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How to Deal With a Lazy Boss

How to Deal With a Lazy Boss

Alison Green l Ask A Manager

June 04, 2010

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.

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