Kim Scott Radical Candor podcast

Podcast Episode 20: Help! My Boss is an Absentee Manager

Absentee managers may not be as frustrating as micromanagers, but they’re even more common and can have a negative impact on your career. Kim and Russ share stories of absentee managers, talk about whether to just make do with this type of boss and give their tips for what to do when you find yourself with an absentee manager.

Listen to the episode:

In This Episode

Russ and Kim have heard loads of stories about absentee managers. The episode starts with Russ sharing a recent occurrence for a woman he mentors. She was trying for weeks to get her one-on-one meeting rescheduled with her boss, only to find out that he had been actively trying to avoid their meeting!

While this is an extreme example, Kim mentions that more commonly, bosses become absentee managers because they’re trying so hard not to be a micromanager. This well-known saying isn’t actually a great idea:

All I do is hire the right people and get out of their way.

Kim clarifies why you shouldn’t follow this conventional wisdom:

People come to work for you because they want to work with you.

Kim also shares a story about seeking out and being grateful for an absentee manager. She thought it was great at first, but over time she learned that she wasn’t growing the way that she wanted.

This story flows right into this week’s listener question – a listener wonders if she should be glad that she has an absentee manager instead of a micromanager and just make do. Kim and Russ point out that these two classifications are the two ends of a spectrum, and there is a middle ground — a thought partner. They talk about the things you miss when you settle for an absentee manager instead of a thought partner.

The Candor Checklist

The episode ends, as always, with specific tips you can put into practice right away. If you have an absentee manager, here are our tips for improving the situation:

Tip 1: Ask for 1:1 meetings.

Tip 2: Schedule time to discuss goals for yourself or your team.

Tip 3: Give feedback to your boss.

Get the full explanations of these tips by listening to the episode.

Related Resources

Here’s a chart from Chapter 7 of Radical Candor that will help you think more about the types of things that fall into absentee manager territory:

Dig into more advice on absentee managers and related topics:

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