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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

my boss is lazy and doesn't do any work

A reader writes:

I believe that my boss sets a poor example. Our offices are adjoining and during the day I hear her playing video games on her iTouch, making phone calls about mortgage refinancing and car loans, using Rosetta stone software. Sometimes when I stop by her office she has her kindle or ipad open to the latest book she has been reading. She is off every Friday and works from 10-4, at best, most other days. So far this year she has taken 3 two-week "working" vacations. 

But nothing can be done because she is a vice president and owns a 3% share of the company. The founder retains about 90% and some other VPs own 1-2% as well. Add to that the fact that her division brings in about 40% of company revenue and accounts for nearly all of our profit, and she believes her behavior is justified.

Needless to say, this does not result in a great working relationship. It's hard to put in effort for someone who seems to put forth none of her own and who is seldom present. A transfer to another division of the firm is unlikely and I've been looking for another job for some time with no success. Do you have any advice on how to deal with this frustrating and demoralizing situation?

Well, there are many, many slackers out there. This one just happens to be your boss.

There are typically two ways people can respond to having this kind of boss: They can either be lazy too, because she probably allows it ... or they can ignore the crappiness of the boss and work hard anyway. If you take the first path, you might get to enjoy some rousing computer games during the day, but you'll squander the opportunity to build your professional reputation and skill set. If you take the second path, you can become known as a hard and competent worker. In fact, because it'll be so easy to outshine her, you might find that you can build that reputation even faster than if she were actually doing her job. There is sometimes enormous opportunity in working alongside slackers, simply by being different.

And having that kind of great reputation pays huge dividends -- even if you aren't interested in promotions at this company, your reputation is what will get you jobs by word of mouth other places. It's worth a ton.

And I want to point out something you wrote: "It's hard to put in effort for someone who seems to put forth none of her own and who is seldom present."  But remember, you're not putting in the effort for her. You're doing it for you. You're doing it because, unlike her, you are someone who cares about doing a good job and has a work ethic and cares about your reputation and professional advancement. It's not for her. 

And if it makes you feel better, she may have a good job now, but what kind of reputation and respect can she have? Her laziness will limit her. Be glad you're not like her.


Karen said...

I agree about not using the boss' laziness as an excuse to be lazy also, but general power-play dictates that if you outshine the boss, the boss can cut you off (ie, fire you, steal your accomplishments, fluff them off, etc).

Fine line, to be sure.

Kisa said...

Amen. Couldn't have put it better myself.

Charles said...

Okay, I'll be the fly in the ointment here - Maybe this boss is not lazy, but bored. She clearly has a stake in the company; However, it is only 3 percent.

Maybe, she has a office so that she can "keep an eye on things." But with only 3% at stake the 90% stakeholder doesn't want to trust her with too much.

I agree that her behaviour sets a bad example; but could the letter writer follow a third path?

Yes, try to do good work; but, if the boss is the direct supervisor, try to engage her. Maybe ask her advice on some issues that arise? This way she may become more involved (if that is in fact what the letter writer really wants).

Also, how much independence does the boss give the letter writer? Perhaps, instead of looking at the boss's "detachment" as a problem it should be seen as a blessing (If one has ever worked for a micromanager such an detached boss is a real blessing)

Lastly, how much of the boss's interaction with the others does the letter writer see? Perhaps, (and I think this is a very common mistake for employees/staff to make) the boss's job is one that involves more "thinking" rather than "doing"? (that still doesn't excuse setting a bad example)

Just something thoughts to ponder.

Anonymous said...

I work in a company where the owner is the lazy one, the HR person is also a part owner and barely works. It makes it almost impossible to move forward on disciplinary actions because she is rarely in the office and everything has to be approved by her.
We've had our last 2 groups of new hires get their insurance late because she forgot to send their paperwork into the insurance company.
It's extremely frustrating and the lack of concern from the owners trickles all the way down to the lowest level and therefore no one is motivated to do their best unless they have that rare personal work ethic.
I wish I had a quick answer for the OP, but all I can do is empathize with you.

Kathy said...

Check out the book, "Working With You is Killing Me" by Katherine Crowley and Kathi Elster. It's got a section in it about working for dysfunctional bosses and some good ways to frame the situation and deal with it. Good luck.

fposte said...

I'm in the "mixed blessing" crowd, as someone who's definitely been in that situation myself. I have indeed found some job satisfaction in defining myself very differently than such a boss, but I also ended up carrying the unit weight--her work and mine. I don't regret it, but it was rough going, and if I did it over I'd be more canny about judiciously turning some not-my-job stuff away.

M. said...

To the OP: You're not alone! It's difficult for me to stay motivated and not feel resentful when I can hear—and am *distracted* by—GChat "bleeps;" streaming sportscasts; loud, aggressive, and often offensive personal phone conversations and arguments; and more. I am more productive between 12-3pm, while my boss goes to the gym, after he leaves around 4pm, and on the many Mondays and Fridays when he doesn't come in at all because I don't have to fight against all these environmental distractions, not to mention the personal morale-suck of watching my superior goof off and get away with it while I struggle to get all of *our* work done.

I totally agree with AAM's last two points: you've got to put in the effort for yourself, not for your boss, and it can help to remember that you're in control of your own reputation and you'll be rewarded for it. It also makes me feel better to put myself in my boss' shoes—would I be fulfilled leading my life the way he does? Would I be happy? I would NOT.

I do as much "managing up" as I can, and I never, ever let my boss take credit for work that I've done. I also get paid for the overtime I put in the carry the weight and I have a reputation as "the girl who is always there when you need her."

I'm also looking for a new job.

But on the days when I still feel discouraged, frustrated, and resentful, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one in this position.

Anonymous said...

I think its naive to think that bosses are there to 'set a good example'.

Call Center Philippines Idol said...

Don't mind your boss. Just do what you have to do in the company. Finish your responsibilities and yes don't make that your reason to be lazy too. What can you do...she is still the boss.

Anonymous said...

The best is when they work those 10-3 schedules and then reprimand the whole team (master's and PhD level salaried professionals) for not being in their chairs from 8:30 to 5:30. The boss could stay home to have "her wine cellar delivered" but I was not allowed to take a sick day when my partner had surgery.