to continue completing certain tasks. It’s hard :(

    4. Jessica*

      But as OP’s manager, doesn’t Slackerboss have authority to define OP’s job duties? OP is currently pinch-hitting for Slackerboss by doing stuff that needs to be done that’s understood to be Slackerboss’s job, but if she stops, what’s to stop Slackerboss from just formally assigning/delegating those things to OP and decreeing that they’re now part of OP’s job?

  3. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

    Boss sounds like a piece of work, but frankly, OP is a part-time employee. I think they lack the standing to smack Boss’s hand about anything she’s doing, and probably already stepped over the line with the “talk” about personal phone calls.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think this might be an example of molehilling. Where the actual problem is big and systemic and not amenable to an easy fix, and someone can’t see the mountain for the little molehill on which they have focused all their attention.

        She could cut back the personal phone calls to 10 min/day and I bet the amount of work produced wouldn’t budge.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yeah, I agree. I thought the focus on boss’s family and personal calls was also a little misplaced anger—OP is frustrated at tangible output issues regarding OP’s boss, but is fixating on what OP perceives as “inappropriate, non-emergency” phone calls without really knowing what that’s about. But more importantly, if OP is part-time, then it’s almost impossible to see the full range of issues/circumstances that crop up. All that said, OP’s boss could be a total nightmare who is easily distracted, unproductive, and fails to draw appropriate work/life boundaries.

      I agree with Alison and others that some refocusing and a step back could help a lot. I would detach and put on zoologist goggles and just observe Boss as a strange creature you’ve never met in the wild before. And I would stop doing her work, to the extent that that’s feasible, since it’s possible GrandBoss doesn’t know how unproductive Boss is because OP is covering. And if those first two options are unbearable, I’d start job searching. it’s not really sustainable to go into a workplace where your Boss gives you the rage.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Yeah, aside from not covering, I’m just not sure what OP can actually do to move the needle. They’re the bottom beaver on the totem pole.

      2. Kathleen Adams*

        Those “talks” about personal phone calls really leaped out at me, too. Of course it’s irritating, OP, but you have to at least appear to Let. It. Go. Let off steam by telling non-work (emphasis on that “non”) friends funny about how she spends ages on the phone and then complains about how busy and overworked she is, but do not attempt to fix this. It won’t work, trying to make it work will make you crazy, and it could really tick off your boss, too.

      3. Koko*

        This also starts to get into the issue we talk about a lot here, with junior people not understanding the greater leeway/freedoms that senior people have. To be blunt, I don’t give a rat’s patoot how many phone calls my report takes during the day. I care about her results.

        If Bob told me that Jenny was causing problems in the results, I’d look into it. If Bob told me that Jenny takes too many phone calls, I would tell Bob to mind his own business and stop trying to undermine his superior.

        1. Naruto*

          Yeah, I wonder about that here, too. Especially since the department is apparently running fine — with the OP working hard during their part-time hours, but if a part-time employee can pick up the slack, maybe it isn’t work that the boss needs to be prioritizing.

        2. copy run start*

          I think this has been one of the hardest things for me to learn as a young employee. School teaches you that people who slack off get their just desserts (i.e. bad grades). Life teaches you that people who slack off may be more successful than you.

        3. John*

          Then you would be ignoring important information, unless you don’t care if your employees are unproductive.

          Have you heard about the Annie Dookhan case? She worked in a lab, processing DNA test results for criminal cases. Somehow she managed to process five times as many cases as anyone else did. It seemed odd. people brought it to managers’ attention, but the managers ignored them.
          Guess what? She was falsifying results in order to save time. Now thousands of court cases have been overturned, The cost to the taxpayers is incredible. and all because some managers did not want to do their job, and look into the information they were getting.

          1. Koko*

            But the people who told those managers that Annie was processing reports faster than should be possible and that was suspicious raised a work-related is. I said that if Bob told me there were problems with the work Jenny was doing, I would look into it.

            What I don’t care about is how many phone calls she takes during the day, which is not a work-related issue. Productivity is not highly correlated to minutes spent on or off the phone in the office when you’re working at a high level. That alone is not reason for me to be concerned, and looks like petty tattling.

          2. Kate*

            I agree. There is only a certain level of “hard work, smarter work, faster work” someone can do than their coworkers (assuming the coworkers are basically competent) and slacking off, before something starts to smell fishy. If someone is taking half hour long coffee breaks twice a day, fine, if they are spending half their day on the phone, something is up if they are still getting their work done.

            In these cases I think it is really important for a manager to just subtly track for a week maybe how the employee (and the others) are spending their time.

  4. paul*

    If this is a part time job, I’d really look at vacating it ASAP. I’ve had a boss or two like this and they are *horrible* because you wind up covering for them for fear of negative impacts on you (like them firing you, payroll not getting processed in time, time off not scheduled, etc).

    It hasn’t happened at current job but I saw it at my last one. Manager slacks off, doesn’t do their job, subordinate covers for a while and then stops covering/gets too overwhelmed to cover/runs into the limit of what they can fudge and the manager gets livid and it rolls downhill. I left that place shortly after.

    It’s almost impossible to manage up well with something like this, just based on what I’ve seen. If they had a good manager said manager would have stepped in by now (probably) and if they’re nto a good manager you’re taking a hell of a risk bringing this up

    1. Another person*

      This has been much like my experience as well. If the boss’s manager only cares about whether the work is getting done, it doesn’t matter to them whether your boss is doing it or you are. It is very unlikely they care about anyone’s personal phone calls as long as the work is covered and you risk coming across as a complainer if you go over her head.

      Change is likely only if you stop covering AND upper management notices things aren’t getting done AND they decide to look into why your office isn’t producing AND they care once they find out. But there’s also a good chance if you stop covering for your boss and/or report their misuse of company time you might get thrown under the bus.

      Most jobs I’ve left, it’s been due to bad management on some level. You probably either need to accept this is how your current workplace works or look to move on from it.

    2. NoMoreMrFixit*

      Start looking for somewhere else to work. This is only going to get worse. Having been in this situation I found that letting the boss eventually fail only resulted in the mess rolling downhill thanks to office politics at high levels. And I was usually standing in the middle of the valley when it all landed. Find another job in a more functional environment and forget about this place.

      First time I encountered this the company went out of business a couple of years after I left. The second place I ran into this problem is still around but is legendary in my area for being a horrible place to work and has the turnover to prove it.

  5. The IT Manager*

    Totally agree with Alison. My only additional recommendation is to occupy your time that you’re waiting on your boss to finish something at work by looking for a new job.

    1. Blue Anne*

      I don’t think using work time to look for a new job is a good idea, regardless of why you have the free time.

  6. Purest Green*

    Seconding Alison’s advice, I think a lot of your frustration will go away when you stop assuming this is your problem to solve.

    1. OxfordComma*

      Possibly. I have a similar situation with a colleague. I finally reported it, because her behavior impacts my workload, but nothing has been done and as far as I can tell, nothing will be done.

      It grates. It really, really does.

      What I do second and third are the suggestions that the OP stops covering for the boss. Do your job, look for another if this one becomes untenable, but stop stepping up to the plate for your boss.

    2. Tempest*

      I have a colleague like this. Assuming it’s not your problem does pretty much nothing because there is still a problem impacting you – ie someone who doesn’t pull their weight, is never around when the problems they caused come to a head, or work that is otherwise not getting done and a bunch of colleagues/clients looking at you with big sad or angry eyes wondering why you don’t just Fix. The. Problem. Telling yourself it isn’t your problem when you’re in the firing line for the fallout isn’t really a work around that’s tenable for long. I think its because you can’t avoid having your nose rubbed in the fact there IS a problem, whether it’s yours or not.

