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Karin’s Leadership Articles

Ideally your boss is interested, eager to remove roadblocks, asking provocative questions, and helping build your career. That’s the leader I wish for you, and want you to be. But, with 71% of workers disengaged, chances are one day or another you’ll work for a disengaged boss.

5 Benefits of a Disengaged Boss

On the surface it sucks. Your team’s killing themselves and your boss is just not paying attention. You ask for feedback, and he says everything is “fine.” Your updates fall into a black hole. You worry about your team, and your career.

Cheer up, played well, there’s upside to a disengaged boss:

  1. Freedom to Experiment – Don’t go crazy, but try creative approaches to improve the business. Pilot that new idea. Try leading differently. Enjoy the freedom to try new things without the need to constantly read out on your every move. Then package your success stories and share best practices.
  2. Broadened Network – Your boss is not the only one you can learn from. Having a disengaged boss can push you to broaden your network. Seek out mentors and other advocates. Look for opportunities to interface with his boss. Invest in your peer relationships.
  3. Marketing Your Work – You’re going to have to work a bit harder to get your work noticed. Use this opportunity to build those skills. Work on streamlining your emails and improving your presentation skills. Schedule time with your boss and others to share information and get the feedback you need. Reach out to other stakeholders. Having to work a bit harder will build important skills.
  4. Strategic Thinking – A disengaged boss will force you to work a level up. Consider what you would say in his position. Learn as much as you can about the bigger context for your work. Be the boss you wish you had.
  5. Teambuilding – Nothing brings teams together more than a common cause. Invest deeply in your peers. Leverage one another’s skills. Support each other’s development. A disengaged boss won’t be around for long, but your peer relationships can last through your whole career.

Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

17 Comments

  1. Ali Anani (@alianani15)

    Karin- this is a very creative post. Turning negatives into positives is the highest level of creativity in my opinion. You have done this with this ENGAGING post.
    The story- I experienced similar situations many times. One example, an ad-based newspaper carried the name of the capital and next to its name in bold red was written FREE. This was because some people started to sell the newspaper. The negative reaction was how come? Is the capital city sold for free? I did the following for the owner. I added the statement: free…it is too dear to be sold.

    I can go on. The theme of this post echoes so well and I wish I could go on and on…

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Ali, Thanks so much for your very kind words and for your story. I love, that, “it’s too dear to be sold.” Did that shift his “sales?”

      Reply
      • Ali Anani (@alianani15)

        Karin- thanks. With all honesty it made wonders.
        I want to emphasize the value of your post. It is not only for leaders. It is for every negative aspects of life.
        I met an old lady with a broad nose. Somebody dared to mock at her nose. He quietly replied :it is broad so that I may take in more fresh air”.
        A person who fails to think positively will surely be disengaged.

        Reply
        • letsgrowleaders

          Ali, Fantastic. LOVE the nose story…it’s tought to see the upsides, but there’s real magic there.

          Reply
          • Ali Anani (@alianani15)

            Karin- I read the comments next to mine. They both share positivity. Congratulate yourself on having such wonderful commenter. I do appreciate these comments and your responses.

  2. Steve Borek

    Most organizations are doing more with less. A lot less.

    Boss’s are stressed beyond belief.

    I see it in my coaching practice in working with leaders.

    One thing you can do as a constituent is sit down with your boss and inquire. What’s going on with them? What can you, as the follower, do for them? Listen.

    This is the greatest gift you can give the leader who’s consumed with too much on their plate.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Steve, Such a wonderful point. What may come across as disengagement, may really be a sign of stress and overload. “What can I do to help?” is always a valuable question.

      Reply
  3. Don Currier

    Great article Karin, as you noted, many of us have or will likely experience this issue somewhere during our career. I would add that every point you made about benefitting from disengaged bosses can be applied to working with an engaged boss. An engaged boss will allow and even expect your performance to reflect these 5 points. Bottom line takeaway for me is these 5 points should be a part of every Leaders tool kit regardless of the type of boss they work for.
    Have a great weekend.
    Don

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Don, YES! I totally agree. Thanks so much for pointing that out.

      Reply
  4. Joy Guthrie

    Great post, Karin! All really good ideas. Reaching out to others both within the organization and outside of it to broaden both your network and your expertise is a great idea. Bonding with your peers is such a great idea (as long as you steer away from bashing the disengaged boss; but, instead, seek to create greater bonds between you).

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Joy, Thanks! What an important add. It’s easy to want to bond and trash that boss. Don’t.

      Reply
  5. Patti Maddams

    Although I was hoping to find ways to ENGAGE a disengaged boss, these tips were helpful in reminding me of the valuable experience I am getting by doing the work my boss would normally do, and by expanding my skills. Unfortunately not all disengaged bosses “won’t be around for long”, especially when their assistant is making sure all the work gets done in a timely fashion and their boss is not on site to notice.

    Reply
    • letsgrowleaders

      Patti, on that front. I would work to talk with him or her. Don’t blame, but own it and ask for what you need. Start with “How can I be most helpful?” Share that you really want to invest in the relationship. Ask for perspective and advice. Invite her/him to meetings. Be proactive in engaging and including. Give him/her a chance to add value in a fulfilling way. What have you tried so far?

      Reply
  6. Bob (@Culture_Ninja)

    Great topic! Don’t let the lack of engagement of your boss (or your co-workers) stop you from learning, growing, and kicking some butt! Love it! Wish I had wrote it! 😉

    Reply
  7. Matt McWilliams

    I love this thinking. Boss out of the way, I step up.

    Most people don’t see it as an advantage. I see it as a chance to lead.

    Reply

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