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So I just started a new position at a great company that is pretty much a dream to work for. The only problem is that there's a steep learning curve for the type of data I will be working with, and my boss/training lead is never there.

I think he is, after 10 years, experiencing burnout. He's here probably 3-10 hours out of the week, and even then its not a guarantee he's checked-in. I can still contribute in some fashion (I don't need training on programming, per say), but I'm two months in and I still don't feel comfortable in my position due to the lack of one on one time.

I can contribute to some projects which I volunteer for, but they're a little outside the scope of my primary responsibilities. I'm worried that the higher ups might view me as slow to adjust. Any suggestions to change this situation?


So I took the suggestion in the multiple answers to schedule face time. I did, and it took us about 20 minutes to accomplish a task that should have taken about 5. The reason it took so long? He was talking about his kid. FML

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closed as off topic by Mark Trapp Jan 12 '12 at 1:56

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Kids are important! But if you don't have any, you most likely are not aware of this yet. –  user1249 Jun 8 '11 at 1:20
But what was he saying about his kid? Just born? Dying of cancer? That would put the rest of the situation into perspective.... –  Benjol Jun 8 '11 at 9:34
Even just having a chat is ok provided it does not take all day. He's your boss... listen... be polite. He probably also has about 5 million things on his plate that you are not even aware of. He needs time for a bit of a chat and to get to know you. He's making conversation. GET USED TO IT! –  quickly_now Jan 12 '12 at 1:38
Questions about workplace politics are not on-topic here. –  user8 Jan 12 '12 at 1:57

8 Answers 8

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Make sure your boss's boss knows about this. Make sure they know it's happening, and that it's happening all the time. If they aren't bothered, fine, time to power-level your SO rep (that Jon Skeet guy needs taking down a peg or two). If they are, they'll make something happen - reassign you, assign a secondary boss, whatever. Staffing is not your problem - find someone whose it is.

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Eep. I'd like to make them aware, but circumventing the chain of command doesn't seem like a good move. –  erika Oct 26 '10 at 21:54
Don't think of it as circumvention, think of it as following the chain - if your boss isn't there, you go and talk to the next person up. Whatever you do, don't let yourself get shafted because you were too nervous to tell someone there was a problem - i have done that, and i bitterly regret it to this day. –  Tom Anderson Oct 26 '10 at 22:51

Time for you to shine. Great opportunity.. take his job! :-)

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That's pretty much how I see it - if he's getting lax, then I'd be more than happy to fill in. shrug –  erika Oct 26 '10 at 16:46
Its hard to fill in if he has not taught you the things he already knows. –  Chris Oct 26 '10 at 16:53
Yeah, that's the other challenge.. –  erika Oct 26 '10 at 16:53
That's sad, but I must agree with this answer. The train of opportunity is there. Take it. –  user2567 Oct 26 '10 at 17:11
The onus is on you to learn what you need to learn without your boss. They can't be the only resource available to you. –  Chris Holmes Oct 26 '10 at 17:36

Store up your notes for a Daily WTF article ending with "Bob left that company with a smile." Either you or your boss will be Bob.

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I am clicking on the little upward-pointing triangle but the number does not go above 1. –  Tom Anderson Oct 26 '10 at 17:57

It sounds to me like the problem isn't that he's not there, but that he's giving you no direction.

You need to catch him when he's there, ask him for a few minutes of his time, and politely explain this situation to him.

Tell him you don't mind that he's not around often, but that you need to be able to get more feedback and direction, and see what works with his unusual schedule. The solution could be a variety of things:

  • e-mails, which he could reply to from his mobile phone even if he's out
  • occasional phone calls now and then to his mobile, even if he's out
  • a scheduled one-on-one once or twice a week, in person if he's in, and by phone if he's out

It's demoralizing to work at a company and not know what you're doing or what your contribution is, so I'd recommend having this talk with him as soon as possible. Make sure you don't sound like he's at fault. Just explain that you want to find a way to get more direction while still working within his schedule.

