Hi all - this is my first post - I really appreciate the podcast and forums. Sorry if it's long, but I need to give a little background. help!

I've been at my company for about a year now and have a politically sticky situation. I'm a director, and speak to my immediate boss maybe once every couple of weeks. It's always been this way. My boss (we'll call him Joe), has 8 other direct reports, most with totally different job roles. His boss (Cathy) is the global VP reporting to the CEO. 

The good news: Cathy calls me or is in my office a few times a week. We brainstorm, strategize and plan high-level policy for the team and company. I know that this level of attention is not being paid to my peers. I also know that I'm very lucky to be mentored by someone with her brains, expertise and experience. She is absolutely trustworthy, but ultimately not someone I feel I can (or should) confide in.

The bad news: My boss is not in the loop on a lot of these things. I've tried to include him, but he is not responsive to email, and doesn't always call me back. When he does, he has only a couple of minutes, and we're inturrupted by his cell phone which he refuses to turn off or put on vibrate. Cathy has asked me to include Joe on projects and to elicit his feedback. I do my best to cover for him. The fact is, he is not giving me the support or even presence that I need. Cathy asked me last week if that was the case. I hesitated and told her that I don't feel very comfortable discussing Joe, and that I need to work harder to communicate with him.

I recently found out from one of my peers that Joe had applied for Cathy's job before she was brought on board. I guess he used to be much more engaged. 

So what should I do? This is causing resentment from my peers ("Cathy's pet"), and I'm receiving zero feedback from Joe. Cathy's very happy with my team's performance and plans. We're excelling, but I feel very vulnerable career-wise, and can't continue to cover for Joe for much longer. It's exhausting.

Thanks in advance,


jhack's picture


You can't change the past, and you can't change the politics much at all.  

SAY NOTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT JOE.  With Cathy, you can speak the truth about what you and Joe have done or not done.  Do not characterize his behavior.  But if he declined two meeting requests with you, you can tell Cathy that he declined two meeting requests.  

 You need to provide a weekly report to Joe of your projects and priorities.  He may not be engaged, but you have an obligation to keep him informed.

You have to work at your relationship with your peers.  Make sure you are helping them (or not hurting them) and that your efforts are aligned.  Treat them with exemplary professionalism.  SAY NOTHING NEGATIVE ABOUT JOE.  

Continue to focus on your team's performance.  This is your greatest protection.  It is possible that Cathy is looking for someone to replace Joe.  She probably knows if Joes' performance is below standard.  

One last thing:  make sure your resume is up to date, and that you are staying in touch with your network.  While the situation may work out for you, what you describe is inherently unstable, and it may work out in a way that is not favorable to you.  

John Hack

gpsmith's picture

I've had a slight twist with this before. I've ended up working quite closely with our Director who is three levels above me quite regularly. I found my boss and the dept boss didn't know what I was up to; but this didn't cause problems. I shared when I felt I needed to, but in reality for the work I was doing I needed that level of awareness and decision making so it would have slowed the process down if I'd gone through "official channels".

I had also heard comments that I was "brown nosing" etc, but frankly I didn't care (it's the high D in me :-). In reality I wanted to do the right thing for the company and that meant to quickest and the best way of doing it was talking above my direct line managers.

There is also the fact that this person you're speaking to is probably more important to you than your boss.

The difference I've had is that the people I was bypassing would have and did engage when needed, I just didn't need to do so.

I like John's idea of providing a weekly report; I've been doing this in the last few months, mainly because even today, the day to day activities I do my manager doesn't see as we work in different parts of the department. It's useful for you to realize what you and the team have achieved and also provides a level of evidence of the work items should there be ever some concern. I don't use if for the latter, more to share our work items so he knows what we've been up to.


tberge's picture
Training Badge

It's your responsibility to keep your boss in the loop, regardless of how nonresponsive he is or any gossip you may have heard.  Copy him in what you are doing and provide him with regular updates.  It's the professional thing to do.

Agree with John, say nothing negative about your boss, up or down the chain.