Manager never around? Avoid some of the pitfalls of default autonomy by learning how to manage yourself.
by Leading Associates
By the time I was five, I had a savings account (well…a jar with money). I was doing all my own clothes shopping by 13 onwards (to my detriment as now I’m self-styled or “fugly”), and I started my first business by the time I was 14—a premium lawn cutting service for all my neighbors. I’m an independent person, and I always have been. So over the last few years, even though I’ve been working in various institutions and not in my own business, I’ve ended up in positions where I manage myself and my time (admittedly not really done by design on my part, but maybe subconsciously I’ve gone for those roles). Staying true to form, my current position with my employer involves me managing myself and my activities quite independently—mainly due to the fact that my boss is a bit of a globe-hopper and hence an absentee manager.
“So far, so good,” you might think—and mainly it is. I love the fact that I’m autonomous. Since my boss is not around on a daily basis, I have a lot of independence in how I conduct my work and when. This gives me the freedom to get involved with various aspects of the business and work with other people in our office, which is great for networking and learning. One of the greatest things about not being managed closely is that you are frequently left to make your own decisions. I found after a while that I was growing more and more confident in my decision-making. Which in all actuality is terrible.
Me being a Millennial and all, I think I know everything. I don’t. Not even close. I now find myself thinking that I’m right most of the time. (I’m calling this “Simon Cowell” syndrome.) I also now hate being given any type of instruction from superiors. The truth is, I’m becoming slightly warped. It’s kind of like bad parenting—if you don’t manage your kids with boundaries, then they can grow up to be jerks. It’s the same with Generation Y if we’re not managed with boundaries. So now I’ve turned into a . (But not too much of a jerk—if I’m writing about it, I’m acknowledging the problem, which makes me slightly less of a jerk, right…? I’m just going to assume I’m right again.)
Another great pitfall of having an absentee manager is that you don’t get the you need to develop properly. Operating with only yourself as your source of feedback is risky business because you will never benefit from other perspectives. When you do good things, you’re boss won’t be around to see that and give you praise. When you do terrible things, your boss won’t be there to chastise you.
So how do you handle having an absentee manager effectively? I don’t know really. It’s only in the past couple of weeks that I’ve been mulling over the consequences of my boss’s wanderlust and my current state. Here are some tips for dealing with an absentee manager that I’ve started doing to try and come back from the brink:
- Look at yourself and decide if you’re a jerk. Be honest and see if you’re exhibiting the classic signs of becoming a little cocky and thinking you are right all the time.
- Set up weekly calls with your boss if he’s out of town a lot. He may not like it and you may not like it, but it keeps you connected and aware of what the other is doing.
- Send update reports to your boss when he’s on the road outlining what you’ve been up to. It only has to be a page long, but it show’s you’re working and can help you avoid any disasters you might make.
- Arrange face-to-face meetings when your boss does get back into town. I’ve found that since my manager spends a lot of time away, when he gets back, his calendar is pretty full, so I’ve to get in there early and book time. Sometimes it will be a breakfast meeting or a lunch, but at least it’s face-to-face time.
- Make a dedicated feedback session for one of your face-to-face meetings.
- Get a surrogate boss so you can bounce ideas off them in the absence of having your real boss around. This can be a mentor or a more experienced colleague—someone with some insight who can give you a different perspective.
The first two or three years in the corporate environment is a learning experience, and the truth is that you grow a lot in that time—it’s like the growing up you do from high school to college. Remember how you were in high school compared to how you were when you left university? You do the same type of growth in the first few years in “corporate life.”
Having an absentee manager means that you might miss out on that “growing up” period—like skipping adolescence and heading straight into adulthood a la Doogie Howser. This can warp your development very early in your career. If you are in a position where you have an absentee manager and you’ve become autonomous, then do yourself a favor: take the time to make sure you manage your development as best you can.