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Seems to me you don't care how many hours he works, or what else he gets done, but you want your one-on-ones. Some companies have a culture of them, some don't. You might not be getting one-on-ones if he worked 80 hours a week. So ignore the total hours and ask him to schedule you a one-on-one at whatever frequency you like (based on how you feel after two months, I'd guess once a month.) Explain you aren't asking for a meeting to deal with a specific issue, you just feel comfortable having this time for catching up. If he cancels your one-on-one by not coming in on a day it was planned for, push for a reschedule. If every rescheduled meeting gets cancelled you can then go around him to the next level, saying "I really need some manager time and he has cancelled 6 meetings in a row, who can I meet with instead?"

The best outcome is that you get comfortable, with or without more hours a week from your boss. The ok outcome is that higher ups become aware you feel undersupervised, and get you a new boss or take some other action. The not-good outcome is that you are seen as a squeaky wheel complainer who wants to hog the tiny bit of time the boss can spend in the building - but if an hour a month gets you that label, you really can't win.

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If he/she is your boss, they don't check in with you... you check in with them if present.

I understand you are in a tough situation but all you can do is communicate as easily as possible with your boss. Ie. via cell or email if possible when he is not in the office. Also it cannot hurt to ask for some face time weekly, schedule it so he will know when and hopefully be there.

Perhaps you can discuss with him why he is out of the office so often. Do not question his motives. There could be reasons outside of work too: ie. family problems, health complications, etc. So do not take this at face value, try to show your boss that you need his mentoring to feel comfortable with the technology and hope you can find at least some time each week/two weeks to get knowledge/information from him.

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I might have to resort to that - one thing I didn't really touch on is that he's scheduled for 40 hours, but cancels/calls in frequently. I think it is a pattern that has been noticed by others as well. Being more assertive could definitely help. –  erika Oct 26 '10 at 16:53
This is a tough situation though, for example my boss is a salaried employee so he can be here 5 minutes a week and remain with the same paycheck. As long as he does what his duties call of him to do you cannot hold it against him unless for your situation you need him to be present at least to an extent. –  Chris Oct 26 '10 at 16:55
I should note that he is hourly and is still claiming regular hour pay, but that's more of a moral note. –  erika Oct 26 '10 at 16:59
I would most definately talk to him as often as you can, but by all means DO NOT inquire about why he's not in the office. You're new and don't have the kind of relationship that can pull that off yet. You're not his keeper and his boss(es) will soon enough notice if there's an issue there. –  Walter Oct 26 '10 at 17:00
I agree with requesting face time, I'd ask him if you can schedule a weekly one-on-one. You can have effectively the same problem if your boss is really busy all the time and this is the best way I've found to handle that problem. –  Jeremy Oct 26 '10 at 17:02

Do you know for certain he does not make up the time in weekends and evenings when you are not there? Does he work form home sometimes? You are not the HR department. You are not your bosses boss. There many reasons why some people have flexible time, some of it very private, admittedly some of it slacking. It's non of your business how many hours your boss works, or when he works those hours. What is your business is that his work hours are making your job hard(er). You need to explain your problem to him, and preferably suggest a couple of solutions. "You are never here when I need you, is there anything we can do to solve this problem - for instance, can I go to Fred in your absence, or call you on your cell?" As for the idle chit-chat, SW. Dev. is team work, and he does not know you, nor you him. getting to know your team mates (or not) is an important part of the culture of a place. Maybe you prefer to keep private and work life separate, and don't give a dam about his kids, let him know it (politely). If you are not happy spending hours taking about his kids, interrupt him (again politely) and bring him back on track.

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"You are not the HR department." Since when does HR do anything, seriously? –  Chris Jun 8 '11 at 1:00
@Chris, I'm guessing they might fire people for slacking :) –  Benjol Jun 8 '11 at 9:33

Are you the sole programmer (?) in your team? Maybe you your co-workers can fill-in his role?

Also, if I were you, I would bombard your boss with e-mails. You know, CYA strategy. Although it might be not so good idea if you work for big G (lucky you, in such case) :)

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Yes I am. It isn't a typical environment like most that I've been in. –  erika Oct 26 '10 at 22:01

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