Should I stay or should I go?
May 26, 2008 6:46 PM   Subscribe

JobFilter: My boss gets busier every day; I still report to him but expecting guidance/supervision/mentoring has become a joke due to his insane workload. Should I move to another department?

He got a great promotion last year and got me one too. Soon, our company caught the eye of a larger firm and now we're being acquired.

Moving to another department is on my mind because if I stay, I can't see him having enough time to supervise me adequately OR give me the career guidance I want/need. I do OK working on my own but I don't prefer it. I want a boss that is more aware of my activities than a 2-line summary every couple of weeks or when his schedule allows.

He's a great guy and loaded with integrity. I've worked for him for 4 years and he's been hands-down the best boss I've ever had. This is actually part of the problem- everyone wants him on "their team" because his insight and savvy are so on the money; this leads to the overwork and loaded schedule, to the Nth degree now with all the changes.

I'm doing great work too- learning a ton on my own and branching out into areas that a year ago I had no knowledge of at all. I want to continue to learn and grow, but he just doesn't have time to focus on me in all the upheaval relating to the acquisition.

To force myself into face time seems selfish and silly- I can see for myself just how many crucial issues are on his plate and how many other major executives can barely get on his radar. He must think I can handle being out there on my own but at times I'm floundering. I certainly don't want to diminish myself in his eyes or come across as a needy whiner, but I need more. Arrggghh!
posted by I_Love_Bananas to Work & Money (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I'm in a similar situation, even though my company - a university - isn't going through the process of being acquired. I have a boss whose focus intersects only slightly with my own, and he's actually very literally missing from the office two months of the year, leaving me to run with the ball on my own. It's tough to grow in my career without his guidance, which I cherish.

Were I in your situation, which sounds a little less supervised than mine, I might consider switching departments. And if I was your boss, I wouldn't fault you for it. But I absolutely adore the department I work in, so I'd never look outside it. You have to decide how much you like your boss vs. how much you want face time.

To get more in the limited time you have, try popping into his office every now and again, just to ask a question. How's your social relationship with him? My boss and I go to baseball games from time to time, and I sprinkle work conversation in with the guy talk. Maybe you can see your boss outside of work and discuss your career growth without it feeling like "talking shop."
posted by sjuhawk31 at 6:55 PM on May 26, 2008

Perhaps you'll soon be getting subordinates of your own, due to the company's growth. Nothing will help you grow like becoming a leader, yourself. Your boss knows this, already.

If that is in the works, unbeknownst to you, you may be about to find yourself in a far less certain, more demanding, but far richer relationship with your boss. His span can only grow effectively, if his subordinates' spans grow. Your captain may soon be a colonel, and you, a warrant officer, though you feel still only competent to be a corporal.

I'd show up for a while and soldier on. The most fun you have on any roller coaster is right after you quit going straight up.
posted by paulsc at 6:56 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

He's a great guy and loaded with integrity. I've worked for him for 4 years and he's been hands-down the best boss I've ever had.

Being able to say those things about a boss is a rarity in the corporate world. I would stick it out, if I were you.
posted by jayder at 7:14 PM on May 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

He's a great guy and loaded with integrity. I've worked for him for 4 years and he's been hands-down the best boss I've ever had.

Don't leave. If he really is as good as you say he's on an upward trajectory, and from what I can see he's bringing you with him. Plus you actually like working for him and he's a good guy.

Can you split out the three needs you mention? "Guidance" - take the initiative and get his time when you need information to do your work. "Supervision" - maybe work on needing less of this? "Mentoring" - this is a tricky one. Does your new larger company offer any kind of a formal mentoring program? This might help fill the need for career feedback.
posted by true at 7:17 PM on May 26, 2008

Why not send him an email, give him a call, or stop in his office - which ever you prefer - and ask him if he would schedule in having lunch with you sometime in the next week or so. Use lunch as a way to catch up with him about what you've been doing. Ask if he'd schedule lunch with you once a month or something.
posted by at 7:41 PM on May 26, 2008

As someone in a roughly similar position who went through an acquisition a little over a year ago, if there is a post-acquisition career choice between going with your skills or staying with your boss, take the skills route. Me, I was Peter Principled into a title change for which I was much less trained for than the one I could have had if I had left my group and gone to another department. I left within six months.
posted by rhizome at 8:20 PM on May 26, 2008

I would put a standing appointment for a chat with your boss on the calendar - 30 minutes once or twice a month where the focus is exclusively on you and your agenda. Make it a recurring appointment, and stick to the schedule. Where I work, this is de rigeur and very senior people spend up to 50% of their time in one-on-one meetings with direct reports, their directs, etc. It's not unreasonable. Besides, if his choices are sit down with you in person or lose you to another department, he should schedule the meeting with a smile.

Seconding the advice to seek out other career mentors.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:25 PM on May 26, 2008

Moving to another department is on my mind because if I stay, I can't see him having enough time to supervise me adequately OR give me the career guidance I want/need.

At the end of the day, you are there to help your boss, not the other way around. You're not a protege. Receiving mentoring is fine, but mentoring activities should account for 5% of your interaction with your boss, and you should have the skills you need (either learned on the job, on course or at school) to do your job effectively.

If you're floundering, or your productivity is being affected, it's his job to correct your course. You don't have to ask him to do it.

