How do I deal with my lazy boss?


I am a part of a newly created division within my company struggling to prove its worth and compete with similar divisions in other parts of the country.

I am a unit manager and I work for a division manager who lacks experience, doesn't like to come into the office until 11:00, leaves at 16:00, has two even less experienced managers reporting to him who he doesn't mentor or assist in their growth and doesn't take advice from those who report to him.

If I go over his head and complain about his short comings, I'm afraid I will be accused of not being a team player and the whole division will look bad if his lack of ability is brought to light. In other words, we will run the risk of being shut down.

How can I help him understand that he is a large part of the morale, disorganization and dissatisfaction problem? I do not want to leave my job; I just don't know how to make it liveable. Help!

Diane, Pennsylvania

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Rob Yeung's Answer:

It sounds as if you have already tried to speak to your manager about the situation. However, I would suggest that you set up a one-to-one meeting with him to tell him what you need from him to help you do your job. Of course I can't know what you have already done to try to resolve the situation, but try this slightly different approach.

Don't try to advise your boss or tell him how he should be doing his job. You report to him and he would likely see that as insulting. However, you are perfectly within your rights to request clear guidance as to what your objectives should be as well as how you should go about achieving them.

Tell your boss your frustrations in a sensitive, but upfront manner. But make sure to focus on what the two of you can do going forwards rather than on what he has been doing wrong in the recent past. Focus on positive actions that you would like your boss to start taking rather than criticising him for what he has or has not been doing so far.

Another course of action would be to seek advice from people in other parts of the company. While I agree that going over his head to complain about his shortcomings could be seen as disloyal, you could certainly have informal discussions with your peers – other managers at a similar level to you – to ask for advice.

A strong manager always has a good network with colleagues across their company. You say that your division is competing with other similar ones across the country, but there should at least be other support functions or parts of the business that you interact with who are there to help the overall business to succeed. They may be able to share information or ideas on how to revive your division.

And if the situation does not improve with your division manager, you can also use the people within your network as a sounding board to discuss the most culturally acceptable way of going above his head.

About our Expert

Rob Yeung
Rob Yeung

Dr Rob Yeung is a Director and executive coach at leadership consulting firm Talentspace. He is the author of over a dozen career and management books including How to Win and I is for Influence.