SURVEY SAYS: What Happens When Your Boss is Out?

November 8, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Earlier this week, we covered a survey of workers - who, for the very most part, said that their work is unaffected by their boss' presence (or absence).

In fact, nearly one-in-four said they got more done when their boss wasn’t around (see  While the Cats Away, the Mice…. ).  

This week, I asked readers if it made a difference when your boss was out.

Well, for a clear plurality – more than 38% of this week’s respondents – whether the boss was in or out had no impact at all, though 28.6% got more done when the boss was out, and only about 3% said they got less done (or got stuck with more work).    On the other hand, nearly a third chose “other” – a response category that ran the gamut – but was mostly comments along the line of “I work harder, but don’t get more done.”

As one respondent noted, “I was going to check the box “I get less done”, but that’s not 100% true…I get less of my OWN work done. When my boss is either on vacation or out of town, I am the next in line to contact, so most of my work gets put on the back burner while I try to stay afloat handling what she’s got going on.”

Verbatims

My favorites among this week’s verbatims:

“I really try to get more done so that my boss doesn’t think I’m sloughing off when she’s out.”

“I get more done when she’s out and wish she would were out more often.”

“…there are certain things that require her approval in order to get done. Her peer, who is responsible for that approval in her absence, sends everything back with inane questions. So, in that regard, I get less work done. In fact, our entire team stockpiles that work for her return so we don’t have to deal with her peer.”

“I get less done because I have to cover for my boss who really does work.”

“Even when my boss is out…she is in…still calls, or emails if needs something completed.”

“Yes it makes a difference. I work harder in order to play harder when he is gone.   When he is here I actually think I work slower to continue looking busy so he won’t come and chat with me.”

“I’m doing the same good job either way. Most of the time even when my boss is here he’s not really here…”

“Get more done but have more to do — have to track down the boss who does not leave his cell phone on and rarely replies to e-mails. At times, it is like “Where’s Waldo”?”

“I get more done. But that’s because when my boss is out, most of my coworkers somehow seem to be out, too. hmph…”

“In my department we tend to get more done when the boss is out – until she wakes up and gets on her blackberry or laptop. The requests that come in then are awful and knee-jerk reactions to things she is not well informed about. My supervisor came running out of his office one day while the boss was out and declared “The Boss is awake, I had to get out of my office!”

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said, “I’m my own boss, so I better get work done, even when I’m not looking :)”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!

