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Should I cut my boss slack?


Celadon
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I've got a boss who is nearing 70 years old. But he's pretty energetic and definitely wants to be seen as being on top of the job. We work in a pretty fast-paced environment.

 

Problem is, he kind of slacks off. He often has excuses for why he's not doing his work, or he tries to cover by saying that a small project he's working on is huge. He's had some minor health problems, but nothing major (at least, that he's told me about). I'm just wondering if I should cut him some slack, have some sympathy seeing as he's nearly 70, or if I should sit him down for a talk about what's going on with him.

 

A few times lately he's been joking about "well, if I'm even alive in five years!"

 

Thanks.

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I'm gonna disagree with most of the other posters. Just because he's your boss doesn't mean you shouldn't hold him to the same standard as your peers, you should probably hold him to a higher standard. So in my opinion the OP has every right to either "cut the boss some slack" or "sit him down".

 

I have no idea how you would go about approaching a sit down though, that's going to be a delicate situation. Personally, I'd just let it slide as long as it is not directly hindering my own work in some massive way.

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I'm gonna disagree with most of the other posters. Just because he's your boss doesn't mean you shouldn't hold him to the same standard as your peers, you should probably hold him to a higher standard. So in my opinion the OP has every right to either "cut the boss some slack" or "sit him down".

 

I have no idea how you would go about approaching a sit down though, that's going to be a delicate situation. Personally, I'd just let it slide as long as it is not directly hindering my own work in some massive way.

The problem is that it is the prerogative of a boss to set the standards and if he chooses to set a different standard for himself that is his choice to make. If he has a superior who disagrees that is a matter between them.

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Keep in mind that most people don't think their boss does enough, whether the boss is young or old!

 

People frequently don't understand the role of management either... their job is to manage people, not do the same work their employees do (as a rule).

 

I'd stay out of it. It's his own boss's job to decide whether the guy is doing enough. Not your job, not your problem.

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The problem is that it is the prerogative of a boss to set the standards and if he chooses to set a different standard for himself that is his choice to make. If he has a superior who disagrees that is a matter between them.

 

Sure, and it is my choice to decide if the standard set by my boss is something I can work under. And if it's not something I can work under then I should do something about it. Many times you can't do anything because of the fear of losing your job, which you may not have the liberty of giving up. Sometimes you just have to suck it up. I guess the grim reality is that we are held hostage by our paycheques, which kinda sucks.

 

I just feel it's perfectly fine for the OP to question management and the feeling I got from most of the posts was that it was crazy to question management. I agree that ultimately it is up to the bosses superior to assess the situation.

 

It just seems to me that people don't hold their employers/managers accountable often enough. They hold you to a certain standard and you should hold them to a certain standard. In my opinion, some things are just worth quitting/getting fired over. Of course, sometimes I rock the boat so hard I fall out, so take anything I have to say with that in mind.

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The problem is that if management don't feel it is perfectly fine to question their decisions and work ethic then an employee would be unwise to do so if they wish to keep their job. It may not be fair or just - but few things are, especially when one person has power over another.

 

Deciding whether it is worth losing a job over is a question for the individual - but it is worth bearing in mind that the person who fires you is very often the person that potential employers will want to ask for their opinion about you.

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OK, sure, I'm in a little unusual of a situation in that I'm pretty much in charge of our department. He knows it, I know it, and most people come to me with any questions they have. It happened because my boss doesn't want to deal with the week-to-week responsibility; yet because he doesn't know what's going on, it's really hard for him to have much credibility or authority.

 

But yes, of course, his boss is the one responsible for MY boss's work. I actually think the Big Boss would be surprised at how our department works (he still thinks my boss is running things), but I'm not about to squeal on my boss. I'd just like him to at least do what he keeps saying he's going to do. Like our annual performance reviews, which are months overdue now.

 

The thing about it is, although I've stepped up, I'm not about to do his full job -- not unless I get paid a lot more. So I'm left with trying to set my boundaries pretty firm with my boss, and "manage up," as they say. Try to get him to do what needs doing. But back to the whole thing about him being nearly 70 ... I want him to do more, but I'm trying to figure out if, well, he CAN.

 

And by "sit him down," I would probably suggest we meet, then gently ask him how his health is. But the thing is, I don't know how I would transition from there to ... "So, I really need you tell me how you're doing and whether you foresee yourself cutting back hours or anything ..." I just want to know what's going on with him...

 

It just seems to me that people don't hold their employers/managers accountable often enough. They hold you to a certain standard and you should hold them to a certain standard. In my opinion, some things are just worth quitting/getting fired over. Of course, sometimes I rock the boat so hard I fall out, so take anything I have to say with that in mind.