      The only one that works long term is get the heck out of there. If you can just stop doing boss’s work and be happy do that. If you can’t, or won’t be able to, it’s job searching time.

  7. EA*

    I highly, highly doubt her boss would care.

    Maybe I have had only shit managers, but I have not seen higher ups particularly care if a manager below them is a horrible manager. What they care about is if goals are met. This is not efficient, and ridiculous, but it has been my experience. If her main job is to do those reports, and they get done, he won’t care. He isn’t sitting around thinking about how long they take, and how she manages her time. Maybe I am off-base, but I have seen leadership reluctant to get involved.

    1. Former Retail Manager*

      I have had similar experiences to yours. I’ve worked for bosses that work very hard and it takes them every second to accomplish what they should and others that seemed to slack and make miracles happen at the last moment. Upper management never cared as long as the tasks were complete. And saying anything to upper management just made the person complaining look bad to upper management (at least in my experience).

    2. Koko*

      It’s also made difficult by the fact that the grandboss is remote, so he doesn’t really know OP and probably doesn’t even know OP’s boss that well. I’ve got to say that as a manager, where there’s room for error I would always err on the side of my direct report. There’s potentially worse consequences to letting someone undermine their manager than there are to tacitly condoning mediocrity from the manager, although neither are ideal obviously. If I am not on the ground and can’t tell which situation this is, I stand by my report by default.

  8. Nick*

    Probably a good job that you don’t have an HR Department as involving them would be a terrible​ idea

  9. Abigael*

    “It would be different if her behavior were leading to truly unacceptable impacts on you, like…ruining your reputation with clients.”

    If this WERE happening, how would the advice change? Would it then be advisable to go above her head, even if grand boss is not generally considered a receptive person?

    1. Amber T*

      Depends on what kind of relationship you have with the clients. OldJob was a service based job, and one of my responsibilities was helping create the schedule for our techs to go visit. When something went wrong (which was often), sure, I dealt with the customers and apologized, all that jazz, but I guarantee not one of them knew me by name. If that’s the case with OP’s job, management should be worried about the client relationship with the company (grandboss’s issue).

      If OP is in a position where her own professional reputation could be on the line… honestly, I’d still let management fail, and when I eventually left (because honestly, that’s probably the only way this will resolve well for OP), I’d reach out to any important clients and say “I’m sorry I wasn’t able to assist you up to our usual standard, some internal changes were made (like OP not doing her boss’s job, but you don’t have to disclose that), and I apologize for our drop in quality. I’m no longer at Teapots, Inc., but I wish you the best of luck with your teapot making.” (and if there’s no non-compete and OP ends up in a similar job elsewhere) “I’m now at Chocolate Pudding, Inc., and I’m happy to discuss our services here if you want.”

      As always, someone could figure out how to word it better than me, but I’d go with something like that.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I have this piece which outlines when and how you can go over a boss’s head:

      I’ll copy the relevant part:

      1. How serious is the complaint? If you escalate something that’s relatively minor, your complaint likely won’t go anywhere, and could reflect badly on you. Managers aren’t perfect after all, and many companies give their managers wide leeway in how they manage, so complaints need to be fairly serious before they’ll intervene.

      If you complain about something that appears minor or petty, you’ll call your own judgment into question. Instead, escalation should be saved for truly significant problems, like a manager who is regularly abusive to staff members, or whose incompetence is causing the company to lose clients.

      2. Is your complaint about a pattern or a one-time problem? Patterns are what count here. Short of really horrific details, a single instance isn’t usually going to be seen as egregious enough to warrant going over the boss’ head.

      3. Is the person you’re planning to talk to someone who (a) has a record of taking employee complaints seriously and (b) will ensure that you’re protected from retaliation by your manager? This is crucial. The person you’re approaching should be someone who is open to listening and has a track record of fairness and good judgment, rather than just blindly backing managers. In addition, the person needs to be insightful and skilled enough to ensure your manager doesn’t retaliate against you for speaking up. If the person you’re considering approaching doesn’t fit this profile, the unfortunate reality is that your complaint might do more harm than good.

    3. paul*

      If they write you up for how you’re dressed when they call you to pick them up at the airport.

  10. Probably the only fashion designer here*

    Following up on Alison’s last comment: people don’t leave jobs, the leave managers. I wouldn’t blame you for wanting/choosing to leave over this.

    1. Zip Silver*

      I’ll take that to mean my 30% turnover for last year in a company that averages over 100% and run with it.

  11. AnInternSupervisor*

    Or the OP might not know what their boss’s jobs and responsibilities entails and is therefore assuming that they aren’t doing their job and are “lazy.” This is something I run into with my interns actually – they are only aware of approximately 15% of my job, the rest of it is stuff that they have no involvement in/don’t need to know about, but comes at a higher priority than anything involving them. To them, when they ask me to do something and I don’t jump at their whim, I’m “lazy” – and yes I’ve had them go to my own supervisors about it (to which they were told off).

    I’d recommend the OP stop assuming they know anything about their boss’s work ethic or responsibilities based on what little they know and for not doing things on their personal time table. If the boss starts dropping the ball completely, I’d say go to them first and see if there is a system that they could work out for making sure things that need to get signed-off on by the boss get done. I’ve worked with people that I essentially had to manage their time for them – email them three reminders of increasing urgency as it got closer to the deadline – and as much as it was annoying, they were dealing with a lot bigger things than I was dealing with. It’s part of working underneath people sometimes.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      “This is something I run into with my interns actually – they are only aware of approximately 15% of my job, the rest of it is stuff that they have no involvement in/don’t need to know about, but comes at a higher priority than anything involving them. To them, when they ask me to do something and I don’t jump at their whim, I’m “lazy” – and yes I’ve had them go to my own supervisors about it (to which they were told off). ”

      I’m just sitting here slackjawed. What the actual f***?

      1. Seal*

        I had a staff member like this. It was his first full-time job out of college, although he had held other part-time jobs while he was in school. One of my long-time staff members told me that this kid was constantly complaining that I was never in the office and could come and go as I pleased. As I was managing departments in separate locations, traveled at least every other month for work, and generally worked 50-60 hours a week, I just rolled my eyes. Fortunately he never tried to take his “concerns” to my boss – he would have been laughed out of the office.

        1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

          I’d have had a hard time not sitting him down and explaining how the world worked.

          1. AnInternSupervisor*

            I recently had to do this with a current intern about this very issue. I made it not only about the fact she was talking shit about me left and right (and it was getting back to me) regarding my prioritizing her, but also about general professionalism. Still remains to be seen if it will have been effective.

            1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

              Ah, interns: the difference between a good story about unprofessional behavior….and a GREAT one. At least they didn’t try to strike to change the dress code, but man.

        2. Mike C.*

          Not to excuse this clueless behavior, but I have to wonder if this sort of worldview is cultivated in retail/service jobs that such interns would likely have experience in – often the types of places that allow for zero autonomy and an attitude of “if you have time to lean, you have time to clean”.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            I think it’s partly an attitude that construes fairness as equal, rather than equitable. If I gotta be here 40 hours a week, 8:30-4:30, how come boss is always gone? It’s not faiirrrrrrrr

            That, combined with ignorance of how workplaces work and how managers often have responsibilities that are not visible to wet-behind-the-ears interns, and boom.

            1. JGray*

              “I think it’s partly an attitude that construes fairness as equal, rather than equitable. If I gotta be here 40 hours a week, 8:30-4:30, how come boss is always gone? It’s not faiirrrrrrrr” This made me laugh.

              As I was reading the comments I couldn’t help but think about how some millennials (not all but some- & I’m a millennial) have the attitude that they can be the boss within months of starting a job- they are great at everything even if they have never done it before. I think that those young people have helicopter parents that have not done their kids any favors by doing everything for them so they think that they don’t actually have to have experience to be the boss. Instead of seeing an internship or job as a learning experience they don’t have to learn anything because they know it all already and they aren’t afraid to say it.

