Dear Mark: My boss is consistently late or even misses our 1-on-1s and I’m nervous to say something. How do I approach them?
January 11, 2023 | Mark Altman
The Problem: Your boss is either consistently late or doesn’t show up at all for your 1:1s. In addition, they don’t give you a heads up or let you know they’re running late or not coming. Worse, they don’t seem to care or feel remorseful about their tardiness or no-shows.
The Root Cause:
Your boss may:
• Struggle to manage themselves; they may be so overwhelmed with their schedule, putting out fires, and keeping up with the workload that communication stops.
• Have authority entitlement: “You work for me, and my priority is taking care of our customers/clients/prospects.”
• Be putting customers or sales prospects before you and expect you to understand that.
• Not value the 1-on-1s anyway so they see it as no big deal.
Multiple Challenges/Determine a Realistic Outcome
There are three separate problems here and it is unlikely you can solve all of them in one conversation. 1) Your boss is a varying degree of late, 2) doesn’t let you know, and 3) doesn’t seem to care. Pick a starting point. In this case, it is that they at least extend the courtesy of letting you know when their plans change.
Have a “Managing Up” conversation with your boss and share your observation/experience to get alignment on the issue. Your boss may respond and say how busy they’ve been, make excuses, or otherwise not validate what you’re saying. Don’t let that deter you or get emotionally invested in their response.
Make the Ask
Instead, be direct, lead with empathy and ask for permission: “I appreciate how much you have on your plate. Would it be okay to please let me know if you’re running late or can’t make a meeting? When you don’t do that, I’m missing out on opportunities to be productive, support my own team, and help the company be successful.”
Make your request direct and reasonable, with a compelling motivation for them to comply.
To help your boss build self-awareness and ultimately shift their behavior, ask, “If I become aware of you doing that again, do I have permission to hold you accountable?”
Content derived from MindsetGo Training Programs: Speak Up to Keep Up Assertiveness Training; Courageous Conversations
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