How to work with a boss you never see

By Robert Half on 23 February 2015

A decade ago, an absentee boss was more a one-off occurrence than a reality of professional life. But these days, a move towards remote working and hiring patterns that privilege talent over geography has seen dealing with a missing manager become central to many job descriptions.

Unfortunately, it isn’t easy to forge an effective working relationship with a manager you never see.

Here are 4 strategies for thriving in the workplace when your supervisor’s location often eludes you.

1. Set up a weekly Skype meeting

Communication is central to making any working relationship tick. This goes double when conversations with the person you report to span everything except face-to-face contact. A weekly Skype meeting or Monday phone call can help you discuss the progress of projects, share new developments and resolve any issues that could potentially arise. Setting aside a block of time for regular communication is a powerful way to work together – it’s also a faster way to address issues than typing emails on the fly.

2. Remain transparent at all times

When dealing with a manager who’s always travelling, it’s critical to establish trust. This means making every effort to remain transparent – whether you’re leaving the office early, skipping a morning to visit the doctor or working from home. Don’t let the knowledge that your boss can’t observe your actions stop you from striving to attain his or her respect. Keeping your superior in the loop as much as possible might seem unnecessary, but it also proves that he or she can trust you.

3. Don’t be afraid to take the reins

Although communicating effectively is essential, it’s equally important to show initiative and take the reins. Whether that means representing your employer at a client meeting, coming up with a new system for delivering projects or conceiving an innovative way to address a problem, you have powerful opportunities to foster your leadership skills and step up to the plate. Going beyond the call of duty also shows your boss you don’t need to be micromanaged and that your motivation levels aren’t limited to the periods they’re at work. Just make sure you take measures to avoid drastically overstepping your role.

4. Ask for support when you need it

When remote working, you need to strike a balance between maintaining independence and asking for support. After all, your supervisor is still responsible for offering guidance and cultivating your professional path. When an issue arises, make sure you alert your boss as soon as possible and let them know you need added resources or extra help. Dealing with an absent boss can sometimes mean shouldering responsibilities that aren’t yours – voicing your need for support proves your emotional intelligence as well as your commitment to getting the job done.

Dealing with an absentee boss can be challenging, but it can also set the stage for personal development and professional growth. Just ensure you communicate, maintain transparency and ask for advice if you’re unsure how to resolve a crisis or address priorities, and your working relationship will benefit.

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