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Your Office Coach

Wimpy managers might require workarounds

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Q: "We have a boss who doesn't act like a boss. Although he listens to our suggestions, he never follows through with them. He seems hesitant to involve upper management in any issue. This is driving us crazy, so your advice would be appreciated."  Frustrated Employees

A: Unfortunately, you seem to be working for a wimpy manager. Because these timid souls are chronically anxious, they avoid any action that might become controversial or attract executive attention. 

To overcome this inertia, you will need to reduce the fear factor. One approach is to solicit support before presenting a proposal to your boss. If influential people seem to favor the idea, his participation will seem less risky. 

When the stakes are high, you must clearly convey the hazards of doing nothing. If you can convince him that inaction is the more dangerous course, your manager’s resistance to change may suddenly disappear.

To accomplish results, you may occasionally have to assume some risk yourself. When your manager’s hesitation presents a serious roadblock, consider the time-honored tactic of “asking forgiveness instead of permission,” which simply means acting first and advising management later. Obviously, this strategy requires good judgment.

A less risky alternative is to send your manager a heads-up email. For example: “I wanted to let you know that I’m planning to meet with the marketing department on Wednesday unless I hear otherwise from you.” If your boss really hates conflict, he might just be too wimpy to disagree.

Do you wonder if you might be a wimpy manager yourself? Here's a way to find out: Quick Quiz: Are You a Wimpy Manager?    

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