You've tried to excuse, understand, and defend your boss's behavior. Now you conclude that your boss has become the team's weak link. Here are 10 strategies for keeping your sanity.

You've tried to excuse, understand, and defend your boss's behavior. Now you conclude that your boss has become the team's weak link. Here are 10 strategies for keeping your sanity.

Ten Ways to Cope With an Apathetic Boss

A Supervisor You Can't Respect
A Supervisor You Can't Respect

You've tried to excuse, understand, and defend your boss's behavior. Now you conclude that your boss has become the team's weak link. Here are 10 strategies for keeping your sanity.

1. Get Experience
1. Get Experience

You once felt flattered when your boss asked for your help. Eventually, you realized she was playing Tom Sawyer and conning you into whitewashing her fence. Sure, you can joke that your boss's guiding philosophy is delegate and disappear. In her clumsy way, she's giving you the opportunity to step up to take the reins. Soon enough, they'll be joking that you're the one who runs the show. You'll be well-tested and ready when your break comes.


2. Take Responsibility
2. Take Responsibility

Good managers make their staff less reliant on them. By that measure, your boss is a regular Jack Welch. He compliments you for being resourceful, not realizing that you have to go around him to get answers. Sure, you cringe when he says: "I'm not to blame, you're responsible for your own success." Take out the self-serving hand-wringing and your boss has a point. You must go out and make something happen--and fix whatever goes wrong. In other words, you're on your own. Your boss may be unable to swim; it's your responsibility not to drown.

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3. Don't Slack Off
3. Don't Slack Off

When the going gets tough--well, your boss slips out with yet another ailment or appointment. She is oblivious to her example, forgetting that what supervisors project is what employees absorb and reflect. You may think your boss has little to teach you. But you're missing one huge takeaway: Don't let someone else's conduct rub off on you. Don't use it as an excuse to indulge your worst instincts, either.


4. Don't Gossip
4. Don't Gossip

Your boss heads off to another off-site meeting...and the speculation begins. You'd like to believe he can work effectively on a mobile basis, even though his laptop collects dust while he's gone. Sure, you can bond with peers by partaking in conspiracy theories. In reality, you're just diminishing yourself and making a bad situation worse. So what should you say the next time someone asks, "what's his deal?" Remember this: A smiling "no comment" is often more damning than commentary would be.


5. Give it Time
5. Give it Time
"This is the person who makes decisions for us?" You're probably not alone in losing confidence in your boss. Chances are, she's coasting on borrowed time. Eventually, the higher-ups will take notice as production drops, turnover rises, and those whispers build to a roar. So wait it out and hope for the best. At the end of the year, you'll be asked: "Did you do everything possible to achieve your goals?" Take comfort in knowing that your boss will face the same question.


6. Involve Your Boss
6. Involve Your Boss
Many days it seems as though your boss goes through the motions. He forwards e-mails, rarely stepping out of his office. You hardly talk, as if you work in opposing camps. Fact is, your boss is probably no different from you. He is disappointed and frustrated, worn down by turf wars and from having his ideas rejected. He probably won't get a promotion he covets. So look for ways to draw your boss out of his shell. Approach him with ideas and solicit his opinions in meetings. Increase his comfort level and maneuver him into a position from which he can contribute. You're natural allies. Capitalize on that.
7. Don't Poke the Bear
7. Don't Poke the Bear

Want a surefire way to snap your boss out of her stupor? Question her conduct. You see, the one thing your boss cares about is collecting a paycheck. Anything that threatens her cushy deal will backfire on you. Cornered, your boss will threaten, fight dirty, find excuses, and make it personal. She'll view you as a troublemaker, knowing you have the guts to say what everyone else thinks. Of course, you have other options--worse ones. Go to your boss's superiors? Guess what: They only care about the numbers. Don't forget, higher ups don't stomach complaints or criticism easily. At best, they'll write you off as a pest; at worst, as a treasonous snitch. You could try turning to people at human resources. When push comes to shove, they're inclined to side with management, notwithstanding your documentation. Either way, you'll be branded as someone who cannot work issues out yourself. You're better off biting your tongue.

8. Give the Benefit of the Doubt
8. Give the Benefit of the Doubt

Let's play devil's advocate. Fact is, your boss's door may be closed to discuss sensitive issues and hush-hush strategies. Perhaps he's actually working during all those hours he vanishes. Maybe the reason little gets done is that his superiors are dragging their feet. Fact is, it's easier to demonize than empathize; people rarely fit the rigid caricatures we create for them. So look and hope for the best in people. It's all you have. While you cannot ignore your doubts, a reflexive distrust only makes matters worse.

9. Build a Network
9. Build a Network
You're hungry to move up and make a name for yourself. But many view your boss as a lightweight who knows little and brings even less. The last thing you need is to be associated with her. So how do you cast off this burden? To carve out a separate identity, start by making personal connections. Look for opportunities to collaborate with other departments to build your influence. Most important, produce in whatever capacity you work. Elevate your performance. Soon enough, your boss will be outside your sphere.
10. Don't Dwell
10. Don't Dwell
You stoke your resentments. Your boss's words are incongruent with his actions, you say? Guess what? That applies to 99.5 percent of us. He's self-centered, sure, but you're no Mother Teresa, either. So the other managers step up and pick up the slack in situations when your boss has delegated. That just means you work in a lousy situation with a good company. There's hope.