Anyway, acquisitions result in turbulence. There will be fewer expectations on your performance anyway. Beside, after four years at the same place it may be time to spread your wings and search for the perfect position that is challenging, yet doesn't leave you floundering.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:28 PM on May 26, 2008

To force myself into face time seems selfish and silly

It's not. I had to do this recently and it was absolutely the right thing to do. I needed a pep talk and my boss appreciated the chance to give it to me.
posted by mullacc at 9:14 PM on May 26, 2008

I hear ya. Not only is this a problem at times with me and my boss, but it's a huge problem for her and her boss.

But bosses like you describe are a rare pleasure. Stick around, take on more responsibility. It may be less comfortable, but you'll grow in your own leadership skills. Standing meetings and a prearranged signal for 'emergency' guidance are immensely helpful.

It's great when a boss has time to mentor as well, but you should look for mentorship outside of your own immediate supervisor, too. (Do you have a professional association for your field?)
posted by desuetude at 9:15 PM on May 26, 2008

Could this be a temporary thing? We all go through rough patches and high workload periods, perhaps after the acquisition there will be more time for the prior mentoring relationship? It sounds like your boss is the perfect mentor, no sense leaving just so you get more face time with someone else right?

Also, to echo desuetude, look for more mentors to supplement your boss, not to replace your boss.
posted by wangarific at 9:26 PM on May 26, 2008

Don't make a meeting with you something he has to schedule (eg, the "let's get lunch" suggestion). That's a "to do" item all in itself. Get on his calendar every week for say, half an hour -- some random window between two other standing items, or right after another standing item. It'll probably get canceled half the time, but that's okay.

Otherwise, I say, hang in there, try to find how it's an opportunity for you, etc. If he's just getting used to his new job, things may ease up in a few months. You could offer to take things off his plate (particularly if he says he can be available to help you figure out the new task).
posted by salvia at 9:51 PM on May 26, 2008

After four years you're still looking for guidance, supervision and mentoring?

Perhaps look on your boss's lack of availability as an opportunity. He probably wants you to step up to the plate and shoulder some workload too. I bet there are things you could be doing to help him out.
posted by mattoxic at 4:03 AM on May 27, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To clarify: When I began 4 years ago, I was essentially a secretary. Since then it's been a steady rise up and part of my difficulty is that in our company, many still see me that way(despite title changes, increased responsibility and visibility). One reason I've considered this change is to force the realization that I'm not just a glorified assistant.

He likes having me there to take on anything and everything, and I like that he has that confidence in me. But instead of really excelling in something, I have too many "drop everything, handle this" issues that scatter my attention and not all these things pan out into anything long-term despite taking lots of my time and effort. Yesterday's crisis is forgotten, along with the creative solution I provided (that's no longer needed). A week's intense work can be tossed aside like nothing if the deal doesn't go through.

Yes, they'll remember that I stepped in and solved something, but instead of being able to build on that success, it's over. Some may like that kind of environment but I don't. I don't want to be just a "skills on demand" solution-provider who never gets to develop anything or take something all the way to completion.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 5:04 AM on May 27, 2008

It sounds like you have a rapport with your boss plus a particular work environment that may foster exactly what you want. At the end of your last response you mention that you want to develop a project to completion (and additional work skills?)

I would sit down with your boss and mention your desire to take on projects (perhaps even suggest one) and request to take one on or manage it.I would also state that as a preference, you want to complete the entire project from beginning to end. Follow it up with an email. I do this at work and it works well (I've gotten interesting projects).

If that doesn't work, I would ask around your department. What projects are being done and which ones need help or have gaps in the project? See if you can help these people out - either coordinate through your boss and in some cases, these other people (I've honestly done this before -- worked with other people on my own).

It sounds like you are at a point that you know exactly what you want for your next steps for career development (own project/perhaps skill sets). Make this known and try to acquire it. If after these conversations and working with your department you can't get this -- then I would look for a new job (and don't take one unless you can meet the needs you specify). Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 5:29 AM on May 27, 2008

Best answer: It sounds as if you are at an exciting, and good place in your career. Given your present situation, it's perfectly understandable to feel somewhat intimidated. But, I also think it's important that you try to take a clear look at what opportunities are possibly being presented to you due to these recent changes. You say that you're worried about getting the "career guidance (you) want/need." and that you "do OK" working on your own, but don't prefer it. In my own experiences, I've had similar wary reactions when faced with more responsibility. And sometimes they are just that - wary reactions. You might always prefer some guidance at work. But by stepping out there on your own, you might find it's not always as "essential" as you think. You might never PREFER flying solo, but for now, it might give you a good confidence boost.

It also sounds like your boss has a good reputation within the company. Definitely sounds like someone you want to be linked to. And it sounds as if you and your boss have a pretty good relationship. Even though he's busy, I'd suggest a time to set-up a meeting with him. And beings he is a busy guy, you might plan out some talking points. I'd let him know what your interested in. Tell him of your desire to see projects from start to end. Let him know that you want to take on more responsibility, but that you're slightly nervous. He'll most likely understand, as he's probably been there himself.

In the end, only you can decide if you're ready to take on this opportunity. And if you do decide to move departments, you'll find opportunity there as well. But I wouldn't make any rash decisions. If you're interested, you might check out these job related articles. I thought they might help shed some light on your situation, and help you decide what to do. This first one is about attracting employee recognition, and the second offers some good career advice on how to reinvigorate your career. Best of luck!
posted by asst2drsalary at 1:46 PM on May 27, 2008

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