              1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

                I’d agree with everything but making it specific to Millennials – I think that our culture in general these days tends to be a) hostile to the notion of specialist expertise as a prereq for shooting off your mouth and b) unhealthily fixated on inborn brilliance/talent over the slow accumulation of expertise and disruptive innovation over evolutionary or iterative change. The combination means we conceptualize success as being the preternaturally brilliant, self-taught wunderkind bursting onto the scene to flip the table on the calcified, old growth bureaucracy that brought us our current mediocrity with their tiresome “expertise” and “ways of doing things.” Once you see the pattern, it shows up in everything from politics to business to tech.

                1. Koko*

                  I just completed a marketing certification course last week and the instructor said something that I want to frame and hang over my desk:

                  “There are no expert marketers, there are only experienced marketers and expert testers.”

                  Marketing is one of those fields where it’s so easy to start thinking you have this Amazing Gut Instinct, you know what will work, and you bleed raw talent. It’s easy to forget that (even for experienced marketers) your gut is often wrong, and the only way to be sure you’re doing the right thing is to run a test. Do it your Gut Way and do it the Other Way and see which one makes more money/generates more leads/etc. Even veteran marketers’ guts are frequently wrong when put to the test. No marketer will ever be brilliant enough that they don’t need to test anymore.

                2. Mike C.*

                  Holy cow, yes. Hearing Elon Musk talk about how he’s going to be able to produce mid-priced electric cars at a rate and level or production quality great than that of Honda or Toyota (the gold standard of manufacturing) in just a year or two.

                  Uber bragging about how in ten years they’re going to have a electric helicopter-based service that relies on independently contracted pilots with sport licenses to do all the flying. Not to mention how they like to “disrupt” traffic, labor and intellectual property law.

                  All the garbage Theranos was bragging about with regards to blood testing that wasn’t even physically possible. And you still had all the groupies defending the CEO because she was “disruptive” and “changing the game” and all the “naysayers” (scientists, medical experts, etc) were just haters who didn’t want cheaper access to medical care.

                  And all my tech friends that think software and remote controls and AI can prevent every type of aircraft accident with just a simple bit of code. Ugh, I could go on and on about this.

                3. Falling Diphthong*

                  Testing one’s gut instinct could get more play in other contexts, as the balance to listening to your gut in social situations. Then, it’s often tapping into some cues you haven’t consciously laid down–but that is not the same as being 100% infallible. Sometimes you need to ignore your poorly informed gut and get more information.

                4. SystemsLady*

                  Ugh yes. Whenever I read the phrase “10x engineer” unironically I want to barf. Particularly a) on a resume b) from somebody with little or no industry experience.

                5. AcademiaNut*

                  And even in more social situations, trusting your guts can easily lead to reinforced stereotypes and unconscious biases, so that you *think* you’re being fair and unbiased, but end up preferentially hiring people who fits a racially biased definition of ‘polished’, or telling women they need to be less aggressive and nicer, but not men.

              2. SystemsLady*

                Just specifically Millennials, seriously? I’ve barely been on the job five years and I can count on two hands the amount of Boomers who’ve burst into their new jobs (at our clients), jobs for which they had industry knowledge but required a significant amount of training, immediately incensed they weren’t making the Big Decisions and complaining constantly to us about things they didn’t even really understand, in a couple cases to curry favor with a grandboss who had been overheard making the complaint.

                That’s more that my industry has way too many Boomers retiring and not enough [insert other generation] replacing them than that it’s a Boomer problem, though. Those kinds of people are usually jerks, and jerks are everywhere.

                I did run into one fellow Millennial like that, but the vast majority have been very eager to learn, equally eager but cautious to contribute, and deferent to those who have more industry knowledge.

            2. The OG Anonsie*

              I think it’s a lack of understanding of how work time and effort can be structured wildly differently based on the industry and level as well as the individual role. It’s not “it’s not ffaaaaiiirrrr” as a base so much as, going back to what Mike C said, having mostly had work experience consist of work = always present and specifically applied in a visible way. It means the more dynamic schedules of some people in higher responsibility roles, being poorly understood, look like crazy lacking and taking advantage of the rules.

          2. Not So NewReader*

            Great point, Mike.
            I agree that a lot of it could come from the retail sector, heaven forbid you stand still for one second and try to figure out which three things you will do next.
            Meanwhile, office people in that same company can be found wandering around sipping coffee and chatting. That dual thinking is not lost on the front line people.

            I think if upper management did not whip their front line people with words/insults/threats we’d see a lot of changes in our society across the board.

            I have to say something and I know it’s not a popular point of view. It’s a fact that people can be critical of others. With this in mind, I think that bosses have to find ways to be transparent about their actions. I honestly do not know why bosses are routinely surprised that their staff is critical of them. That is predictable behavior. It’s not written in any rule book anywhere but the more effort the boss puts into including their staff in what they are working on I think that the less of this criticism they will hear.

            I had to chuckle. There was a boss one time who totally disagreed with me on this point. But he was ALREADY doing this. He worked like very few people I know and he left notes as to where he was if he would not be on site that day. He had a crew that would break their backs for him to get things done. Yet, he saw no correlation between his hard work and his crew’s willingness to knock themselves out.

    2. Jesmlet*

      I hope after being told off they understood their previous total lack of awareness of how jobs work. If not with you, then they’ll take this into their next job and might end up annoying the crap out of me. If someone had the audacity to call me lazy because I didn’t prioritize their low level work over much more important things with actual deadlines, I would be beyond incensed.

    3. De Minimis*

      I was about to say something similar, that the OP’s boss may have other duties and responsibilities that the OP is not aware of [nor her coworkers] and the OP’s work might just be one of a large list of priorities.

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This is an excellent point. I’m now in the type of position where I need to make sure my stuff is done, and I can ask about the status of some other things that are in my boss’s hands, but it is absolutely not my place to push. There are other priorities, and I’m not the one who gets to set them right now.

    5. The OG Anonsie*

      I wondered this, too. While we’re supposed to accept the LWs’ versions of events, I do think it would be on oversight not to suggest when they should be very careful to check their own perceptions along with the usual advice.

      I’ve had plenty of managers who took personal calls, gym breaks, moved my questions until the last minute or until I was there to get the answer personally, etc. In all cases it’s because they have significantly more urgent and higher priority work than the stuff I’m working on, and they’re sinking a good 12 hours a day in every single day. It would be easy to get the wrong impression if I didn’t have the bigger picture.

      1. SystemsLady*

        Agreed, especially because of the huge differences between hourly non-exempt and salary exempt (though that doesn’t preclude the boss also being lazy).

    6. Elemeno P.*

      Agreed, especially since OP is part-time. I also have this issue with my interns sometimes, and it’s the same problem: perceiving me as ignoring their stuff and not working because I’m dealing with other stuff.

    7. LawPancake*

      I was wondering the same thing. I’ve found it super common among folks I’ve worked with on the low side of the totem pole to think that the higher ups were lazy and taking advantage of their positions (by having flexible schedules or not providing feedback/whatever immediately etc.). For instance, one of the admins I used to work with was always just so frustrated that her boss would wait until the last minute to give information she needed to put together a periodic report. In her mind, since it was such an integral part of her job, it was a Very Important Report, and boss was lazy and negligent for waiting so long to get that information to her. In reality, he asked for that report in order to track his strategic initiatives and assigned an arbitrary period for her to track. Which isn’t to say that the OP’s boss isn’t lazy or couldn’t be more productive, but particularly for someone who’s only there part time, it may very will be that they don’t quite have the full picture.

