Last night I had dinner with four girlfriends and the subject of bosses came up. When the discussion ended, it was very clear that we have an epidemic of UB disease in the Boston area. And, the UBs, A.K.A, unavailable bosses are working at some of the largest, most prestigious companies, have mastered the art of managing up, but have lost sight of why they became leaders in the first place- to lead others!

One friend works at one of the billion dollar, global, office supply giants and shared that when she was first hired, she worked for an awesome boss. This boss was supportive, available and someone she could trust and really count on.

Unfortunately that boss moved to a new role, and she acquired a new boss about six months ago with a serious problem.. she is never available. She consistently schedules meetings and one on ones, her staff spends time preparing and then she cancels at the last minute and does not reschedule. She has minimal contact with her directs and almost no contacts with the front line team members. This is negatively impacting morale and productivity.Chasing After An Unavailable Boss | Image Courtesy Of jscreationzs

Another dinner friend is a VP, Marketing at a global, 3 billion dollar software firm and has had two challenging bosses in a row. The first had no marketing experience (came from sales), but still felt like she had a need to micromanage her directs (all VP level), would actually go around her directs and manage their direct reports assigning work and making changes in day to day activities. My friend had to work 10+ extra hours per week to correct the mistakes this boss made.

This boss eventually left the firm and she got a new boss. The new boss is very smart and does have marketing experience, but like my other friend’s leader, is rarely available for her subordinates or their teams. She shared that to get her attention, she hast to send emails with directive subject lines, “STOP- You must read this now” or “If you read any messages today, read this one first”.  This is a VP sending an email to a Senior VP!

When I think back on my own career, I remember my best bosses and worst bosses. One of my worst bosses was a guy I worked for in the mid 1980’s who was never available and never set up one on ones. When I did have to approach him in person for something urgent, he would roll his eyes, because he felt my presence was an interruption. I forget his name now, but I remember his bad behavior.

Out of curiosity I Googled “unavailable bosses” and it returned 975,000 results. (Yikes!) For example,

If you are a boss and you are unavailable for your direct reports, that should be a wake-up call that you are in the wrong role and instead should become an individual contributor. Your bad behavior is impacting morale, productivity and your end customers.

Being available is simply not optional. Being available is one of the pillars to running any successful business operation.


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© 2011 – 2012, Marci Reynolds. All rights reserved.


  1. You unfortunately have assumed, no doubt because you are smart and have your heart in the right place, that “bosses” even consider themselves “leaders”, and that they had any INTENTION of serving anyone except themselves by moving into a management role.

    Sure, every GOOD boss thinks that way, but there are a lot of bad bosses out there that, as you identified, have learned to manage up, and are able to manage down well enough to keep the ups from ever finding out from the downs that there is a problem at all.

    True leadership doesn’t require a title or external authority; if your boss is a jerk and you don’t like it, then you can either accept your fate, or step up to the plate and become the leader you wished they were. You might even end up with their job. Or at least a better one, one way or another. 😉

    1. Author

      JM.. you make some good points. Many of the best leaders are not officially bosses- but have incredible (positive) influence and impact on people and results. Thanks for your comments!

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