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Absentee Bosses are the Worst Kind of Bad Bosses

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Everyone has had that boss who micro-managed so much it started to come across as bullying. As such times, it may sound ideal to have a boss who would let you do as you please. However,Harvard Business Review quotes a 2015 survey of 1,000 working adults whichshowed that eight of the top nine complaints revealed that employees would rather have a boss who yelled at them and made unrealistic demands, than one who was mostly absent or provided empty praise. 

Generally, most employees have realized that absentee leadership is more of a significant problem than other more overt forms of bad leadership. Absentee leadership is a more widespread problem than one would expect, sadly however, this topic rarely comes up in today’s leadership or business literature. Research has shown that it is the most common form of incompetent leadership. According to the article, research has shown that the impact of absentee leadership on job satisfaction outlasts the impact of both constructive and overtly destructive forms of leadership.

Scott Gregory writing on Get Pocket narrates a tale which effectively paints a picture of this problem.

Gregory wrote, “A young friend recently remarked that the worst boss he ever had would provide him with feedback that always consisted of “You’re doing a great job.” But they both knew it wasn’t true — the organization was in disarray, turnover was excessive, and customers were not happy.”

“My friend was giving it his all, but he needed more support and better feedback than he received. He wanted a leader who would be around when he needed them, and who would give him substantive advice, not platitudes. As a measure of his frustration, he said, “I would rather have had a boss who yelled at me or made unrealistic demands than this one, who provided empty praise.”

Getpocket explains that researchers have classified managerial derailment into three distinct behavioural categories, and they are: (1) “moving away behaviours,” this type of behaviour is said to create distance from others through hyper-emotionality, diminished communication, and skepticism that leads to the erosion of trust; (2) “moving against behaviours,” this behaviour involves overpowering and manipulating people while aggrandizing one’s self; and (3) “moving toward behaviours,” which include being ingratiating, overly conforming, and reluctant to take chances or stand up for one’s team.

Absentee leaders are bosses who have been entrusted with leadership positions yet are psychologically absent from them. These people enjoy the prestige that comes with positions of leadership but do not want to do any work attached to it. They make no useful contributions to their teams, and would often try to get value out of an organization without putting any value in.

The effect of absentee leadership takes a while to appear, but it has been known to degradeemployees’ job satisfaction for at least two years. It has also been linked to a number of other negative outcomes for employees, such as role ambiguity, health complaints, and increased bullying from team members. Absentee leadership creates employee stress, which can lead to poor employee health outcomes and talent drain, which then impact an organization’s bottom line.