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How do you care when management doesn’t ?

Many of us have great work ethics and like to deliver quality work. But, what do you do when you work under someone that does not provide the support you need to get your job done. You are working very hard to meet deadlines, but your manager does not respond to your questions or does not see that you do not have all you need to do a good job. It can be very frustrating to know that some managers are either too swamped to care or just don’t care at all about the job.

When managers do not care about communication and morale; work quality is affected by this attitude. This mindset does not make things better, but it makes things worse. The overall mission is delayed or unaccomplished and it will affect the workplace on so many levels.

Managers please use your leadership compass and find a way to care about your employees and the workplace.- Kanika Tolver

How do you handle a manager or executives that don’t care about the job? Should you continue to care about the job?

Check out my blog Career Dropout: http://careerdropout.com

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Stephanie Slade

That doesn’t sound like a very rewarding place to work. From experience, I know there are plenty of bosses who do care about their employees. I hope I always get to work at places like that.

Alicia Mazzara

This is a tough situation for employees. It can be really demoralizing if your manager is ultimately a roadblock because they’re either checked out or too busy to actually manage people. I haven’t had a manager that didn’t care, but I have been in situations where they were so busy they couldn’t review my work product. In that situation, you might either to get creative about working around your manager or taking on projects with people who are engaged. If that’s out of the question, it might be time to look for a new job.

Mark Hammer

The trick is having managers and employees “caring” about the same things. It can often happen that what the employee believes they ought to care about, and what occupies management’s thoughts, are two different things. As I’ve noted in past, that can sorely undermine employee morale and motivation.

A decade ago, I was teaching a course in adolescent development, and ran a little study/survey in class. I asked the 60 or so students in the class to rate each of their parents on how overtly and frequently each parent made their values known. It didn’t have to be done in a didactic way. It could have been as simple as watching the news together and having your mom or dad shake their heads and mutter “I don’t know how people could be so unkind to each other”.

What I found was that the students were noticeably more likely to both feel closer to parents who more regularly communicated what they care about, and to trust that the parent in question could be relied upon to act in their best interests.

Now, I’m not going to suggest that managers are equivalent to parents, but I do think it is the case that, just like families, the “team” qualities of an employee-manager relationship are enhanced when employees know and understand what matters to their manager, and think of their manager as actually having “values” that they share, and not just responsibilities or accountabilities.

It’s far too easy to be too busy to convey or discuss that in the workplace, but I think it matters too much to ignore.

Susan Thomas

Kanika, I agree with Mark’s analogy about the family and workplace. Priorities may compete conceptually but in the manager’s mind his priorities are yours. Yes, you should continue to care about the job and especially when you think you cannot. I’ve worked for obstructionists and it is not pleasant. The solution for me was to master my program area so that I was able to keep my manager out of it. Mind you, I kept him well informed. But, at the same time he felt a burden lifted from his shoulders. Make sense?

Geoffrey C. Patterson

@Susan … you’re on target and you need to manage up. Pride in ownership of a program is important but your priorities need to match your bosses. Difficult to do at times. What you’re discussing is ‘managing up’, plenty of articles out there. Good luck!

Carol Davison

You care because they won’t be your boss forever. In the meantime produce as many results, add as much value, learn and network as much as you can. I’ve worked for people who were in competition with me bore. OUCH! What I do is email them a week ahead of time with a survey and tell them that I intend to send it August 11, and then do so. I figure that I gave fair warning.

Jack Shaw

You can’t. Managers who are not leaders, managers who don’t put themselves on the line, will put you on the line if you get in the way of their goals and aspirations. You may be able to do the job and excel, but it is not all that you are. If it is, both you and the government are wasting a valuable resource. We are pinned down by job descriptions. People are more diverse and multi-talented often in ways that don’t fit the pattern of the job that the boss may be able (because of his or her charge) to recognize fully. Doing your job by the book, the same way as your boss envisions it, will lead you down the road of depression. As you say, too many are impressed with their own rating and it defines them–until they retire. Then, what are they? What are you? There are many things I love about my job; there are many frustrations as well. The trick is to find the passion that pays the bills. If you can do it at your job, terrific. If not, make your own way outside the job. It’s tough to do without financial resources. If that’s the case, go slow. You have to or you will eventually be miserable if you aren’t already.

