I’ve worked with a number of Executives over the years and seen many many different types of management styles. Some Executives have been incredibly inspirational, others have been controlling and micromanage your every move and then there are those type of managers I want to discuss today – the manager that never makes a decision. The non-manager so to speak! These types of Executives will leave a decision unmade until someone else makes it for them or the problem simply goes away. In this circumstance everyone sort of muddles along, without clear objectives or really knowing what is going on.

For assistants in this situation it can be pretty tough. Often colleagues will ask you to make decisions on behalf of the boss, which is incredibly stressful. Colleagues might think that you are not relaying information or questions back to your Executive when in fact you have asked them on more than one occasion but have yet to receive a clear answer. Often you will find yourself covering up for your boss when really they are incapable of making any decisions. The Executive may be technically brilliant at their job but unable to manage staff which means their assistants will also find themselves picking up the people management slack.  This is great to start with but after a number of years working as an assistant with all of this management experience the thought of being promoted into an actual management role is neigh on impossible – particularly with a manager that has no clue that their assistant is actually doing all of the additional work.

In this situation I have always found it hard to change a non-manager. I’ve had honest conversations about our working relationship but their behaviour is so ingrained that most of the time they don’t even realise their lack of leadership is causing any problems. If they are aware of it, they tend to be good at their work which is keeping them in a job and their boss happy so why do they care what their staff think? When I have found myself in this situation (thankfully it has only been once) I worked around my manager, accepted that he was never going to manage me particularly well and instead made the best with what I had. I didn’t stay in the role very long but here are my tips if you do find yourself working with a boss that never makes a decision.

  • Keep a list of everything that you do including all of the additional managerial tasks that you take on. I would also keep all of the emails or communications that contain details of the decisions that you have made. If your manager is ever interested in finding out what you do – you have a list. Also if your manger eventually gets found out you will have documented evidence of your managerial experience. This can be used to prove you are ready for a promotion or a pay rise.
  • This type of boss will pretty much leave you to figure out what type of role you have and what type of work you want to do. Think about the positives – when you have eventually had enough and you leave this role you will have a ton of additional expertise and skills. Proactively manage yourself by taking on extra work that you find interesting and challenging. Ensure your colleagues know you are running the office and use that position to gain as much managerial experience as possible.
  • Although your boss is not aware how much they are reliant on you, other people within the team will notice. Keep pleasing and supporting your colleagues – one of them may end up being promoted and want to take you with them. Alternatively your current boss might be replaced with one of your colleagues. Either way your good work will pay off.
  • In this situation you have to be honest with your colleagues. Make sure they understand they you are not the reason your boss is not getting back to them with decisions.
  • You also have to be assertive. Some members of staff may exert their own authority if they realise their leader is not actually leading. These types of people will certainly try to make support staff do work for them which they should be doing themselves.
  • Should you keep your boss in the loop when it comes to decisions that you’ve made? I would say yes because you are covering yourself if there ever comes a time that decision is questioned. I’ve found with managers that don’t care if they are bad at managing staff are good at blaming their staff if anything goes wrong.
  • If the situation is making you frustrated and unhappy with your role, this is probably one to remove yourself from. You will have gained a huge amount of experience so find a job that values those skills and actually rewards you for having them.