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The Question

I work in communications and have come to realize that my boss is a macromanager. She provides very little direction on most tasks and often isn’t available when a project is under way. That said, we have a good working relationship. We meet every two weeks and she seems pleased with my performance. While having a hands-off boss may be ideal for some people, I’m quite young, just starting my career and am looking for guidance and some mentoring. My boss is reaching retirement age and I get the impression that her style of management won’t be changing at this point. Should I just accept this dynamic between us and seek out other opportunities? Or is it worth addressing with her?

The First Answer

Bill Howatt, chief of research (workforce productivity), Conference Board of Canada, Ottawa: Since your manager is pleased with your work and you have a good rapport with her, your desire to learn more and to get more feedback and mentoring is reasonable. You likely are correct that, if she’s at the end of her career, she likely will not change her management approach. However, she may be open to fulfilling a request for more mentoring.

Before going any further, it would be helpful to pause and think about one or two things you would like to learn from your manager over the next few months. This can help create a goal that can frame your request. Provided you believe your manager has good intentions for you, it’s certainly worth a try. It can’t hurt.

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It would be beneficial to write out the kinds of mentoring conversations you’d like to have (for example, “What do I need to improve on to get to your level?”). Once you’re clear on that, set up a time to have a conversation. Your approach could be as simple as, “I’d enjoy having a few conversations with you about my career, if you would be open to that.”

If this approach works, you have created the conditions to get some structured mentoring. In the event she’s not interested, you’ll need to decide how important this kind of support is at this point in your career – whether you can wait for a new manager or if it’s time to look for a new opportunity.

The Second Answer

Colleen Clarke, career specialist, Toronto: It is impressive to know you have a healthy working relationship with your boss. Have you asked her for a more hands-on approach to working with you, being specific about what you mean by hands-on? Often employees prefer to be left to their own devices. Good on you for recognizing that more guidance is important to you now, and for taking the initiative to speak up. Having a mentor is a mature and professional way to move upward and onward in your career. Mentoring is the oldest form of learning.

Close-to-retiring managers often love mentoring over managing, so asking your boss to mentor you might just be her bailiwick. Do some reading on the expectations of mentees and mentors. Prepare a list of areas/skills your projects cover and examples of where her expertise would be beneficial to you. Ask open-ended questions. Also, be prepared to list your strengths and accomplishments. Maybe you are an apt learner, a strong editor or an accomplished speechwriter. Tell her your goals and aspirations and what challenges and motivates you.

Outline what you need and when her mentoring would be most effective. Be prepared to listen. Be receptive to trying new things, learning new skills, to stretch and grow. Be respectful of her time and her priorities. Show you are serious by setting goals, by being receptive to feedback and by remaining open to be challenged. Keep communication open and be on time for meetings.

Have a question for our experts? Send an email to NineToFive@globeandmail.com

Stay ahead in your career. We have a weekly Careers newsletter to give you guidance and tips on career management, leadership, business education and more. Sign up today.

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