Kanika Tolver

@Jack I love your comment. I am working my passion. Each week as I blog on govloop my passion comes out more and more. I love to inspire people to be great and follow their dreams. Sometimes we get so into our jobs we forget that it may be something bigger and greater for us to accomplish. I want to be an author, televison show producer, radio host, but I want all of these avenues of media to inspire folks. I want to be a Career Dropout one day!!

T.G. O'Neill

My experience is that places reorganize, managers change, and the new order of things often remembers one’s behavior while working for the bad manager. Because most people already know about the bad manager. So if a person alienates management in general by acting out, letting their skills diminish, or ceases to behave in a professional manner, or develop a bad attitude the other managers notice and that stigma will travel with you in an organization even after you no longer work for the bad manager.

I have observed and experienced three activities to do while working for bad mangers that can keep a person sane

1) Amy Tan said it best: “”If you can’t change your fate, change your attitude.”

2) Keep the conversation going with the bad manager. Don’t hole up at your desk.

3) Try to get permission to do as much work related training as possible. With online courses, especially agency sponsored sites, this task is getting easier and easier

If all else fails, another Amy Tan quote applies “In America nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gave you.”

Kanika Tolver

@T.G. O’Neill I love this- Amy Tan quote applies “In America nobody says you have to keep the circumstances somebody else gave you.

Great ways to cope!!

Susan Thomas

Kanika, Remember that you are always “on”. By that I mean that other employees and managers always notice behavior and particularly unprofessional behavior. It’s tough to stay above the fray but never let pessimists, et al, drag you down.

Susan Thomas

Kanika, I hear you. I have been to that movie myself many times. Don’t give them the satisfaction of knowing they got to you. That’s what they want. When you feel overwhelmed, try to go to a quiet place (literally) and regrou

Mark Hammer

Case in point (and I don’t think this is telling tales out of school). I’m a psychologist by training. My manager is an economist. Our unit gathers, analyses, and manages data regarding hiring across the whole of the Canadian government, principally via employee surveys.

As a scientist, I think in terms of understanding things, and my solemn obligation to all my fellow public servants, and corporate clients who come to us desperately seeking information and insight. My manager thinks in terms of efficiency, audits, data quality issues, and such. We regularly come into conflict over what gets done and how, but he knows he relies on me for big-picture thinking, so he doesn’t dismiss my input outright.

What I end up having to do, fairly regularly, is persuade him that my attending to the human and service aspects of what we do, will ultimately increase the efficiency of data gathering. If corporate clients and rank and file see us as “the good guys” BECAUSE we did right by them, and gave them insights they couldn’t have otherwise had, we gain more buy-in, more support and participation for our data-gathering, less attrition over time, higher data quality, and ultimately sustainability. In a sense, what I have to do is hold up MY lens for him to look through so he can see things as I see them, but feel like he’s seeing them his way. It’s not that he “doesn’t care”. He’s a bright, conscientious guy, but we come to the same set of tasks with different perspectives, and that creates our differences. As long as we can see things the other person’s way from time to time, we’re okay. And personally, I think the fact that I can meet him halfway when it comes to perspectives, is why he respects me.

Jack Shaw

Unfortunately, there are those bosses who stay forever and others are afraid to touch them–even higher ups–because disruption of any kind draws attention to yourself, and government doesn’t like that. The military can respect someone standing up, but unless the right leader is in place–it hasn’t been my experience. Once negative attention is drawn to you it is practically impossible to get rid of unless you have been luck enough to transfer (we don’t really do that, but apply for a job that is announced, sometimes taking a pay cut), where your current evaluation doesn’t ruin your chances. Some of us just retire. All because the system doesn’t like “corporate rebels” who don’t fit the mold exactly, while smart businesses take advantage of the whole person concept. Tough it out. Sure, if it is your life’s dream; if not, work on your life’s dream coming true. It’s not that managers and leadership don’t care about the job. It’s that they want it done without having to deal with the people who do them. Granted they have a list of things to do as well that may not allow them the luxury of working with their people to get the best results and cultivate better. Managers and leaders are victims of a system, too. I still say work with them if you can. I managed to create a new position around my expertise and not the current position, but I could only sell it at a lower grade. Tacked on to it were all the things I was a volume of extras that were not related and on a strict timetable: a formula for failure. But I did it anyway. It’s been a tough 9 years, and I’ll be retiring soon. After awhile managing the situation gets old and you yearn for a difference.

