Boss Seems Out To Lunch And I Feel Abandoned!

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about boss who has lost interest:

I see this as more of a problem of my boss’ but it has now affected me so I am writing to see how I might better deal with this. I work in a school business office environment and have for the past 8 years. There are currently three administrators and six other women with whom I work. My administrator is second in command and enjoyed a very good working and personal relationship with our previous superintendent.

When the only other female administrator retired 2 years ago, she was replaced with one of our male principals who, we all knew, would eventually become the new superintendent when the old superintendent was to retire. I began to notice a change in my boss’s attitude at this time. I was aware she was not a fan of this man, but seemed to adjust somewhat to the change.

My boss is a very nice person, although quite different from me in style, philosophy, work ethic, and attitude. I know of no personal issues with my boss that would prevent her from doing her job. I have been able to be very effective as her assistant and happy with my job for the first 6 years with relatively no drama.

Since the new administrator came into our office, my boss doesn’t care so much about work, is easily distracted, unfocused on work priorities, attends to personal business on both the computer and phone (I calculate this to be now approximately 75% of the time I am at work), seems completely agitated when work-related things demand her attention, and is now counting the days until she retires, which will not be for another 4 years. How this affects me is that I feel my “leader” has abandoned me! Daily, I ask things like what can I do for you today, what are you working on, can I help, anything you need me to do and things like that. I have offered to work on things that I see in her agendas/notes. Go ahead, she says. I do not mind at all, but they are usually small tasks that require no time at all to complete.

Basically, because she is not working, I AM NOT WORKING!! I want to work, I want to be busy so, I create busy work for myself and ask the other women in my office if I can be of assistance to them, just to have something to do. I have always felt that my happiness and success at work depends largely on my sense of accomplishment. When I do not accomplish anything that I feel is productive or worthwhile, I get a little bummed.I am committed to this job, love my work (when I actually have some), love the people I work with and have no plans to leave. I feel I cannot speak with the superintendent about this (going over my boss’s head), and I cannot find the right words to tell my boss that her discontent with her job is affecting me quite negatively. I used to feel that I was kept informed, had a sense of direction and made a positive contribution to my department. But it seems she has effectively given up her responsibilities and is doing only the absolute minimum necessary. I have lost a great amount of respect for her during this past year and my co-workers wonder how the heck I put up with it. What else might I do, not necessarily for my boss, but to help me to get through this time? Thank you for any insight you may be able to share.

Signed, Bummed With Little To Do

Dear Bummed With Little To Do:

You work for a tax funded institution. What you convey, from a retired educational administrator’s perspective, gives education a bad name. It is unfair to everyone involved especially to you and to the tax paying public that you serve.

Evaluate the situation of your immediate supervisor candidly. What is the basis for her lack of productivity? Does she have a health problem? Sleep apnea and clinical depression come to mind. I have dealt with both in my experience. I say this only to give you some insight into a problem that is probably beyond your control medically. However, if the person in question could be persuaded to have a thorough physical, and if either of these problems exists, she can be helped.Let me make a suggestion. Talk to a family member in confidence- -a husband or other close relative. Approach this discussion from the standpoint of concern. Reassure them that you like your supervisor and have previously enjoyed working with her. You, after all, have been concerned enough to seek the advice of the Workplace Doctors. Say so and share this suggestion with them- -ask them to collaborate with you on the solution. State the work problems comparing the past to the present. Also, share the reactions of others in the office that have noticed.

Encourage this relative to seek a medical investigation. They might even share before hand with the medical professional their concern and ask specifically for apnea and depression to be considered. This action on their part could be accomplished confidentially.Your on-the-job solution must be more open but is equally difficult. However, your sentiments in the last two paragraphs of your submission are conversationally worded. Your boss needs to hear them. Ask for a conference and tell her of your concern. Indicate that you are becoming stressed by the lack of productivity. Emphasize that other office workers have noticed and commented on this problem and that your success is dependent on her success. You share a symbiotic relationship so to speak. Ask her point blank what you can do to return to the old days when you had pride in your work and felt more fulfilled. Share with her that you have become so concerned that you have sought professional advice from this site. Be prepared to share with her what advice and suggestions you received. Be gentler with my opening sentence but this fact needs to be brought to the forefront at some point in your attempt to solve the problem.The workplace may not be the most appropriate site for this discussion.

Try to arrange a discussion at a nearby restaurant before work over coffee or at a dinner meeting. If you think a third party could help focus the problem, invite them and tell your boss that they also will attend. You might even consider inviting her to your home for a meal or social. I suggest that this be done on a Friday so that the boss can have the weekend to contemplate and comprehend.In the meantime, keep an activity log.

List on it your task, its purpose, and time spent. You might be surprised at the amount of work you are actually accomplishing or you will have concrete data to reinforce you point in the conference. I suggest you keep this activity bank for at least 10 days. After the conference, continue to keep it. If things improve, take it to your boss and celebrate. If things do not improve, you have every right to take the next step. Go over her head. You have documentation that you can present, you tried to alleviate the problem yourself, and you are experiencing unwarranted work stress. Ask this person for their collaboration and advice. Apply it. If things improve go to them and celebrate.

If not go to them and suggest that you want to give the taxpayers their due and are not doing so in the current environment. Ask for their intervention or the possibility of a transfer to another team or department. You may want to consider involving a third party such as a co-worker in this conference also. Action on your part seems imperative. Not to do so seems dishonest and irresponsible. You are paid from the public till to be productive. You are not paid to look busy.Good luck and let us know what action you take and how things go!

P.S.? This caution–by-passing your boss, even with the best of intentions, by going over her head or to a member of her family in confidence, risks causing the anger and mistrust of your boss should it be learned you have done so. Promises to keep something in confidence often are broken or seem to leak out. That does not mean you should not by-pass, but you might first tell the boss you are doing so. Weigh these remarks and then act in the best interest of all concerned. That is what our signature WEGO symbolizes.

Barry Hester