      1. Patrick*

        This has come up before but it’s definitely one of those things most people (including myself) don’t know when they enter the “professional” workforce…most lower level jobs are based around tasks, while higher level jobs generally are about thinking. I can definitely remember thinking the execs at my company were all lazy when I got my first office job, mostly because they seemed so disconnected from the day to day things that made up my job.

        1. SystemsLady*

          Yes, this. My boss was actually starting to get annoyed at me for being worried about not being billable or classifiable all 40 hours, and for religiously reporting when I was working from home or taking two hours off for an appointment (though I now also understand my job is a more flexible than is typical when the overtime things aren’t going on).

  12. Marisol*

    Time to suck it up, OP. It’s unfortunate, but that’s just how life is sometimes. You might consider whether the extra responsibility you take on can serve you in some way–for example, might it lead to a full-time position, or be valuable experience in a future job?

    1. EA*

      This is a good point too.

      Sometimes I think growth opportunities sometimes appear in situations like this.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      That’s where I’d go with it. I would tell myself, “This will look great on a resume!” Or, “Oh, another thing I can talk about at a job interview.” We grab these opportunities and we can grow ourselves.

  13. Jesmlet*

    There’s nothing wrong with taking personal calls IF you get the rest of your work done. If you do choose to bring this up, I would talk just about the work, not about the calls. With that said, you are part time and aren’t attached at the hip to your boss so you really don’t know what’s on her plate. I don’t think you should be going over her head. If you’re not comfortable with the way things are, speaking up will most likely make it worse, so I’d just look for something elsewhere.

    1. Casuan*

      If you do choose to bring this up, I would talk just about the work, not about the calls

      This. You [& perhaps your colleagues] might be able to frame this by asking your manager how you should prioritise your work with your limited hours & how she wants you to communicate deadlines or a question that’s priority.
      Is it possible your manager expects you to know if her calls are personal & she assumes you’d interrupt her if needed?
      As others said, your manager probably has more of a workload than you realise.

      I hope this sorts out for you!

  14. shep*

    I had a boss like this. Unfortunately our roles were so tangled that things I *had* to get done in a timely fashion often hinged on getting a piece (if not several) from her as well. I was in charge of scheduling her client meetings, too, and sometimes she’d just cancel because she didn’t feel like it, or call me five minutes before from the road and say she wasn’t going to make it. Guess who had to clean up the mess?

    That said, she was at least a very NICE person, and was very supportive of me moving on a few years later. She even served as a reference for me while I was still working for her.

    A DEEPLY mixed bag, that one.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Oh I hear you on this one. Some times jobs like this are a spring board to get that better job. The job serves a purpose but we may not see it at the time.

      And it’s true that nice bosses can create just as big a mess as mean bosses. I will put up with it longer if they are nice. OP, is your boss basically nice?

  15. Pam Halpert*

    I’m in a very similar situation right now. I feel for you, OP.

    My main issue with my boss is that she is constantly taking advantage of being a salaried employee, and consistently works well under 40 hours a week. She lets work sit for ages, then complains about being “totally swamped” and “too busy for [her] own good” when she actually IS in the office. Similarly to you, people come to me for things that should be her responsibility, because they know she’ll take a week to do something that I’ll get done in 30 minutes. Every day that she leaves for lunch, I know I can’t expect to see her for another 3 hours. Just for my own knowledge, I started recording how many hours she left the office without taking vacation or personal time. Since the beginning of the year, she’s been gone 72 hours. Late last year, she bragged at the end of the year about having all of her vacation left because she “hadn’t take any time off all year.”

    As you said, it’s difficult to continue being a hard working, productive employee, when your boss sets a horrible example. I’ve considered going to Big Boss, but am too afraid my boss would retaliate. I am one of only 2 employees beside my boss that are in the office all the time, so she would have a pretty good idea that it was me who complained.

    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

      Do you have any concept of how very much not your business it is for you to be tracking your boss’s arrivals and departures like that? She may be a slacker, or as noted above she may have dimensions to her job and arrangements with her superiors you don’t really grok, but either way, tracking her time is pretty far out of line, even just “for your own knowledge.”

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        And to clarify, you may be very correct, and your frustration about delays and responsiveness may be totally valid, but checking the clock and totaling up the hours she missed is just as far outside normal professional norms.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          It’s 4-5 hours a week, which if there’s any reason to do something off-site is quite easy to hit.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            I know I’ve started logging an hour or two of work a day between 5am and 6am, when I get caught up on my email and journal articles and so on while drinking coffee and the kid’s still asleep.

        2. Naruto*

          If you’re keeping it to yourself, it may not be a useful project, but it’s not, like, an outrageous violation of professional interaction norms.

    2. CC*

      Oh, goodness. Yeah, like everyone else said, tallying up missed hours is petty. Throughout the winter I missed hours of work multiple times per week because I was in a program for eating disorder recovery. My bosses and my office manager knew what was up, but all other employees were in the dark more or less…and what they may or may not have seen were the extra hours I worked whenever I could — whether it be coming in an hour early or staying late whenever I could. It would annoy the heck out of me if I found out someone who wasn’t in charge of me and had no idea what my priorities or health issues were was tracking my comings and goings.

      All that to say…it may be frustrating, but you also don’t have the full picture and may not know about arrangements made with their own boss.

    3. Cortney*

      Oooh, don’t do this. I fired the last person I caught tracking someone’s comings and goings this way. Would have been livid to discover they were tracking mine! It’s very common for salaried employees to work outside the office and outside regular hours – and frankly, it’s none of your business.

      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

        Yeah, I’d be thinking very hard about how indispensable someone was if I found they were tracking my hours, and I’d be angry verging on aghast.

        1. Trout 'Waver*

          I get where you’re coming from. But if someone is a hardass on hours for the people who report to them and takes great liberties themselves, you better believe that the people who report to that person will be aware of their comings and goings.

          1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist*

            Understandably so, but a lot of folks go straight to “great liberties” and never consider that they might not have all the pertinent information to judge.

            1. The OG Anonsie*

              Especially since whatever planned changes to your schedule and work times you make, that’s going through your own manager… Not your reports.

              In some cases it may be important for your reports to know exactly when you’ll be in the office, and in some offices the start and end times are supposed to be solid for everyone for some specific business reason, but typically neither of those things are the case.

    4. Mike C.*

      Why do her hours matter when she’s a salaried employee? I’ve always been told that salaried employees are paid for the job, not for the hours they work.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Eh, it’s not so black and white or rigid. Most salaried exempt employees are still expected to put in more or less a full work week, and if you see someone chronically spending huge chunks of time doing nothing, that’s something most managers would care about.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I would have great difficulty working for this boss that you have. I doubt I would be able to stay on.

      Having said that:
      Tracking her hours is only helping you to exit this job quicker. She won’t change but you will find your mind slowly bending….
      Next. I have always viewed the extra time a boss like this takes away from work as a RELIEF. For those extra hours she is away, I do not have to listen to her yak on the phone with her family, trim her toe nails, take an hour to heat a cup of coffee, etc. It’s time out from all that and perhaps each time she leaves she is actually helping me to stay in my job a bit longer.
      Last. The time you spent tracking her could have been time you spent developing your professional self in some manner so that you have more options on the job market. There are two ways we defeat ourselves when we do this. One, we probably will not win. Management will keep the slacker boss and ditch us. Two, any time we watch what others are doing we fail to thrive. We could have spent that time making ourselves into superstars. We lost twice.

