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5 Ways To Deal With A Disengaged Boss

There’s always a lot of chat about employee disengagement. As we end the year disengagement becomes more apparent. 

The blogosphere is littered with how-to guides for managing disengaged employees – and tips for getting out of the slump, for those who count themselves among the disengaged masses. 

What all this advice often overlooks is that most managers are employees, too. They’re just as likely to be disengaged as the people they’re managing; probably even more so, given they’re copping it from both directions.

The result is a boss who, at best, has lost their passion for the job (and by extension, for you). At worst, they’re downright difficult to work for.

Here are my top five tips for dealing with a disengaged boss. 


If your boss has outgrown their role, but isn’t leaving any time soon because they’re scared to brave the job market, they’re probably sick to death of large parts of their job. Figure out what responsibilities they’d most like to be rid of, and offer to take them off their hands.  You get an opportunity to add to your skill set; they get to be shot of something that doesn’t challenge them anymore.


Your boss might be too busy fretting about their own career progression (or lack thereof) to spare a thought for yours.  In times like this remember: You are a grown up. You can make things happen.  It’s not enough to do a good job then wait around passively for a pat on the back. Look for opportunities to do good work in areas that will help you get ahead. Book yourself in for a catch up with your boss to discuss your career goals, and connect the dots for them so they can clearly see how your development will be good for them, too (see #1).


If you’re not feeling the love at work, you can bet it’s worse for your boss, who undoubtedly won’t be getting any high fives from their bosses, let alone their own staff.  Of course, no-one likes a sycophant, but look for opportunities to give some genuine appreciation and praise for the work that your boss is doing.  Help them be successful by getting behind their initiatives. Find out what their pressure points are, and jump in to help. Happy boss = happy team.


A really disengaged boss might coast along most of the time, not pulling their weight and not caring if anyone else does, either. That is, until that big report is just about due, when they start throwing out all sorts of unreasonable demands. If they’ve only got half an eye on their work, then they’re probably out of touch with timeframes and external pressures. Make a point of proactively bringing these to their attention and setting realistic expectations. In other words, you need to ‘manage up’.


That way you can get new skills, as well as increase your profile and highlight your skills across the company. You might be able to create an opportunity for a move or promotion outside of your team. It’ll also give you a chance to build relationships with other managers who can mentor you, or act as a referee if things go sour. 

While in an ideal world, we’d all work for amazing bosses with our best interests at heart, sadly that’s often not the case. The good news is that ultimately, you own your career – and no-one else. Try these strategies to turn your situation around, or consider looking for a great boss elsewhere

About the author

Angela Cameron - CA, CPA

Executive Director

A chartered accountant by qualification, she is a recruitment leader by nature.

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