3 Ways to Overcome a Disengaged Boss


Got a very long email from a reader about her boss who is “checked out” and disconnected from her team.

The boss doesn’t seem to like her job. She’s not displaying leadership at crucial moments. She is unconcerned with the personal and professional development of her subordinates.

“It’s dispiriting.”

Hmm. Okay. I get how depressing it can be to have a disengaged boss who doesn’t seem to care. Nobody likes to work with a Debby Downer.

Me? I would use this opportunity to learn new skills, assert my own autonomous authority and establish relationships with other senior-level leaders.

[But that’s because I’m Laurie F’n Ruettimann.]

Here are three ways you could address this issue.

  1. You could talk to your boss about her attitude. You could be mistaken. Maybe she is not disengaged. There could be a real reason why she’s behaving a certain way.
  2. You could be a friend to your boss. Take her out to lunch. It might make her happy. Gallup says that everyone needs a best friend at work. Maybe that best friend could be you.
  3. You could fix what’s bothering your boss. Probably doesn’t take a genius to figure out what’s bothering her. Do those mental calculations and get to work.

I like options 1 and 3.

No, wait. I am wrong. Everyone from your supervisor to your CEO should make sure that your entire employment experience is all puppy dogs and roses. And if it’s not lollipops and chocolate kisses, you should complain about it anonymously on Glassdoor or on an employee survey.


There is a real and problematic disconnect between the true nature of work and the utopian values that are sold to you — for profit — by a series of speakers, vendors and writers.

The myth that a disengaged worker isn’t productive is a myth. And as we move to a project-based model of work in America, it’s an increasingly irrelevant issue.

  1. Are you self-directed and generally a nice human being?
  2. Can you do X, Y and Z?
  3. Are you willing to put your compensation at risk if you don’t complete this project?

That’s it. That is the future of work.

As HR starts to manage an ever-shrinking part of the labor market, it is time to start thinking of your career like a “purchasing agreement” instead of an arc littered with self-actualizing moments where you are deeply and fully in love with your leadership team, your brand and your boss.

Those days are almost over.

So to answer your question: Who really cares if your boss is engaged? She’s not going to be your boss forever, and you’re responsible for your own output.

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