    6. Lablizard*

      I take 3 hour “lunches”, or that is what some junior staff are told on occasion. The truth is that I am at hush-hush meetings about new product developments or other business concerns that the company wants to keep deeply under wraps. It is a bit over the top in that we hide the fact that there is a meeting, not just who is being met and why. We even stagger our departure and arrival times so no one can look at a shared calendar and see we have the same times blocked out. It seems to work, though, because we definitely have less leaks than others. Never assume you have the big picture of you only see a corner of the puzzle

  16. Bess*

    I sympathize with you, OP…I like to be busy at work and get a lot done and, particularly at a few of my first jobs, the level to which some others would avoid or neglect work (or even just not be too concerned about doing things quickly or thoroughly) was pretty surprising to me. Sometimes it was so egregious and I couldn’t understand why the higher ups were so complacent about it. It gets even more frustrating when it directly impacts your day-to-day. Some higher ups really just don’t want to bother, or see that this/that is getting done and don’t care about the rest.

    I would say over the last 5 years or so I’ve really been able to let go of some of these worries–and, particularly, it’s been helpful for me to stop comparing and holding everyone accountable (in my mind) to my own working style. It doesn’t lower the irritation when I have to change my work to accommodate someone else’s dropped ball, but I’m better able to accept some of it as expected in the workplace, even if it’s not what “should” be happening.

    I would focus on ways you might be able to “manage up,” but it also sounds like this is something you probably can’t profoundly change as a part-time direct report. Is this job livable if you can come to accept that this is just her M.O.? Is this worse (for you) or better than a micromanager, or a manager with unreasonable expectations?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I cannot go into detail but right now I am watching a story of two people. One person (Slacker) is fumbling and bumbling at every possible turn. Does not prep for the work day, does not have basic supplies and info and fails to make lists of what is necessary today. (Vague, sorry.) Person number two is on top of their game. Person number two knows what they need to do their work today. They have a grasp of the agenda and know where they should be by the time the day is over.

      Here’s where it gets interesting. Person number two can run circles around Slacker and DOES! Instead of worrying what Slacker is doing, Person number two is looking at his own to do list and figuring out how to get through it in the most efficient way possible. It’s amazing to watch Peron number two work, what a work ethic.

  17. Seal*

    I had a boss like this. He had been there 15 years at when I started. For the first decade or so he had been very productive and nationally known in our field, but then he started getting distracted by family issues and his own hypochondria. By the time I got there, he was “working from home” on Fridays, so between that and calling in sick about every other week he was only around 3-4 days a week. When he was there, he spent most of his time holed up in his office. Worse, my coworker when I first started the job was all about doing her own thing rather than being a team player of any kind, so I was pretty much left to my own devices. His boss had far too many direct reports to pay attention to him and since his chief talent was covering his own ass, he was able to fly under the radar for years. People knew I was the one to come if they needed anything from our department.

    Frustrating as the entire situation was, professionally it allowed me to gain experience in things that would normally have been well above my pay grade. Because we were a public service unit there were many things that couldn’t be left undone and since my boss refused to do them they fell to me. Ultimately all of this experience allowed me to get a much better job. About a year before I left, my grandboss retired and our entire branch of the organization was reorganized. Somehow my boss managed to get himself promoted in the process. Since I was not promoted to his job – one I had been mostly doing for years to cover for him – I left. After that, the entire department fell apart. Even better, my former boss got fired because his new boss caught on to his shenanigans. Moral of the story is that eventually people like this get caught – at least that’s been my experience.

    1. Windchime*

      Yeah, at OldJob there was a manager who did about 5 hours of work a week. The rest of the time he literally stood around at people’s cubicles and visited (loudly) about non-work-related things. The time that he spent in his office? Oh, that was for doing his day-trading on his iPad.

      This went on for literally years. Until the layoffs came, and then he was one of the first to go. The lesson I learned from that was that the higher-ups knew he wasn’t doing anything and just waited until they were required to do layoffs.

  18. Alex*

    I had a boss like this. He eventually got what was coming to him (fired). That was a great day, but it took along time to get to that point.

  19. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I was going to write into AAM about this, but with slightly more transparent and risky circumstances.

    A friend of mine worked at a well-known government agency. Her interim boss wasn’t approved by a legislative agency, and this guy’s “departure” was very public. It made his boss, an elected official who appointed him, look really bad.

    My friend quit in frustration long before that happened. Turns out she knew exactly how bad things were long before anyone else, and my friend was trying to change them but gave up. My friend quit because she didn’t want to be associated with her boss. The elected official was in the dark until it was too late.

    I asked my friend why she didn’t tip off the elected official’s staff before, and she said no way was she going over her boss’s head. I haven’t found anyone in my line of work who disagrees with that.

    Thoughts? It’s so hard to watch this situation explode in all the papers when it could have been prevented with a confidential hour long conversation the year before. If I worked for that elected official, I’d want to know.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      Is there any reason she would expect the elected official to take her word over that of the appointee?

      1. Snarkus Aurelius*

        Not sure. It’s one of those deals where if you’re not paying attention, you don’t see it. But if my friend had pointed someone else in the right direction, the incompetence would have been easy to spot and easy to cover up the fact the appointee had been ratted out. :)

    2. hbc*

      I guess the question is, how likely is it really that it could have been prevented?

      “My boss takes a lot of personal calls and doesn’t do things on the schedule I want” can be used to describe very busy and competent bosses (by inexperienced or bitter employees) and horrible bosses (by accurate employees.) If I’m the big boss in this situation, at best, I have no idea who to believe. But I do know this branch is hitting targets and I get my reports in on time, so is it going to go on the top of my list to dig into this?

      In your friend’s situation, maybe it would have been different. “Here are the two sets of books being kept” or “Here’s this obvious PR nightmare that can’t be covered up coming down the road” are more black and white. Still, never underestimate the human instinct to shoot the messenger.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        It’s astonishing how often people essentially reason “Maybe a comet will hit the Earth before this comes to light.”

    3. Not So NewReader*

      A couple of thoughts:
      Never underestimate the power of Rumor Mill. If the rumor mill says that Big Boss does not care, then that is the answer. No one goes and checks. No one wants to take the chance.

      Some situations are very difficult to describe what is wrong. It takes a particular type of ability to articulate what is going on and why it is a problem. Some people do not have that ability and others BELIEVE they don’t have that ability.

      People have a finite amount of energy. “I can fix this or I can have a life. I am going to go have a life.”

      Then there is a reason my wise friend cued me on. He said that anytime we take a stand there is ALWAYS a price to pay for taking that stand. We have to think about just how much it is we could lose. True story. I reported X was happening. I did not think twice about it. I knew it was happening so I reported it. There was an investigation and a huge blow up. NEXT thing that happens is I am on trumped up charges and not only could I lose my job but I could face jail time. A person went out of their way to make up an accusation that had no basis and people believed this person. It was in retaliation for my earlier reporting. It took them months to investigate me. I was never allowed to speak to the matter and I was never privy to any of the investigation. They finally decided, after months, that I had done nothing wrong. It was a short bit after that I quit the job. I don’t need this type of drama in my life.

  20. Clever Name*

    This reminds me of my former boss at my last company. It was a small satellite office of 6 people to a company headquartered in another state. In my 3 years there, I don’t think I ever witnessed my boss work a full day. Staying until 4 was a late day for him. He gave the impression that he got to the office early so leaving at 3 was a normal workday, but coworkers who were actually at the office at 7 told me otherwise. He spent a ton of time on personal calls and would disappear for hours at a time. He’d “work from home” often. He would actually tell us he was leaving the office to see a movie with his girlfriend or go shopping with his daughter. He was a complete doofus. He also was a total bottleneck for getting anything done. He would also blame others for his mistakes, and once took me and a coworker to task for not telling him something (that we told him no less than 3 times, on the phone, in person, and documented in a report). So yeah, I left that job because of that asshole boss.