I really try to get more done so that my boss doesn't think I'm sluffing off when she's out.
I work from home so my boss (who is in another state) is never here. It doesn't matter -- either there is work that has to be done or there isn't -- and he can put the pressure on just as well by phone as by being here.
I get more done when she's out and wish she would were out more often.
He sneaks in & out of the office. Not even his secretary, much less his wife, knows when he'll be around. Under these circumstances I guess there is no real impact. I can sleep through anything.
The only realy impact is that I get to work on my projects, versus responding to his requests!
Why? IS he gone?
I get much more done in much less time.
No real impact -- Whether she's in the office or traveling (which she does frequently in spurts), she doesn't really add value to the team from a management or mentoring perspective. She makes it known by her body language and actions that she's "busy" and has doesn't have a lot of time to deal with "staff" questions/issues (but is always available with a smile for the Big Cheese). When in her office she'll frequently not turn around to acknowledge someone and keep typing while you're asking a question, keep her door closed even when she's not in meetings, and generally hinders meeting conversations rather than helps (can you say "Adult ADD"?). Most of us only go to her when we absolutely have to because of the way she confuses the issues. Her recent promotion to AVP certainly puffed up her ego a few notches -- we just wish upper management would wake up and realize just how bad a manager she really is!
I get more done because it cuts down on meetings and leaves me with a more open schedule.
Sometimes I get more done; sometimes things are delayed because I need his input.
I'm my own boss, so I better get work done, even when I'm not looking 🙂
My boss being here has no real impact on my daily work - I still answer phone calls, respond to email, and keep things moving. However, there are certain things that require her approval in order to get done. Her peer, who is responsible for that approval in her absence, sends everything back with inane questions. So, in that regard, I get less work done. In fact, our entire team stockpiles that work for her return so we don't have to deal with her peer.
Our 'boss' is only here about 10 minutes a week (he manages another office, which we're supposed to merge into by February), so it doesn't really matter.
My staff and I get SOOOOO much more done when the dept. head is gone it's unbelievable. When my boss is around, she's constantly interrupting our workflow with things she feels are crises (but rarely are). When she's not around, I can focus on the things I know are truly important -- and make sure my staff does the same! Unlike my boss, I operate under my spin on The Incredibles' mantra "if everything's important, nothing is important" - so focus on the truly important!
I get less information. My boss is really good about sharing company information.
My boss is in another state. I get less done when the boss is visiting then when I am alone. It is great when the Manager is over 300 miles away and can only visit once in a great while.
It usually makes no difference at all. On occasion it can impede progress. I can't recall when his presence has helped. The job isn't structured to be dependant.
I get more to do because she delegates her authority to me when she is gone for prolonged periods. That's just fine with me...I get to see a broader view of issues as they bubble up...I just have to remember which hat I'm wearing...mine or hers...when I review/approve items that come across my desk.
In my department we tend to get more done when the boss is out - until she wakes up and gets on her blackberry or laptop. The requests that come in then are awful and knee-jerk reactions to things she is not well informed about. My supervisor came running out of his office one day while the boss was out and declared "The Boss is awake, I had to get out of my office!"
I get more to do, but I also get more done because of fewer interruptions. I'm sure my boss get's more done while I'm out of town...for the exact same reason!
He is located in another office, so his being in or out of the office has no bearing on me, unless of course he is out of his office because he is visiting our office - then "I get less done".
It only makes a difference if I need approval or his perspective on something. Otherwise, I am pretty much autonomous.
I get less done because I have to cover for my boss who really does work.
It depends on the length of time out. If a short time, usually not. If a week or more, it has an impact since we have a hierarchal structure. Things can only go so far up the ladder before his input is required.
Yes. When our boss is gone, which is thankfully frequently, much more is accomplished at a much lower stress level. It is amazing the productivity you can achieve without a micromanaging supervisor standing over your shoulder.
Even when my boss is out...she is in...still calls, or emails if needs something completed
Who knows. I've been working here for 10 months and my one-on-one interaction with my supervisor has totalled maybe 10 days. I've pretty much been plugging along at what I consider priorities. Good thing I'm considered the "expert" on retirement plans.
I was going to check the box "I get less done", but that's not 100% true...I get less of my OWN work done. When my boss is either on vaca or out of town, I am the next in line to contact, so most of my work gets put on the back burner while I try to stay afloat handling what she's got going on. She travels quite a bit so I dread it when she leaves!
My boss is in Allentown, PA and I am in Atlanta, GA. I rarely know that she's out until I get an "Out of Office" reply when I copy her on an e-mail. Her presence or absence has no effect at all.
Yes-- I get to have a longer lunch break and leave earlier!
I get more done because I am not running back and forth to his office to let him know what is going on. I work straight thru and give a short report of any problem area when he is back.
My boss is located in another state. How cool is that! I'm definitely more productive now (strangely enough) than when I had a boss who was in the same location as me. Probably because of fewer interruptions (only phone calls and e-mails now).
I'm doing the same good job either way. Most of the time even when my boss is here he's not really here...
I get more done of the work backlog. I don't get 'special projects' when my boss is out of the office.
Get more done but have more to do -- have to track down the boss who does not leave his cell phone on and rarely replies to e-mails. At times, it is like "Where's Waldo"?
ABSOLUTELY I get more done cause they aren't hovering over me - I finally get to work on things that normally are put on the back burner cause when the boss is here there is more gasoline added to the fires.
When my boss is out of the office, there is usually more for me to do...handling extra phone calls and e-mails, etc - so I have to manage my time a little more effectively.
I get more done. But that's because when my boss is out, most of my coworkers somehow seem to be out, too. hmph...

If the "subordinates" were reassuring on the point - that work proceeds apace whether the boss is there or not - the bosses responding to this week's survey were even more assuring.  

More than half ( 54.4% ) agreed that their subordinates worked at the same pace, regardless of their presence.   Roughly 8% thought that the group(s) that reported to them got more done when they were gone, nearly 9% said they got less done, and a like number said that "they leave plenty for me to do when I get back to the office."   Two percent said they seem to get nothing done.

As with the subordinate group, a strong one in five ( 19% ) chose "other" - but here, for the very most part, the reason was largely a function of one of two perspectives; either "it depends on the individual" - or "I'm not sure."

They probably get the same amount done or more. I try to leave most everything alone (unless directly asked) so that they have an opportunity to learn how to fix things without me. While I expect them to rise to the occasion, I also secretly hope they balance that with going out to lunch or an extra little break in the afternoon.
Have more fun
I think most slow down the pace somewhat, but they still get an awful lot done!
Depends. If I'm traveling with a lot of others, they get more done because there is less interruption. If I'm on vacation, they get less done because they are filling for me to some extent.
The lower the level of the employee the greater the negative impact of the boss being gone seems to be; clerical and young staff tend to take long lunches and leave early whereas higher level employees do not seem to be impacted and some try to impress with how much is accomplished in my absence.
They tend to be on the internet more, take longer lunches and even leave early
This is why I have a senior level partner and no employees!
most of them don't even realize I'm gone. If my closest subordinates goof off, I'll find out about it and they won't last long.
I don't seem to be doing well with either hiring or training. It seems too often they come to a stopping point rather quickly that I have to get them past. The stopping point often isn't much and they do have the knowledge and ability to solve. I also never yell or blame when things do go wrong, I prefer to fix, discuss the error so it isn't repeated and move on.
I don't know for sure but I believe they work at the same pace.
It depends on the subordinate. Some are quite self-directed, others need more outside direction and support. However, those who need direction usually go to the ones who are self-directed when I am gone, so the group on average probably works at about the same pace. It is nice to have individuals who know what their job is and are motivated to do it.

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