When the boss’s lack of responsiveness is affecting your career

Dear Joan:

I have to disagree with you regarding making your boss look good.  Working as a team is one thing.  And that means working to make your TEAM look good.  But when you have a boss or team member that constantly fails to do their job, it is NOT my responsibility to make him/her look good. 


Failing to do their job includes the responsibilities that person has to work with their people to see that they have the information, skills, tools, etc. to do their jobs.  I am really tired of covering for people for not only does it make ME look incompetent but because I care about my work, my projects, my customers (be they internal or external) if affects my health.  Well, no more.  While I will work to help my boss look good as long as he/she is doing her job, I refuse to spend my time covering up.  When I do not have the information I need to do my job because this person refuses to do their job in providing it, I either document it and move on or, if possible, find a way around it.


How many times do you ask someone for the things you need?  Two times? Six times? Ten times?  How many times do you ask for information that you need to do your job?  When do you finally give up when you do not get any answer at all?  Just an “I’ll have to get back to you”?  How many times do you remind someone of what they need to do?  Just tell me YES or NO so that I can move on!!!


I have no problem helping someone who is overwhelmed with work, or someone who lacks a bit of knowledge, or just needs a little bit of encouragement.  I am sick and tired of facilitating someone’s lack of responsibility to do the job they have been hired to do.


I HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO NOT CONSTANTLY COVER FOR THE BOSS!!!  Corporate America is doing NOTHING to retain good, caring, competent individuals.  They get sick and tired of the whole mess!  No wonder foreign entities are far outpacing this society. 


Thanks for giving me the opportunity to clarify. What I said in my previous column was “One of the first rules of organizational life—“open door policy” or not—is not to make your boss look bad.”  Even so, making the boss “look good” is a different concept than covering for an inept boss.


The manager is as much a part of the team as everyone else, and the team needs to show a united front to internal and external customers. So, when a boss makes a mistake or exhibits a weakness, the rest of the team should step up and do what they can to fill in the gaps…just like they should for anyone else on the team.


However, if your manager isn’t responding to your calls for help or information necessary to do your job, that is quite a different matter. That is having a direct and profound impact on your ability to get your job done successfully.


So, yes, I agree that you need to find politically safe ways to go around him or her to get your job done. You might need to document the problem, if you feel it could come back to hurt you. But what about having an honest conversation with your manager about your need for more responsiveness and the answers to your questions? If that gets you nowhere, have a conversation about what you need with his/her boss and/or human resources, if necessary. If you don’t wish to escalate the problem up the ladder, you will either have to live with it or go find a new boss.


Your anger and frustration are coming through in your letter, and I recommend that you take some proactive steps on your own behalf. Unless you are a better actor than most people, it will come creeping out and could brand you in a negative way with your manager and others with whom you work.


Making others look good is a reciprocal deal. You should be doing good work and sharing credit with a boss who guided you and led the way; but the other half of the deal is that your boss needs to fly cover for you, knock down barriers and lead the charge. If he or she isn’t doing their part of the bargain, the deal is off.

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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