    Your boss’ performance is their boss’ responsibility. I’m not sure what going above your boss’ head will accomplish. If they don’t immediately get fired, there’s a big risk your boss will be really pissed at you and may not treat you professionally. Someone who thinks it’s acceptable to be on the phone all day at work isn’t exactly a paragon of ethics and professionalism. I highly doubt your current boss’ reaction will be to immediately shape up and become a good boss.

    Since it doesn’t sound like conditions are horrible for you, I’d start a casual job search now. You can be really picky about your next job. That’s what I did. It took me a year and a half (I think I only applied to 12 jobs- I was REALLY picky) to get my current job, and I love my current company.

  21. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I agree with everyone else who said that you should stop covering for your boss and doing things that she isn’t doing. I had a boss like this years ago. She would dump everything on me and I was too young to know better so I’d do it.

    Well, when the industry started to experience a downswing in business, I was told by grandboss that there was an opening in an office in another state and that if I wanted to transfer, I could. If I didn’t transfer, there was a chance that I would end up getting laid off due to downsizing.

    I accepted the offer to transfer and my boss was livid. She ended up leaving less than six months after I transferred.

  22. the.kat*

    My only fear on behalf of the OP is if her job is directly tied to making her boss look good. Obviously, there are things that the boss HAS to do and it sounds like they aren’t getting done unless the OP does them. In a normal situation, if the OP stopped doing the work, it would show the GrandBoss that the boss isn’t working. However, it seems like the GrandBoss doesn’t care as long as the work’s getting done. If OP’s job is some sort of assisting position, they might have been hired for this exact person, to keep a known flaky boss on the ball and organized. If OP stops doing the boss’s work, is the boss going to blame the OP to CYA?

    1. JGray*

      I think that you bring up a valid point. I was going to comment that the OP needs to have a copy of her job description. This might not exist if there isn’t an HR department but because they are part of a corporation I’m hoping there is a job description. Take the job description (or whatever you have OP) and read it again. This will give you guidance on what you need to do. One can also use that if things don’t get done and boss tries to blame OP. It might not always work but use the document that you have that tells you what your job is and even if OP is an assistant the boss is ultimately responsible for things getting done or submitted.

      1. Late To The Party*

        This sounds like a good idea, but in my experience there are official job descriptions and then there is everything else you are expected to do. At most of the jobs I’ve worked there has been the unspoken but nevertheless mandatory requirement to make sure connected, senior employees (sales people) got their work done, and I have to wonder if OP is in the same position. As another comment or noted, she may have been hired to keep her manager on track. If that’s the case, OP needs to think hard about whether it’s worth continuing in a job with that expectation.

  23. seejay*

    Back in the day when I was working as a secretary/assistant, I replaced two secretaries at a real estate appraiser’s office. The full time daily secretary was taking so many phone calls during the day to deal with her son’s personal drama that the appraiser needed a part-time secretary in during the evenings to cover the work she couldn’t complete during her 8 hour shifts. Then one day she had to quit because her son’s life had uprooted so much and she needed to stay home and take care of him (I should mention, her son was in his mid-20s). So I was hired to replace her. I wound up doing the job so well, the part-time evening secretary wasn’t needed anymore *and* my hours were cut to 5 to 6 hours a day since he’d rather pay me less than sit around manning the office and doing nothing (I’d reorganized everything and cleaned up all the filing cabinets in my downtime already).

    The stupid thing is that when the fail-secretary came back after all the drama died down and wanted her job back, they were going to let me go and give it back to her… because she was a long-term family friend. I knew this was a risk so I already had plans to go back to school and finish my degree anyway.

    In short, some people are slackers and the only way to deal with it is stop covering for them and let their slackerness show through to the higher-ups. From what I heard, fail-secretary came back, the personal phone calls started back up, drama in her son’s life continued, and they had to re-hire the part time secretary in the evenings again to cover all the work that wasn’t getting done during the day. I know I was fast with what I did, but I wasn’t exceptional… I just didn’t spend half the day dealing with an adult child’s drama.

    1. Mike C.*

      Philosophical question for you or others – if this person you replaced had automated her work/improved processes so everything was finished but still took all the calls and whatnot, would you still consider her a slacker? I guess what I’m curious about is does the reputation of “slacker” come from spending lots of time doing non-work activities or from not completing the work?

      Just a random thought that came to mind, nothing more.

      1. Special Snowflake*

        Having been in a similar spot – I would say no. As long as the work is getting done, generally I don’t care how many personal calls you take. It’s when the work *isn’t* getting done that I care. And it’s when that slops over onto my responsibilities that I take it up with higher management.

      2. seejay*

        Nope, what matters in the grand scheme of things is the amount of work getting done. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a huge amount of work, but at least the *required* amount of work. In my particular case, my manager needed 1.5 people to do the secretarial job: one full time during the day and one part time in the evening. I replaced both and had time to do the day-to-day work and also reorganize the office. It was pretty clear after a few weeks of not needing the evening part time secretary that the day secretary wasn’t doing the job well at all… she was too preoccupied with managing the crisis in her son’s life. If she could have done that and produced the work my boss needed at the end of the day for his deadlines so he didn’t need to bring in someone in the evenings to finish up what she hadn’t done, I’m sure there wouldn’t have been a problem with the calls.

  24. a Gen X manager*

    It seems like OP doesn’t have all of the information and is making assumptions based solely on what they personally observe. If the boss is delivering on goals and the grand boss shows no sign of concern or involvement, then the boss is doing their job – regardless of what OP witnesses.

    Not a brag, but I am a high performing manager and I am deeply committed to my organization’s mission and long-term success, so I choose to work approximately 60 hours a week, * BUT * my staff only sees me in my office maybe 35 hours in the average week. I regularly work off-hours (in the office!) so that I can get the REAL work DONE (no interruptions!) and the staff generally has no idea that I’ve worked an overnight or on a holiday, etc. My boss doesn’t know either, but he knows I consistently deliver and that the organization is in excellent shape. If one of my staff members went to my (off-site) boss and complained because I don’t work my “40 hours” (I’m exempt, so paid for 40 hours), I’ve very confident that he would 1) be thoroughly unconcerned because I deliver on expectations and 2) would be concerned about the staff member’s attitude, pettiness, and ulterior motives.

    The other thing that really stands out to me from this post is where OP wrote, “I’ve noticed a distinct decline in my productivity, which is very irritating to me.” OP – this is an opportunity to explore not only perspective, but to maybe dial back on the judgment about the boss. Meaning, even if OP worked in the office full time, OP still wouldn’t know everything that does and doesn’t happen / what the boss is doing, etc. Let’s also say that OP is totally spot-on about the slacker manager, why let someone else’s behaviors affect your own performance? That’s a choice that is made over and over again throughout every working day. I’d suggest taking the high road and do what is right for you, because there will always be co-workers or bosses that don’t perform at the level you deem appropriate, but the only thing you can control is yourself and your own performance. Once you accept that, life gets a lot easier and is a lot happier. :)

  25. UnderpaidinSeattle*

    I worked for a boss who I had to chase down for every little thing, send reminders 10 times to get a reply to a question etc. It was frustrating, sure, but when the deliverables were owned by me, then I had to do what I had to do to get the work done. Even if it meant being responsible for pestering him. After one particularly frustrating day I sat him down and said, “I understand that you are busy, and I don’t mind sending reminders for items that I need from you to complete my work, but sometimes I feel like you don’t prioritize what I need, even if it means I am missing deadlines and upsetting our customers. That not only impacts our company and our department, it affects my professional reputation since I’m the one who has to call people and make excuses for delays. So how would you like me to handle it when I’m waiting on something from you and there is a threat of missing a deadline or upsetting a customer?” He said, tell me “I’m about to miss a deadline on this” or say “I have a customer waiting on this item. It’s an important account and is not something that can be put off.”

