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Is Your Boss Ignoring You?

It's up to you to make an effort to connect.

You've been keeping a low profile at work, getting the job done and not making waves. But at the same time, it would be nice if your boss answered your e-mails or acknowledged your stellar work on that critical report.

When your manager ignores you, the lack of response can make you fall into a cascade of wasteful worries: Does he or she dislike what I work in general? Is my job on the line? What might this mean to my financial stability?

It May Not be You

Oftentimes, it's not about you. When you get the cold shoulder it's more likely that your boss is overwhelmed and distracted with having to manage with a fewer employees on a cautious budget.

He could be absorbed in trying to solve big problems in little time. Where once companies spent more time with their employees, unfortunately, many are still focused on keeping a tightly run ship.

Additionally, your boss may be feeling powerless. So in order to feel some semblance of control managers may act as if they're too important to have time for you. This puts them what I call the "Terrible Office Tyrant (TOT)" category, where coping skills compare to that of children who "forget" to tell you something important like to sign their note from school. (P.S. It can happen to anyone in an organization, at any level.)

Boost Your Visibility

A mistake would be trying to hang onto your job by keeping a low profile. Instead, consider increasing your visibility and stepping up your role. You can turn things around by addressing the underlying problem. If the boss is stressed about a big presentation, for example, then you can offer to help with the bigger picture. The more indispensable you are, the better.

Take Control

It's up to you to make an effort when your boss is so distracted that she forgets to give you crucial feedback and goes out of her way to not meet with you. For example, I know an employee who was so badly ignored by his boss that he literally swung his chair around his desk next to her, subtly blockading the door. He was finally able to get his answers.

Being ignored gets a little messier when there's a problem between you and your "TOT." It could be that he's angry about your work performance, or about something you said, or an imagined. Regardless, you're left in the dark and don't have a chance to address your concerns.

Ignoring TOTs tend to lack good people skills, and so they practice avoidance. They are sometimes described as being passive/aggressive. They haven't developed the ability to confront uncomfortable situations and find it easier to just tune you out.

If you're trying to get your boss's attention, don't ignore back or take over-the-top action, like slamming doors or pouncing in front of your manager. (By all means, avoid rollerblading down the hallways - unless you're trying out a new product, of course.)

Here are some tips:

1. Schedule regular meetings and explain to your boss the benefits of doing this. Keep the meetings brief and on schedule. Regular sit-downs eliminate the need to constantly chase your boss down. But to ensure that the meetings actually happen, send a reminder a few hours ahead of time.

2. Repackage your ideas so that he can answer you easily and concisely. Instead of sending long e-mails marked "urgent," package your messages and reports in a concise, lively format that is appealing to read. Leave enough white space and use bullets, for example.

3. Imagine you're the boss and imagine what your busy day is like. Then see how you look though your manager's eyes. Adjust your behavior accordingly.

Points to Ponder

• Being ignored is no fun, but try not to take it personally. Your boss might simply be busy or preoccupied.

• Find out why your supervisor has no time for you by asking directly and by asking your colleagues.

• If you've done something to irritate or disappoint your manager, try to communicate with your ignoring TOT in a nonthreatening, constructive way.

• Make it easy for your boss: Set up regular meeting times, keep the meetings short, and make your reports or presentations are appealing and creative.

If nothing else, getting in front of the problem will release a lot of tension. At best, it will mitigate the problem and perhaps even strengthen the relationship.

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