Amanda Rhea

This actually follows along with another highlighted blog today: keeping your work “love tanks” full, which is hard to do under bad management. I find that talking to coworkers who are under the same frustrating manager helps– not whining, but talking out how as a team we can help push the manager in the right direction, maybe come up with improvement ideas and convince the manager it was his idea in the first place.

Katherine Clarke Radican "Casey"

There is a great book I recommend on this topic: “DRIVE: The surprising truth about what motivates us”. It’s a quick read and takes a good look at why we do what we do and our self-motivations behind it. I myself, being a self-proclaimed work-a-holic, loved it and it opened my eyes to why, even when no one else around me cares, I cant stop caring. Why when it has to be done, it cant just be a check box, but has to be at the quality standards I keep (no matter how small of a task-why do it if its not done right?). If you need some more motivation or question “why do I do this!? trust me, its a book for you.


Part of the beauty of government is that it is so large. As my dad told me once, he worked 40 years at IRS but really had a series of 2-year jobs. After about 2-years, he switched jobs as he wanted new experiences (and occasionally had a bad boss).

Sometime this is impractical but especially in DC I encourage folks who don’t like their current position to try to network in your agency to find a detail, rotation, another job. Also between sites like this one, in-person networking, USAJOBS, there are lots of ways to find out about cool stuff other agencies are doing – try to figure out where the stuff you want to do is happening and get your self over there. May not happen over night but it’s definitely doable

Jack Shaw


I agree with with you 100 percent, and in larger organizations, it is possible. What tends to happen in the smaller office is that personalities emerge to cope with the situation, not unlike war situations. You have collaborators, spies, and an underground–if you can find it and trust it. Outside the mini-organization comes a resource to the manager and people you don’t even know will report your every move, you may find your desk and computer gone through (as the secret police did), your personal life scrutinized (definitely on the web). Bottom-line, in a small organization, it is hard to trust your cohorts because earlier your boss said to you, “I have people, and staff tell me things.” Alienation is the first step to controlling the situation. It’s not whining when your job is on the line, when it is virtually impossible to go anywhere else because your reputation has been tainted. You stay, smile and do the job. In a situation where the boss knows the rules only too well and it is a truly small organization, the union is no help. The union will stand in the room every time you and your boss have a meeting, and the plot thickens as the boss looks for ways to make your life miserable–all legal, of course. Your self-esteem goes down the tubes until you can rescue it–or someone from another organization or outside rescues it. You can do it yourself if you stay strong.

As I said at the beginning, I think you have the right idea, but every situation is different. People are begging me to stay; the same people who I can’t trust after 9 years of working with most of them. BTW, I am known for my outstanding work–the manager even agrees–she just doesn’t want to supervise me because she didn’t hire me. I was hired by her former boss who went away with the re-organization. Frustrated, you bet. She got what she wanted in the end, but so did I. But it took 9 years to do it. I’m not dropping out of my career, I’m putting myself in a position to blossom instead of wilt or go dormant. What sad is that talent is wasted because of selfish leadership.

Jack Shaw

I have to say that I still care for the people I was able to help, which is part of the reason I stayed as long as I did. It was frustrating when I was told not to care so much, to curtail my efforts–all within keeping of a position I created myself and took a downgrade to do (the boss made sure of that). It was something needed and something I was very good at, but it didn’t fit the way business had been done for years and my spot took a position she’d rather fill with someone she wanted.

Kanika Tolver

@Govloop I am working on trying to move into a office or another agency, where I can use technology and social media to make a difference. I have a plan now its time to execute it.

Michelle McClellan

Just a curious question: Are you concerned that if you do try and move to a different agency they can Google you and see your blog, Govloop and the things you post? In my experience many hiring agencies in govt are especially risk averse and scared of people who like to be honest and tell the world how they feel about their employers. Well, in my experience anyway.