    Turns out I was telling him what I needed, but not really giving him the context he needed in order to prioritize what I was asking of him. As soon as I got really direct about what I needed and why he started delivering. He was pretty hands off so he just didn’t’ have the context on the day to day the way I did and I honestly don’t think he realized how it was affecting me or what we needed to deliver. If you haven’t tried having a frank discussion with her you are doing yourself a disservice.

    My supervisor had all sorts of knowledge I didn’t about the field and honestly, he was being paid far more for what he knew at that point than for what he did. That’s just the reality when you get to some higher level positions. So even if he slacked on “tasks” there was no way I could have matched his knowledge of the business. I can’t imagine having tracked his time or noted his personal phone calls. It’s certainly possible your boss just sucks way more than he did and will not care at all once you share your concerns directly. He was great in other ways…really gave me some wonderful opportunities and taught me a ton, even though it did feel like herding a cat with severe ADHD half the time. But definitely, let the phone call thing go. Seriously. That is NONE of your business.

  26. BigSigh*

    I had a boss a few years ago who did this! Always always always on the phone with her kids. Her boss knew and didn’t do anything because she technically got everything she needed to done.

    When she left, her email was assigned to me so I could begin redirecting people. Apparently, she’s used her work email as a personal email and was also redoing all her children’s homework from her work email, organizing with her church group, connecting with her kid’s after school activities, planning vacation trips, etc etc… I could NOT get her kid’s school to stop using the email, not matter what I said. Eventually we just shut the email down it was so clogged with personal groupon alerts and non-work-related industries.

  27. MoinMoin*

    “[…] being constantly irritated matters […]”
    YUUUUUP. I was in a similar position, OP, but I knew going over the boss’ head wasn’t going to do anything as his boss was onsite and saw it happen daily and didn’t care.
    I should have left when it was obvious nothing would change but instead I stayed and let irritation consume me until I was constantly miserable and probably made everyone else around me miserable to deal with.
    It drives me crazy when it seems like some commenters’ answers to everything is to quit or (when OP has power to do so) fire someone but… I’d really look at finding someone else if I were you. And if that isn’t worth it from your perspective, understand that this is something you’ll need to accept to an extent. Good luck!

    1. Another person*

      Re: some of the commenters being a little quit-happy:
      When you’re not in charge and you’ve done all that is in your power to do, it comes down to making a choice between acceptance and changing your response to the situation (sometimes by getting out of it.)

      I think some of us (or maybe I’m just speaking for myself) have stuck it out in bad work situations beating our head against the wall for way too long before eventually quitting anyway and want to save others from the pain and suffering.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        And there’s a huge difference between “quit today” and “start looking for your next job”!

        I kind of feel like most people should almost always be looking for their next job…. I mean, at least keep your eyes open for what’s out there.

      2. MoinMoin*

        Fair point (especially as that’s the experience that made me arrive at my advice today). It seems reductive from the outside, but I know it comes from people that have taken the hard road and want to save others from repeating their experiences.

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      One of my go-to cautionary tales is the temp who was in line to be made permanent not this time but next time, on repeat. (Immediate supervisors supported making them full-time but had no power to force it to happen.) They got consumed by bitterness, which greatly affected their work, which really eroded the glowing references they would have gotten from those supervisors if the second time the permanent thing couldn’t quite happen they had started job-hunting.

      High school dramas–Buffy, Veronica Mars–draw a lot of their power from the helplessness of high school. You can’t just leave, so it’s a good symbol for the hell mouth. When those dramas switch to college, and their protagonists have “you know, you could go somewhere else, and do different things” as an obvious solution to their problems, the shows lose something. If you’re an adult with a job, you can change you a lot easier than you can cause all your managers to become sane sensible thoughtful persons by beaming energy at them.

      1. MoinMoin*

        That’s a really interesting point. I just binge watched both seasons of Crazy Ex Girlfriend and *SPOILERS* midway through the second season a major character is written off the show. He was the sarcastic, grumpy, foil to the always-optimistic main romantic male lead, and the writers evolved him into someone whose bitter apathy is starting to eat at him and contribute to alcoholism. Ultimately he joins AA and leaves town in pursuit of the business degree he always wanted. At the time I was really sad to see him go, but it made me think about how often you get frustrated with inane plot points that overlook obvious real world solutions and how this story line dealt with real issues in a complex and thoughtful way. (That and the show location is acting as a sort of purgatory for the characters in dealing with facets of adulthood and has totally interesting parallels to LOST in my mind.)
        Point being, it really gets drilled into your head that if you don’t like something, you can change it and make it how you want if you can just figure out the perfect combination of words and actions to make it so- the “one weird trick,” the “life hack,” the clever Rube Goldberg-esque social strategy that leads to a clever and satisfying resolution. Some questions here I feel like really want AAM’s answer to be something like, “Say this magic script, then go to HR and say this magic script, then all the jerks will stop being jerks.” This is the same thought pattern that leads to the many “Is this legal?” variations too. But life is boring and it’s really just sucking it up and/or realizing you’re an autonomous adult that can mostly only change your own circumstances.

  28. a Gen X manager*

    A few months ago I read an article (somewhere, sorry, no idea where) about escalating to your manager’s boss and it basically said that unless there is something on the level of OSHA violations, sexual harassment, or embezzlement the grand boss (or HR) will almost always side with the manager because 1) they really just care about results and if the manager is delivering then grand boss will be happy and not be concerned about the “hows” and 2) grand boss (or HR) has to deal with the vacancy if they reprimand or terminate the manager.

    I would be extremely unhappy if a staff member took an every day operational complaint to my boss! That’s not how this works.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      We’ve had a few examples where the angry (or gumptioning) work-around underling discovered too late that Big Boss was fully aware of The Situation already, and it was Lowly Underling who got fired for insubordination.

    2. blackcat*

      “something on the level of OSHA violations,”

      When I saw OSHA violations and my boss didn’t do anything, I didn’t go to his boss… I went to OSHA. That got the job done… I suppose I could have gone to my boss’s boss first, but I had the sense he would care even less than my boss.

  29. Not Australian*

    I was in a similar position once. I was brought in after an office reorganisation to be part of a two person team; we shared an office with another two person team doing the same work but covering a different geographical area. After a while it became clear that a) our team was being measured against the other team and b) I was being measured against my colleague, who thought she was my boss, and who had been giving cause for concern for several years. Long story short, productivity-wise I wiped the floor with her; she was well-known for wandering off (‘taking a file for a walk’, we called it), sneaking out of the building, spending hours on the phone, etc., but because she had certain connections it was considered impossible to fire her. I stuck it out for two years, but I had a massive nervous breakdown and eventually had to leave the job; it pretty much broke me in pieces and I’ve never really recovered. OP, whatever your qualms, self-preservation should emphatically be your first concern; don’t let this person get away with using her employers – and you – as badly as this.

  30. Person of Interest*

    I don’t know that I agree completely here that there’s nothing you can do. I do agree that the personal phone calls are not your problem to solve. But I think you have standing to push back on the problem that your boss is a frequent bottleneck for issues, and see if you or your colleagues can get more official responsibility to make decisions or take actions without your boss’s input. She might like that, since it would give her more time for those personal calls :)

  31. Big Picture Person*

    To give a different perspective, I had an employee go over my head to report me as “not doing my job”. The truth of the matter was that I was indeed doing my job, it just didn’t look like she thought it should look. She thought I “disappeared for no reason” and shut my door all the time to take personal calls and played a lot on the internet. The truth was we were looking to add another location, but it wasn’t yet firm enough to be public knowledge to everyone. What she saw was actually me looking into other location possibilities. Thankfully, my boss knew how hard I was working and just told me about what the employee said.

