What are your choices when you can’t get your manager’s support?

Dear Joan:

I have known for quite some time that I get very little, if any, support from my boss, and have discussed this with him.  He has five other managers who report to him and the time he spends with me on an annual basis could be measured in minutes. I reviewed my calendar for this past year to date, and have yet to find one single meeting that he scheduled directly with me.

 

I recently began a quit smoking campaign and when we ran into each other in the hall and he asked me how some medical tests had gone, I mentioned that I had quit smoking. Rather than being supportive or encouraging he laughed and said.... “What... yesterday?” Well, yes, it was just yesterday but that is two days that I have not smoked that could have not happened.

 

Meanwhile, he doesn't appear in the office until 10:30, takes a lunch and can usually be seen leaving at 2:00 for “a meeting off site”. I know he avoids me for trying to hold him accountable but I am at my wits end on the lack of support.

 

My staff is seeing it as well, and feel that if he doesn't support me, that there is no chance for them. This has caused them to either leave directly or at least begin to seriously look outside the company for a better environment.  Your thoughts?

 

Answer: 

It’s never a good sign to have your manager avoid you. It’s the equivalent of having a target on your back. The question is why is he avoiding you in the first place?

 

You say that he is avoiding you because you try to hold him accountable. Apparently, his late arrivals and early departures make you think he is not doing his job. That may be true but is it possible that he really is attending meetings offsite? Is he working in the evening from home? Without knowing the specifics, it’s impossible for me to know if he is a slacker or not, but I do know it can seem like a manager isn’t working hard, when in fact, he or she puts in hours that aren’t witnessed by the team. 

 

If his work habits are indeed a problem and he isn’t taking his responsibilities seriously, you will be a threat to his job security. If he is worried about being exposed by you, your own job security could be at risk, since he might try to find an excuse to get rid of you.  I’d be curious how he is evaluating you on your annual review. If your results are good, he would have a difficult time finding a reason to pressure you out.

 

You say that he avoids you because you “try to hold him accountable.” If he is aware that you are critical of his work ethic, how does he know this? Have you made negative comments? You say he doesn’t support you and that you have told him this. If you haven’t done this delicately, you may have created this strained relationship.

 

If your own staff recognizes the problem, it is either very obvious or you have been talking about it with them. If you can’t get your manager to make decisions your team needs, or your boss doesn’t give you any challenging work, it’s no wonder they are leaving. In fact, I’m surprised you aren’t looking for a new job, too.

 

If you can’t repair the damage between you and improve the communication, your effectiveness will be hampered. Perhaps it’s time to forget about his work habits and reach out one more time for his support. Be specific and ask him for a monthly one-on-one meeting to review your team’s results and get his advice and coaching. Don’t be critical about the past. Instead only focus on what you need from him in the future. If your request is ignored, you have two choices; either forget his bad behavior and do the best you can; or look for a new job.


Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616, mailto:info@joanlloyd.com, or www.JoanLloyd.com 
 
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