One of the most frustrating kinds of boss is the boss who really isn’t there: the ‘‘no-boss boss.’’ This is the opposite of the overly aggressive, controlling, or micromanaging boss. It’s the boss who manages by not managing; the leader who leads by not leading. This boss often does not make decisions and lets things ride until someone else has to make the decision. He’s a boss who often does not know what is going on and depends on subordinates to know. In short, this boss may have the title, but in fact has left the ship rudderless or without a captain. As a result, management and leadership by default fall onto the employees. But this is not the same as a self managed team, where team members have a clear idea of what they are doing, know who’s in charge, understand the limits of their authority, and set their goals and tasks to get there. Instead, there is more of a sense of muddling along and filling in because the boss’s lack of management has created a leadership vacuum.

How does a boss end up in or continue in this position? One common way is when a person with technical expertise gets promoted into management, yet is still making a good technical contribution. The person may even continue to be supported by upper level management because of his contributions as a technical expert. As long as the boss has an assistant or other employees who can pick up the management/leadership slack, the situation can continue.

Yet, while some employees might welcome the freedom and autonomy of a boss who is missing in action, this situation often leaves employees frustrated and uncertain about what’s going on. Additionally, some non managerial employees taking on the management role might come to feel resentment and think they are underpaid, since they have in fact become the managers.

What to do :

1. If there’s a management vacuum, you can fill it yourself; after all, nature abhors a vacuum.

2 .If you have a boss who isn’t acting like a boss, it may be because he really doesn’t want to be a boss and would really rather just be a technical expert.

3. If you’re a better manager or leader than your boss, then go do it; in the long run, you will be recognized as a manager and a leader, too.

4. If your boss is making no decisions, that is a decision to continue the status quo. If that’s not what you want, seek to make the decision yourself so you are better able to get what you want.

Source : Gini Graham Scott, Ph.D. Amacom Books. 2006

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