    I confronted her directly (once I could tell her the whole truth), and discussed her perception and the truth, which were dramatically different. The issue at the root of it is respect and trust. We had only worked together a few months when this accusation surfaced. Sometimes you gotta see how things play out before the truth comes into view.

  32. Regular Contributor Anon Today*

    This couldn’t be more timely.

    My supervisor is completely unqualified and inept at his job. Our manager is worse. I found out that he gets a bonus for each body he brings on board, so he spends his days padding the contract. (I gave him realistic staffing numbers for next year’s budget and he TRIPLED them.)

    I considered going to HR; several other coworkers already have. But per AAM advice, I asked myself, “what do I want as an outcome?” Answer: Leadership. Chances: Zero. Nothing will change because we are making money.

    I will remind myself daily that this is not my problem to fix. The actual work I do is quite enjoyable; just the management culture irritates me. But it would be so nice to have all sides balance for a change.

  33. MommyMD*

    Do not do any of the work defined as hers. If something is completed late and you are asked why by her boss, tell the truth. You’ve asked her many times for -blank-

    Good luck. Sounds like you should be the boss.

  34. Noah*

    OP should consider whether Boss really isn’t getting things done (or done in a timely manner), or if Boss actually isn’t getting the things OP wants done in a timely manner. Given that OP is part-time, it’s possible she doesn’t have a great perspective on all of Boss’s duties. Maybe it really is crazy around there. As for the phone calls, five/day may or may not be a lot, depending on how much time they take up. It also may not matter much if Boss is working after hours.

    Obviously, if Boss is missing meaningful deadlines, that’s still an issue even if everything I just surmised is true. But it could be more complicated than OP realizes.

  35. ro*

    I’ve been in a similar situation and it can be SOOO frustrating!

    But I’m wondering if (without changing any of the bosses’ behavior, which you probably can’t anyway), can you turn this into a situation more positive FOR YOU? Not sure how long you’ll stay in this role or what your ultimate career goals are, but is any of this work you do for the boss things that will make your own resume stronger in the future? Any new responsibilities you can add to it that make you look better to the next hiring manager? Any possibility any of the tasks lend themselves to learning (or creating) new processes or skills?

    You might even be able to approach your own manager (carefully keeping out ALL snark/judgement) and say you noticed that due to their high work load you’ve been stepping in to fulfill certain tasks and you wanted to know if there are any responsibilities they’d like to temporarily or permanently off-load to you? (Which will give you more control over the situation) Ask in the spirit of just trying to help. Maybe even tell them if any of these tasks are in an area you’d like to train more on or see your career grow in and your boss may start to think of this as a mentoring thing.

    I know this is sugar-coating it, but I’m just trying to think of how you might turn this experience into something that will eventually benefit you. A boss who isn’t doing all of their job means responsibilities that might otherwise only go to a senior person might become part of your job. And it will show initiative.

  36. Not So NewReader*

    A different thought, OP: What are your personal goals in life? I have taken part time jobs, with less than desirable situations because of things in my personal life that I was working on. I could have to the time/energy to take care of this at-home stuff.
    If the job dovetails well with your personal life goals and plans then you may want to stick with it until you complete that personal goal. The tricky part here is to make sure you keep working diligently on your personal goal. But it happens, we have X going on in our lives and it consumes most of our energy. So we can do this PT jobs with less than desirable aspects because it allows us to still have some income stream while we take care of Personal Thing At Home. A big picture focus like this might be of some help. And of course picturing the boss struggling after you leave might also help.

    1. A Person*

      I think the big picture thing is important. It’s also worth considering how useful the skills being gained from doing the manager’s job could be. Would it be worth sticking the job out for another few months/year to get into a position to take those skills elsewhere?

  37. Kpv1250*

    We had pretty much this exact situation in our office.

    The manager (grossly incompetent) was an external hire and had no interest in the product, or in doing any managing, and consistently delegated things that were clearly management responsibility (like asking a member of the team to produce reports on the productivity levels of their peers, for one). His LinkedIn page showed he had worked at 10 companies in 8 years.

    There were also a number of larger items of misconduct, such as accidentally sharing his CV to a customer during a screen share, hanging up on a customer who had called because he didn’t know who to pass the call to, blatantly browsing the internet all day, and accidentally typing details of another job he’d been offered in the wrong Skype channel (the team’s channel) indicating he was undertaking interviews less than a year after joining.

    Eventually a number of more senior members of the team (under the manager) got together and asked for a meeting with his manager. He was clearly shocked and unaware, and was upset that nobody approached him earlier as this had gone on for at least a year. The errant manager left soon after.

    The gossip didn’t stop there, however, as we later discovered a copy of his “present” CV saved onto a public computer – hugely aggrandising his responsibilities and accomplishments in our company beyond any reasonable level of exaggeration. A year later we then received a reference request from two subsequent companies on. I gather that we gave a neutral reference confirming dates of employment and stating that it is our policy not to provide a reference. I understand that in the UK, the culture of giving a “truthful” reference (if it’s negative) isn’t a thing.

    That experience has taught me that if I ever get into hiring and recruitment, extensive job hopping would be a deal breaking red flag.

  38. kapers*

    In many organizations–especially ones that hire part-time employees to execute day-to-day stuff–it is not actually the manager’s job to produce and execute: it’s their job to supervise people and workflow and to sit between day-to-day operations and upper management so that upper management does not have to deal with it.

    Some are even promoted to supervisory roles precisely because their calm demeanor. “Last minute” isn’t really a thing with upper management– if the work is getting done in a satisfactory timeframe, upper management for the most part is not going to care about how and when.

    Bosses aren’t paid to be productive for X hours a week the way a part-time employee is, so their time doesn’t need to be occupied the way yours is. For example, in my department I have a temp for 10 hours a week who is paid hourly through an agency. She is paid for a specific task for those specific hours, so if she sat for an hour and surfed the web, I’d have to put a stop to it. However, my assistant manager has a more varied role and more fluid hours and I’m happy with his results, so I don’t care if he’s on HuffPo throughout the day or whatever.

    I’m having a hard time imagining the tone and content of your talk with your manager about her personal calls in a way that strikes me as appropriate.

    I wonder whether you are newer to the work force, as most full-time employees in an office setting aren’t producing for 8 hours a day (though many of us make it look like that.)

    That said, if you are an achiever it can certainly be frustrating to work for a slacker. But I think your recourse would be reframing your expectations or looking for a more suitable position.

  39. Michelle*

    Headphones it helps! And ask for guidance on what gets done first and work to her speed. Let her know things would be late, so down ur stress levels would be better. I tried too hard and got the please be happier and less moody to her speech saves me from a.heartattack in the future but at least she found other departments that might take the work.
    Since apparently everyone is only in it for the paycheck. So think of only your personal stuff such lunch instead lol im sure most are.only going in to social and personal who cares.if the company goes it’s.not.anyone’s contact who else is going to talk to them without the paycheck. Yes boundaries just do what u signed on your contact. Join.them or find another job. No other choice really

    1. Michelle*

      My powers of telepathy also never developed and yeah it was peeve with a weird manager who loves to randomly use employees as faqs but talk through walls or cubicles thinking u would answer them like I gave up in hoping they would have better manners and the telepathic powers. I’ll just have to follow up several times instead. I feel like a.detective just to discuss any issue or I work at an endless debate club oh well since productivity isn’t wonder! Haha the technical debate are also hard to do with a.person of no knowledge of tech but makes.all those important decision so yeah even asking for.resources are painful. Like resources to help do better work instead of kind of adequate
      I’m just glad I’m not building bridges or systems like power I’m worried about.the quality but eh I figured we are going for just pass exceptable and just pass broke anyways. Caring too much is such a pain.

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