Naturally, I completely agree with you, Anthropic. I appreciate a good boat rocker.

 

I don't think I'm ready to quit by any stretch (at worst, I will outlast my boss) but his slacking off really IS getting to me. It sets a bad example for our staff, which only makes my job harder. (I actually have *higher* standards for managers than others, btw.) It's also demoralizing to the staff when he promises stuff and doesn't come through. And then there's work that just doesn't get done, which causes problems for people outside our department.

 

I can't afford to lose a paycheck, but it seems like I should be able to say something to him ... just not sure what ...

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One has to be very careful with this from a legal standpoint. His health is his private business, and you are not entitled to ask about it, or even suggest that he cut back his hours.

 

It also makes you look like a schemer (i.e., you want him to push him out the door to retire in hopes you might take over his job). You will look like a busybody as well, and even throwing in a little age discrimination.

 

If he is 70, i'd just let it ride and he most likely will leave soon anyway. Perhaps he is just waiting for 70, when the social security benefit amount steps up a lot, and he will get a lot more money per month. In that case, you may not have long to wait at all.

 

Also keep in mind that a retiring manager usually has a lot of pull when recommending his own replacement. If you really annoy him or make him feel like you are trying to push him out the door, you may immediately go to the bottom of his list rather than the top.

 

There also may be lots of loyalties from years of working together between him and his boss, and his recommendations may have a lot of weight with the big boss. So I honestly wouldn't recommend you approach him at all on this subject.

 

If he looks ill, i think it would be OK to ask him if he's feeling OK, but don't mention anything about how he should retire or pull more weight.

 

The truth is you already see yourself as being in charge of the department, and I think the problem is you see yourself as his 'heir' and guaranteed to be the next manager. There may be a good chance that if he retires, they may bring in someone entirely different to run the department, especially if you are young. So don't be so quick to hurry him out the door when you just might shoot yourself in the foot and end up with a worse boss, or end up scotching your own chances at management by going after the office's sacred cow.

 

Management won't admire you for that, they will see you as someone who is too young to understand politics, and hence not yet ready for a management job.

 

I think DN and I both have many years of experience in management, so we know what we're talking about here. If you want to advance, build bridges and show what you personally can do, rather than trying to boot out the old sacred cow who you see as being in the way, when he is on his way out soon anyway. Don't let your own impatience ruin your chances.

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Thanks for the advice. I appreciate your pointing out that he may be waiting until 70 for higher social security benefits. Hadn't considered that. And you are right -- his opinion will probably have some influence on who his replacement is.

 

To clarify, though -- I don't want his job, I want him to DO his job. I want him to stop leaving in the middle of the day, making up some excuses that aren't true. Or at least level with me if he needs a break. Personally, I would find that respectful. I also wish he would stop saying he's doing work when he isn't. And I wish he would focus on department priorities instead of frittering his time away telling stories of his glory days 30 years ago.

 

So if it's a bad idea to talk to him about any of this, is there anything you can suggest to improve my current work environment?

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I've got a boss who is nearing 70 years old. But he's pretty energetic and definitely wants to be seen as being on top of the job. We work in a pretty fast-paced environment.

 

Problem is, he kind of slacks off. He often has excuses for why he's not doing his work, or he tries to cover by saying that a small project he's working on is huge. He's had some minor health problems, but nothing major (at least, that he's told me about). I'm just wondering if I should cut him some slack, have some sympathy seeing as he's nearly 70, or if I should sit him down for a talk about what's going on with him.

 

A few times lately he's been joking about "well, if I'm even alive in five years!"

 

Thanks.

 

My first thought is that his behavior is none of your business. he is senior to you, so you don't (ordinarly, and without good reason) question his competence/performance.

 

even still, I think there are some reasons to question him. Is he acting unethically, by violating business ethics? Is his slackness compromising the department's/organisation's ability to achieve its mission? If so, then IMO it's right to question him then.

 

Another thing is that employees' work ethics are different. This is not a bad thing in itself, since a manager wouldn't care if some workers are more efficient than others, as long as the work gets done and gets done well and on schedule. If your boss' bosses are happy with his work, despite his slackness, then IMO there is no issue.

 

sometimes in life, we just have to turn a blind eye to things, or accept and move on.

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It doesn't matter whether you want his job or not, if you go after him and suggest he retire, it will LOOK like you are after his job. So best to leave that alone.

 

You will find that you really can't control anyone else's behavior, only your own. If you are doing a great job, stepping in and picking up the slack, i'm sure that you will be thought well of.

 

If someone higher up asks you what you think of his performance, tell the truth, but he most likely will be retiring soon, and this will problem will probably solve itself soon.

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