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Illustration by Cinders McLeod
Illustration by Cinders McLeod

Nine To Five

I can't get face time with my boss Add to ...

The Question:

I work in the marketing department for a large retailer in Western Canada. My boss oversees marketing for the entire group. However, I am never able to get in to see her, she is constantly in back-to-back meetings, or she cancels the scheduled meetings we have. It is impossible to get anything done in my position because everything needs her approval. The lack of respect I am treated with and the no-time-of-day-for-me attitude has pushed me to the brink of quitting. I do not know how to address this problem with her. I have never seen, in any workplace, a person who manages their schedule as poorly as my boss does.

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The First Answer:

Billy Anderson

Courage coach at Made You Think Coaching

Feeling disrespected always stings because it makes us feel like we’re not valued. As human beings we crave a sense of value and belonging. This is being amplified here by your sense of a lack of control; you want more decision-making freedom. Is that the bigger issue?

The first step is to politely share your frustration with your boss and give her a chance to respond. If you ever go over her head with this and speak directly to her boss, this is exactly what they will ask you: “Have you already tried to address this directly with her?”

The second step is to make your needs her needs. Make clear the benefits to her goals if she meets with you. Show that you’ve got her best interests in mind. If she cancels a meeting, you could reply with, “I understand you’re busy, you’ve got a lot on your plate. But just so you are aware, I need your approval on X otherwise Y and Z will be put on hold and we may miss your due date.”

The bigger issue seems to be that you want more decision-making power. Have you asked for this? When you do, you should have examples of your work that support you deserving that kind of authority, and explain how she would also benefit.

Quitting is always an option, but when you look back on it you will want to feel confident that you did everything you could before you jumped ship.

The Second Answer:

Zuleika Sgro

HR business partner at a financial services firm

Speak up – in my experience communication is almost always the first and best course of action. We typically feel that bosses need to initiate all conversations or should know if there’s a problem. Chances are your boss doesn’t even realize how much her lack of face time with you impacts you. Tell her how you feel. Your reasoning for wanting to meet is to get your work approved and move on to the next stage, and to get some leadership from her – all things you are entitled to.

I know what you’re thinking – how can I speak with her if I can’t even get a meeting? If it proves to be too difficult to schedule a meeting to discuss this, make notes of the points you want to cover and e-mail them to her, then suggest a more informal meeting to talk about it, such as lunch or coffee.

Be creative and suggest a solution. Look at this as an opportunity to improve work flow and the approval process. For example, is it realistic for your boss to approve all your work? What is the effect of the hold up? What can you do to move things forward?

Your future is in your hands. Quitting in the end really impacts you the most. I find many people look to quitting as the solution to problems instead of attempting to solve them. We learn at a very young age to “never give up” and “keep trying” – why is this lost at work? It’s likely if you were to quit and take another job other problems would come up – how would you handle it? Is quitting really the answer?

Time is scarce in every company these days. We are all trying to do more with less and managers aren’t just sitting around watching over everyone. They have a million things to do, too.

Remember your boss has a boss and is probably responsible for a whole host of projects you don’t even know about. You have an opportunity to help make things better with your manager. Don’t wait for her to change – talk to her about it.

Are you facing a burning issue at work? Need help navigating that minefield? Let our Nine To Five experts help solve your dilemma. E-mail your questions to ninetofive@globeandmail.com. Confidentiality ensured. Weigh in with your view at tgam.ca/careers.

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