Dear Office-Politics,

I’ve been working under my current manager for about three years. She is a very nice lady; however, she has a terrible work ethic. Routinely arriving late to work, leaving early, going on shopping trips or hair appointments in the middle of the day, surfing the net or playing Solitaire for several hours, etc.

Because I report directly to her, I am often the recipient of all her work. Any assignment that she receives ends up on my desk. People around the office notice her lack of work ethic, and have talked to HR. However, the HR director has told me and others, “not to be a tattletale.”

There is another person above her on the VP level. I have been debating talking to him, even though HR has told me to not to. I just don’t understand how a company can hang onto someone who doesn’t pull their weight. Please advise. Thank you!!


How Do I Deal With A Lazy Manager


Dear How Do I Deal With A Lazy Manager,

Sadly, you’ve stumbled into what has to be one of the most frustrating situations of modern work life: working for someone you don’t respect. We want to work for people who are good managers and leaders: we like having bosses who are the leaders we want to become. On a more mundane level, we like working for people who do their work, so we don’t have to do it!

It’s also a very difficult situation to address: your boss has every right to delegate work to you, and it’s a judgment call as to whether or not it’s “too much.” I fear you’d be stepping into a major rat’s nest to try to confront her (or others) about it. If she was doing something more clearly inappropriate, I’d suggest that you lean on HR more, or even go directly to her—but this is pretty amorphous, and it would, I predict, come down to “he said, she said,” which certainly wouldn’t benefit you. In other words—sorry about this—it seems unlikely to me that your boss is going to change her behavior. It sounds as though she’s been behaving like this for a long time with no consequences, so why should she do anything differently?

OK, what choices do you have? At the end of the day, you can stay or leave (I find myself saying this to people a lot—in situations like this, it’s easy to hang around for years, waiting and hoping the other person might change.) If you decide to leave, do your level best to find an organization where doing the job is required and rewarded, and where your boss has a reputation for commitment and accomplishment. You’ll be much happier.

If you want to stay, I’d suggest you look around and assess whether your boss’ behavior is the norm, or whether she’s an aberration. If she’s the norm, go back to the previous paragraph….put your resume together and get out of there!

However, if most people seem to be getting rewarded for hard work and good results—then be that kind of person to the nth degree. Be unusually competent, collaborative and self-starting. AND let people know that you’re interested in moving up in the company, if you are (that would, for instance, be a much more productive conversation to have with the person on the VP level than the complaining-about-your-boss conversation). Shine by contrast with your boss: do the work she dumps on you quickly, and with quality. Then, when someone else in the company wants to poach you, jump at the chance.

You’ve noticed, I’m sure, that all my suggestions are about what you can do differently. I get that it doesn’t seem fair for you to solve the problem when she’s the one doing her nails and buying dog beds (or whatever) online. However, I’m just trying to be your reality check here: I can’t see a compelling reason for her to put down the nail polish.

So: be the kind of employee you’d like her to be, and see what happens.

Thank you for writing to Office-Politics—keep us posted!

Best of luck,

Erika Andersen, Author